(1) 65-0 vs. Tennessee, November 26, 1994
Look, here’s the thing: Gerry Dinardo was Franklin before Franklin, Mason before Mason. He was the offensive coordinator of the defending national champions when we hired him, and in his first season he took a team that was decimated by the Watson Brown era to a record of 5-6. He avenged the embarrassing SMU loss in their return to football, he knocked off a ranked Georgia team, he beat Ole Miss and Army on the road, and that 1991 debut won him SEC Coach of the Year, the last Vanderbilt coach to win that award in football. This was the pre-division era, so we were 7th of 10 teams, with 5 ranked opponents on the schedule (including Syracuse OOC - this was an era when the SEC had just gone back to 7 conference games, and ours were Cuse, SMU, Duke and Army.) Off the back of that, it seemed like we had a bright future ahead.
Then in 1992 we won four games. Beat a ranked Ole Miss, beat Duke, won at Navy and UK (second straight win over Kentucky) - but again, five ranked teams out of eleven and finished with Florida and UT back to back. Only lost to the Vols by 4, though, after the 45-0 blowout the year before, and some of the old-timers thought that with the Majors-Fulmer transition, Vandy might be closing the gap.
1993: won four games. I don’t think the Alabama loss got vacated when their season was legally scratched as a result of the Antonio Langham violations, so call it 4-7. Only four ranked teams that year, but we lost to all of them - the wins were at Wake, and home to Cincy, Kentucky and Navy. (DiNardo OWNED Kentucky. Give him that much.) But again, Florida and Tennessee at the end, ranked 8th and 6th respectively, and it wasn’t close. We lost to UT 62-14.
And so, 1994. My first season of Commodore football. Opened with a solid thumping of Wake Forest at home. Only lost by 10 at #11-ranked Bama. Lost to Ole Miss and Arkansas, but won back to back road games at Cincy and Georgia (I know people who are STILL upset about that upset). A 3-point home loss to Cocky was followed with a home win against Northern Illinois (only 3 OOC games back then) and then a fourth straight win over UK, in Lexington no less. (A game that cause Sports Illustrated to compare the matchup of the flexbone and the I-bone and call the game “the I-sore”.) And then the turn, again. #3 Florida, and we lost - but only 24-7.
And here came Tennessee. They had 6 wins on the season. We had 5. All their losses had been close save a drubbing by the Gators, but they had struggled against Wazzu, against Cocky, against Memphis - they could be had. After all this time, 12 long years, it seemed like maybe they could be had. We’d only lost to Ole Miss by 6, to Cocky by 3, all our wins but UNI were by multiple scores - hell, we were one play away from a bowl! This had to be it, right?
(NARRATOR: This was not, in fact, it.)
I sat at home on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and watched with increasing despair as the Vols beat the absolute evangelical Hell out of the Dores, 65-0. Any illusion that progress was being made, that there was a corner to be turned, was completely and abjectly snuffed out.
I didn’t bother with the box score, because when you lose by nine touchdowns, the details are less important than the fact of the thing - and the fact was, every bit of success we thought we’d had was erased in a heartbeat. Same Old Vandy never SOV’d harder than it did right then. With the writing on the wall, it only took Dinardo three weeks to decamp to LSU. (Yes, kids, an average of four and a half wins a year at Vanderbilt was enough to make you a desirable hire in Baton Rouge back then.) Ironically, he limped along for about five years at LSU and was replaced by…Nick Saban. Meanwhile, Vandy hired Rod Dowhower, and that went…poorly. And it cemented the notion that five wins was the plausible ceiling for Vanderbilt football, an assertion that would hold water for fourteen more seasons. Proof, if any were needed, that the pigskin Commodores can’t have nice things.
(9) 2002: Jay Cutler loses a fight with a blue phone
*Note: Because I’m battling Lawyer Tom again, just go ahead and mentally insert “allegedly” after every sentence here. I’ll be damned if I’m typing it.
I see your 2001 season, and I raise you a 2002 season in which a 19 year old Jay Cutler, our starting QB and only hope for any sort of success on the football field, was arrested for underaged drinking, resisting arrest, and breaking a campus security blue phone for the purposes of beating someone about the head with it.
Note that this is not an argument in favor of clutching one’s pearls over the idea of a college student drinking.
No. In fact, drunken Cutler was the best Cutler, and everyone who went to VU at the same time as the Cut loved when he would show up to your party with a 2 liter bottle of Coca Cola that was at least 1.5 liters of rum (though you were perhaps less enthused when he and the entire offensive line demanded you chug from it).
No, this is about the moment that so perfectly summed up my college football fan experience as a Vanderbilt undergrad that I must paint it. In my four years at Vandy, this was our football record:
My junior year (the first 2-10 year), we at least had hope, as we had a new coach—Steve Martin sans Banjo and Arrow through Head—and a young, athletic QB from Santa Claus, Indiana. The season started... miserably. We were run out of the building at Georgia Tech (L 45-3), beat BoJo’s former employer Furman 49-18 to get to .500, and were promptly stomped 31-6 at Auburn.
Then, like an oasis in the desert, we put up a legitimate fight where the Ox Ford the river, and just lost to Ole Piss 45-38. The next week, we hung tough with South Cackalacky and only lost 20-14.
A sign of life, we all thought! Hope for the future, we claimed, whilst hugging! If we play this way next week against Empty-S-U, we can turn the season around!
And then our damned savior went and drunkenly beat someone with a campus emergency phone designed explicitly to protect women worried about violence/sexual assault when the campus got dark, got suspended (rightfully), and we lost by a point—21-20—to those bastards from Murfreesboro.
You can’t make this stuff up, people.
Which moment advances?
This poll is closed
65-0 vs. Tennessee
Jay Cutler Fights a Phone