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Week 2 Football Mail Bag: Answers to your Questions

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You ask, we answer.

Syndication: The Coloradoan Jon Austria/The Coloradoan via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Question from VandyLuke:

I can’t really compartmentalize the different things I felt last night. We won a football game! We beat a bad team. We are probably a bad team. We made a ton of adjustments. The team got a jolt after the pick and played with energy. My 60 year old mother commented, “HCCL kind of looks like a penis.”

I have too many feelings both ways and I need to be told how to feel.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Pretty much. But I thought it was either the touchdown drive at the end of the first half or the Colorado State tight end flexing on the sideline that got the team fired up.

Doreontheplains: The most important thing was that we looked worlds better at Colorado State than we did against ETSU. The team that showed up Saturday would have beaten ETSU soundly. That improvement could be a glimmer of a hope for this coaching staff that seemed doubtful following a loss to ETSU. We might be bad, but there is a chance the coaches and players can be fielding a significantly less bad team by the end of the season. Unless you are expecting a bowl or more, big improvement is about the best you can get.

As for your mother, I can sympathize. I love my mother, but she had way too much fun with way too many innuendos. Namely, we used the Swallow Station for the MAX transit that operates to get people from different parts of Fort Collins to campus.

Stanimal: When you are at ground zero and have not won a game since 2019, you are entitled to feel joy and hope at the slightest sign. Savor the moment. Plus your mom is kind of right!

Paul: Don’t overthink it, celebrate this win to the fullest because we clearly don’t know how long it will be until the next one rolls around. It was beyond encouraging to see the adjustments Coach Lea, phallic or not, made to win this game, even if it was against CSU.

Andrew VU ‘04: You’ve got a cool mom. Those are rare. As are Vanderbilt feetball victories. You’re allowed to feel happiness. In fact, it is beyond essential in the world we currently inhabit, as we face a constant barrage of existential terror. Feel good.


Question from WestEndMayhem:

What happened? Halftime adjustments, a rousing speech that got the defense fired-up, a penalty the team took personally, the O-Line remembering you can actually push back against defenders? How do you explain a comeback win from a team that looked like dead men walking throughout the first quarter?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: My best guess is that the team which had lost 11 in a row entering Saturday and had scored three points against ETSU just needed that touchdown at the end of the first half to prove to themselves that yes, they can actually beat this team.

Doreontheplains: The offensive approach changed drastically. It went from a mess to exactly what we were promised. They picked up the tempo when they could, and the chances to do so were created by using mostly quick passes to all areas of the field. Seals was also moved from heavily under center to almost exclusively shotgun to help with the pass rush. He could throw immediately instead of needing to hit the back of his drop.

Defensively, I could not pick it up in real time and have not started my re-watch yet. Without noticing anything changing structurally or in pre-snap alignments, my gut reaction is that the defense just executed finally. Maybe some things got simplified, or they just got fired up from being repeatedly embarrassed and turned that into energy. I will have more on both of these later in the week, obviously.

Stanimal: As the coastal elite in this crew with three children, I must admit that a 10 PM kickoff largely relegated my observations to the box score. I defer to my colleagues who can perhaps stay up past 8 without 5-Hour Energy or being on a bender.

Paul: Everyone has their breaking point, and it seems to me it just took five and a half quarters of sleepwalking for this team to finally wake up. Perhaps some of the PTSD of last year’s team and the Mason era trickled into our player’s minds during the first bit of this season, and for whatever reason a switch flipped and they believed in themselves again. Moving forward, let’s hope that this is an outmatched team that plays its heart out as opposed to a disinterested one that comes out flat each week. Even if Vandy goes 2-10, the former is a lot more entertaining to watch and follow.

Andrew VU ‘04: My best guess is much like Tom’s, as whenever a team dominates you in the statistics, but not on the scoreboard, the feetball gods of chaos tend to bite them in the ass. Clark Lea said “We’ve got them right where we want them,” and to his credit, we did. Well, in the 3rd quarter anyway. I have to hope there was a “Come to Jebus” halftime speech, as we looked pretty rough in the first half, and then the best we’ve looked in years during the 3rd quarter. It very much seemed like the OC had figured out exactly how to attack the CSU defense at half, and then effectively exploited their weaknesses. Seriously, that Seals to Pierce connection was humming. That’s a great sign, obviously, but I do wonder why they weren’t as prepared in the beginning. Actually, I hope our scientists created a new-fangled sort of Flubber, but one that only works for 15 minutes. That would give me the most hope.


Question from McCaffreyFan:

What are your thoughts about Clark Lea referring to this as “Team One.” I know he’s trying to establish a culture, but it’s erasure of our great late 19th and early 20th century SIAA teams. The real Team One’s first victory was against Peabody Normal in 1890. Or am I just easily offended?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Honestly, I’m fine with it. The “Team One” idea is all about forgetting everything that happened before this. Treating+ this as a completely new program instead of a program that’s spent approximately six decades as the SEC’s doormat is probably a good idea.

Doreontheplains: I like it. I have not seen any alumnus say anything negative about the Team One label. Coaches love to find ways to separate from previous coaches. Clark Lea is basically saying all of the stupid crap that has held Vanderbilt back does not matter anymore. It is a bit curious that an alumnus is so adamant about discarding the past. Except the jerseys, of course.

Stanimal: I think team one would probably be ok with it so we can avoid having to discuss 75% of the teams since then.

Paul: Calling them Team 1 is Coach Lea’s way of not only disassociating with any excuses or baggage left over from the previous coaching staff, but also taking full ownership of his multi-year plan and process to build this program. If team 1 gets 1 win on the season, then that means Team 15 will be national champions in 2035, so don’t you worry.

Andrew VU ‘04: You are perhaps the most Vanderbilt of the Vanderbilt sports fans. You will receive an honorary monocle for which to drop into your champagne flute when startled.


Question from VandyImport:

There’s no STANFURDIUM and no Stanford vaccine

This is not really a question, I just felt like pointing it out.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: But Stanford can claim a President of the United States, so there’s that. Then again, counting Herbert Hoover as one of your alumni is hardly anything to brag about.

Doreontheplains: Will this be on the pre-game test?

Stanimal: What drugs do you use to come up with this stuff? Or is it solely absinthe?

Paul: Yes, but don’t forget that Stanford was able to lure Nashville treasure Reese Witherspoon away from West End 25 years ago, so who is the real winner here? Saturday brings us a matchup of not only the nerd bowl of Vandy vs Stanford, but also Northwestern vs Duke. Put $500 on parlaying the winners of these two games, and you might be able to pay for that ACT tutor for your kid to get in one of these elite 4 “smart schools with football programs.” That is, until the tuition bill comes in.

Andrew VU ‘04: Unlike Inglewood, Dollywood is up to some good. That’s right, Import. We’ve got the element; we’ve got the vaccine; we’ve got the student body who doesn’t show up to the stadium on game day (wait... that’s both of us). Oh, and unlike Stansbury, we’re not a Junior College. (Side note: Tom, it’s likely not best to get into a “who produced the best politicians” debate with Stansbury when Greg Abbott currently exists.)


Question from VU1970:

Will every team dressed in orange all keep losing at the same time, like they did Saturday? Or was this a special treat?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I regret to inform you that Oklahoma State and Oregon State both won on Saturday, though I didn’t watch either of their games so I can’t tell you if they actually wore orange.

Doreontheplains: Diet Miami is definitely going to lose a lot more but not in orange. Both UTs will suck most weekends but probably find some measley wins to fire up the “WE’RE BACK!” choruses for next season.

Stanimal: Clemson won too.

Paul: The “Commodore Eclipse” as I like to call it. Those special weekends when Vandy wins and Tennessee loses. When the you can fully appreciate the color of the autumn leaves without having to associate them with the Vawl orange, all while basking in the victory your Commodores secured that day.

Andrew VU ‘04: Obligatory “nothing sucks like a big orange” disclaimer aside, I can safely say CSU and THOSE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED will lose their fair share of games this year. I cannot say whether or not the Rams will ever wear those hideous uniforms again.


Question from Parlagi:

What is the endgame for UConn? Or just pick the 3 schools that the American will try to add, that works too.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: The endgame for UConn is being a shooty hoops school that has a football team that pretends to compete in FBS for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, but the guarantee game checks for technically counting as an FBS opponent are bigger than the ones that an FCS team gets. UConn is New Mexico State.

As for the second question, well, I guess to answer that I have to figure out if the Big 12 is done raiding the American or if they’re going to expand further (coughcoughMemphiscough.) UAB seems sort of obvious, both in terms of geography and the relative strength of their athletic program (especially with the new stadium coming) and their links with the remaining AAC members. I think the American would be idiots to not give Georgia State a call now that they seem to have a functional athletic program in addition to a really great location. The third call (and the fourth and fifth, if they’re having to add more members to replace Memphis/SMU/South Florida) is the tricky one, because it really depends on whether they want to add a respected program in a kind of shitty location (Louisiana Tech/Southern Miss/App State/Marshall) or if they want to double down on programs in metro areas (Old Dominion/Charlotte/UTSA/Rice.) The latter approach went very badly for Conference USA when they tried it, while the former actually has gone pretty well for the Sun Belt.

Doreontheplains: UConn is definitely going to be begging at the door to be in a conference, which seems most likely to be the American. Tom handled the second part better than I could ever hope. There are a lot of dominoes set to fall.

Stanimal: Do y’all remember Randy Edsall’s first tenure there? No? Me neither.

Paul: As helpless as things can seem to be for Vanderbilt Football every now and then, at least we have the support and infrastructure of being in the SEC at the end of the day. Despite the large deficits, both on the scoreboard and in fan disparity at home games, we can still go home bruised and defeated to a nice check from the SEC Network every month. I’d imagine UConn seeks some kind of conference affiliation to hopefully groom some sort of lasting membership with other schools over time. Other independents, such as Notre Dame, BYU, and even Army have a healthy culture/following to lay their hats on in CFB, but UConn does not.

Andrew VU ‘04: Recruit their best football athletes to the basketball team and disband the sport? Or should we wait to say that until after we play them?


Question from Rubber Hell:

There was a hypothesis before the season started that FCS teams, by virtue of playing in the Spring, may have a leg up on the FBS in terms of readiness. After Washington/Montana and FSU/Jax State, it feels like an idea worth revisiting.

So… How much should we be weighing that ETSU loss right now? From the perspectives of this season and Vanderbilt football history.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I’d actually heard the opposite, that not having a proper offseason would end up being a disadvantage for the FCS schools because they would still be having lingering injury issues from the spring, and players wouldn’t really have had recovery time. Then again, a lot of teams (like ETSU) were also playing truncated seasons in the spring so maybe that balances out... or it will be more of an issue in October and November than it is now.

Doreontheplains: Early season, it probably is helping. Late season, the grind will get to them. They still had 3 months or so from the last spring game to September, but the rosters probably look almost identical.

The loss to ETSU is still completely inexcusable and is probably the worst loss in program history from the standpoint of weakest opposition to win against Vanderbilt. Using the spring season with an assumption of no health issues and benefits of essentially a pre-season to mitigate that loss is like an adult saying they did not get to stretch after losing a race to a small child.

Stanimal: I actually believe that they may have an advantage. There is no substitute for gameday reps. No matter how hard you simulate in practice, you do not get the same experience as you do when the lights come on. Further, the spring seasons were short, so I don’t know that fatigue really played as big a part as some would think. ETSU knew exactly what they were doing and how. I think the same could be said for Montana and Jax State. Granted, a well polished team would win, but the teams the FCS has beaten aren’t really considered that.

Paul: I don’t know how much weight this theory carries, if at all. There will never be an excuse for the ETSU loss, although it does make you scratch you head when you see that other FBS teams have also been dropping games to some pesky FCS foes in the first couple of weeks. If anything, I think that these FCS teams playing at a high level on just a few months’ rest will give the NCAA a better case to expand the season when the playoff inevitably goes to 8, then 12, then 16 teams over the next decade.

Andrew VU ‘04: It’s a quite interesting theory. One that won’t keep FSU fans, Husky fans (fans of the Washington Huskies; not just fans who shopped in the Husky Boys section as children), and us from wanting to drink bleach following those losses, though. For me, there’s no mitigating that loss. It was brutal: we looked lethargic; purposeless, and pushed around; and their d-line was in our backfield on nearly every play. That doesn’t just happen because you have played a game a few months prior, rather than 9 months prior.

Speaking of “Husky Boys”:


Question from Jeturn:

I reevaluated my life decisions and priorities and went to Fort Collins anyway….Glad I did – saw the W and loved the town and vice versa. Given a 2 hour commute for me to home games which ones should I consider attending with the ground rule of not seeing a home Het Wettening?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Honestly any of the remaining home games would work because part of the criteria for a Het Wettening is that it has to occur against a team we should beat, and none of Stanford, Georgia, Mississippi State, Kentucky, and Missourah qualify. UConn would, but uh, they’re far worse than we are, somehow.

Doreontheplains: Of the home games, I would go for Mississippi State and UConn. The former is a chance to steal a game against a scummy fan base who has way too high of an opinon of themselves. The latter is a trash team even we should beat easily unless things have completely derailed.

If you want to take another road trip, SC is definitely the way to go, regardless of the fact we will assuredly lose to the Game Penises. I have gone to the last two games there and loved both trips even with the losses.

Stanimal: South Carolina is probably the only one I would avoid because that game usually feels very empty. But it’s still a sneaky fun place and I would go (plus I’ll be there).

Paul: Good for you. When Vandy hoists the 2023 Belk Bowl trophy, you can say that you were there at the first moment Clark Lea showed promise for the football program. You are clearly good luck for this team, so I’d encourage you to go to all of these games. UGA will probably be a steep ticket, but none of the other teams’ fan bases will travel enough to make it impossible. If I had to pick three, I’d say UK, Mizzou, and UConn.

Andrew VU ‘04: Go see UCONN, as if we lose that, our hets would become so wet, they would completely dissolve, and you wouldn’t feel pain any more. I’d also go see Clanga, because any time you can cause some pain to Mike Leach’s pride, you should.


Question from VandyFanBR:

Do we have any chance against Stanford? They looked bad in week 1, but after the USC game I’m a little worried that we gonna se a massacre in Nashville next Saturday.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I don’t think so. This Vanderbilt team is good enough to win a game against a team that insists on beating itself with derp and mistakes, but that’s not really Stanford. That’s South Carolina or Tennessee.

Doreontheplains: My answer depends on whether we get the 2nd half offensive plan or something similar. If we do, I think Vanderbilt has a puncher’s chance. The defense will have to show the ability to stay assignment sound for 60 minutes, not just 30 minutes as against CSU, too. The defense being the same or worse means things will get UGLY.

Stanimal: I really don’t know. Stanford beating USC doesn’t really instill a lot of confidence.

Paul: There’s always a chance, however small it may be. For a visiting team from the west coast, a 40% full Dudley will present a strange environment for a true road game against a team that Stanford knows very little. Vegas was pretty wrong last weekend, why not keep the streak rolling?

Andrew VU ‘04: I’m with Tom. Stansbury looked pretty bad in week one, but so steamrolled the Trojans this week that USC summarily fired their head coach. Unless they all have physics tests they have to take (baseball reference!), they are likely to beat us pretty soundly. I would be glad to be wrong, of course.


Question from Comstipplesacksoun:

Official het-o-meter check-in please and thank you.

Answers from AoG:

Andrew VU ‘04: (taps on the sign)

Tom Stephenson: I am still angry with VTPhD for making the Het-O-Meter reading say “damp” rather than “moist.”