(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.
(5) August 28, 2014: Temple 37, Vanderbilt 7
Oh no, it’s the Hettening!!!
Yes, the game that has found its way into at least 4 entries in our WTF Bracket: The first game of the Derek Mason era. The game that, I dare say, continues to define the Derek Mason era. The game that ripped us from optimistic celebratory drinking to depressed gasoline drinking. The game that let us all know that the James “Old Bald Poach” Franklin era of Good Feelings was to be an outlier, rather than Vanderbilt’s new normal. And we learned it with the swiftness of a kick to the jimmies. And the person doing the kicking had the Murderleg of Carey Spear.
The game that launched the meter we use to determine the exact state of Vanderbilt sports—whether for how well, or how Lovecraftian horror story style terribly, our teams are currently performing. A “fan confidence meter” of sorts. The Het-o-Meter.
Well, by the end of this world-destroying season opener, the meter read as follows:
To fully appreciate just how WTF this game was, and the damage it has done to our collective psyches, ... see our collective Anchor of Gold writers’ preview and predictions for that 2014 season opener.
We were so damned optimistic. And justifiably so. Vanderbilt football had not known the success on the gridiron seen under The Old Bald Poach since Dan McGugin. Though the Poach left for Happy Valley’s State Penn, and took a sizable chunk of his last recruiting class with him, we still felt our football program would maintain at least a level of cromulence, and, I’ll say it, many of us thought we would improve! We hired a new Franklin, we all thought! We got Stanford’s Defensive Genius! We’re always going to go to bowl games, life will be nothing but beer and Skittles, and our children will all be apple cheeked and above average!
I mean, just look at our predictions for that game:
CDA’s Pick: Vanderbilt 33, Temple 20. Temple was good at losing close games in 2013, but Vandy - and Derek Mason - need to make a statement. It may not be the emphatic win that many fans are hoping for, but Temple may be overlooked in this one thanks to their emerging young quarterback.
VTPhD’s Pick: Vanderbilt 28, Temple 10. The new defense is able to cover the passing attack nicely. A 3-4 embiggens the smallest pass rush.
VandyImport’s Pick: Vanderbilt 37, Temple 13.
Beyond that, I was so confident, that instead of breaking down each team’s relative strengths and weaknesses, I put Nadia Harvin and #WetHet into the Vanderbilt lexicon:
Andrew VU ‘04: Derek Mason will attempt to drag the team coached by
Dr. Steve BruleTemple Head Football Coach Matt Rhuleumm... Administration Specialist, Head Football Coach Nadia Harvin, into “Deep Water,” thus getting their Het Wet. Temple’s been preparing for this all off-season, though, and have adopted #WetHet as their rallying cry. Will our deep water approach get their het wet? All but assuredly. Will we be ready for their wet het? We shall see.
Coach Harvin, apparently, is the first female Division I Head Football coach, and frankly, has done so with surprisingly little fanfare, which, while odd, is a positive development for female coaches working in men’s sports. Recently, when Greg Popovich named former WNBA star Becky Hammon as an assistant coach of the San Antonio Spurs, sports news agencies were tripping over themselves to cover this story, peppering the airwaves with nonsense like, “Can a woman really command the attention of a team of grown men” and “When they have to banish her to the woods five days monthly, how will the team fare down a member of its coaching staff?” Supporters of Hammon openly wondered if there ever would be a day when a woman would be given a coaching opportunity in a men’s sport and the news would not revolve around her being a woman.
In Administration Specialist, Head Coach Nadia Harvin, they appear to have gotten their wish. Truly, this is a banner moment for proponents of equality in the workforce.
She’s certainly qualified, as her resume indicates she’s paid her dues, working under seven head coaches while at Temple:
“She has worked with seven head coaches, beginning with Bruce Arians.”
Further, despite being named Head Coach, this football lifer has decided to adopt a dual role as her own Administrative Specialist. As most head coaches are perfectionists, it’s surprising Harvin is the first to take the “If you want anything done, you have to do it yourself” mindset to the duties of an administrative specialist. I support it, and will be rooting for Harvin and her boys when they’re not playing Vanderbilt.
The Pick: Vanderbilt 17, Temple 3. Though P.J. Walker is certainly a perfectly cromulent quarterback, his het will get far too wet to function against Mason’s gritty 3-4 defense. Both touchdowns will be scored by the defense. As will both field goals.
Then Thursday happened, it rained, we got curb stomped by an Atlantic 10 school, and we realized that maybe, just maybe, Mason and staff were not exactly at the same level of Franklin et al. Oh, and all of our hets got freaking soaked.
You don’t need anymore, do you? This should have been a damned #1 seed in this tournament. Think about how you felt before, during, and after that Temple game.
Which moment advances?
This poll is closed
65-0 loss to THEM