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Saturday Tailgate: 0 Days to Kickoff

The countdown... is over.

Optional Musical Accompaniment

To complete the countdown to kickoff: today is 0 days until Vanderbilt football’s season opener against East Tennessee State. 0 is the number of Anfernee Orji, the 6’2”, 230-pound junior linebacker from Rockwall, Texas, who will become the first Vanderbilt football player to ever wear the number 0 when he takes the field today (and he should be starting), hence why we don’t have a photo of a Vanderbilt player wearing 0. We will soon.

This Week in AoG

Previewing ETSU

Other Football Stuff

Other Stuff

The Season Begins Anew

Boy, have we ever needed a new season to start.

Derek Mason might have gotten a seventh year in Nashville after going 3-9 in 2019, inexplicably losing 34-10 to UNLV at home (UNLV, by the way, lost to FCS Eastern Washington on Thursday night, in case you might have thought laying the wood to Vanderbilt was the start of a new era for the Runnin’ Rebels — nope, that loss looks just as awful now as it did then) and then more inexplicably beating Missouri a week later with a walk-on starting at quarterback. But the writing seemed to be on the wall after every quarterback who played for the Commodores in 2019 left the program in one fashion or another: 2020 was going to be a long season. And that prognosis got even more difficult when COVID-19 came along and erased the nonconference schedule, leaving Vanderbilt to play ten games against SEC teams. (They ended up playing nine, but what’s the difference?) Vanderbilt went winless for the first time in school history, and the fact that Vanderbilt had never gone winless in an entire season prior to 2020 came as a shock to most people. Yep, even the Watson Brown 1990 team, the previous leader in the clubhouse for the worst team in Vanderbilt history, which opened the season losing 44-7 to an SMU team fresh off the death penalty... that team somehow managed to beat LSU. The 2020 team didn’t win a game and for the most part wasn’t even competitive. The Commodores lost 41-7 to LSU (which would finish 5-5), 41-7 to South Carolina (which went 2-8!), 54-21 to Ole Miss, and 41-0 to Missouri. That last one came as Vanderbilt decided to borrow the goalkeeper from the women’s soccer team because they needed a kicker thanks, I assume, to a COVID outbreak in the kicker room — and we never got to find out if Sarah Fuller could kick a field goal, because Vanderbilt never even got in field goal range.

Shockingly, Derek Mason got fired after that; the final tally was a 27-55 overall record and a ghastly 10-46 SEC record. Certainly we’re used to bad records; after all, in the seven-year run under Rod Dowhower and Woody Widenhofer from 1995-2001, Vanderbilt went 5-51 in the SEC. Bobby Johnson went 12-52 in the SEC in his eight years in Nashville. But the three-year James Franklin era led us to believe that maybe, just maybe, all that shit was in the past. Oh, were we wrong about that. While Derek Mason got better than his debut, an ugly, 37-7 loss to Temple known as the “Het Wettening” in these parts, the upside was a team that could go lose a bowl game in Shreveport or Houston. And since that Texas Bowl loss to cap the 2018 season, Vanderbilt is 3-18. The three wins: Northern Illinois, Missouri, East Tennessee State.

So the good news is that the last one is Clark Lea’s first opponent. The Clark Lea era begins today, and there’s something about a new coach that makes everyone get a sudden dose of optimism about the direction of the program. There’s something about Clark Lea that makes you say “this guy knows what he’s doing,” a sentiment that everyone will hold up until the first time he punts on 4th and 1 from the opponent’s 45-yard line.

The new era begins in another way, too, and perhaps a way that we’re not quite so fond of. For the first time in 23 years, Joe Fisher won’t be on the radio call for today’s game. (Yeah, I realize that Joe might have missed a game somewhere in there, but you know where I’m going with that.) The new radio broadcaster is Andrew Allegretta, who previously served as Tulane’s radio broadcaster.

Ah, to have hope again. It is a nice feeling. Anyway, tonight’s game kicks off at 7 PM CT and it’s on the SEC Network+ or ESPN+, take your pick. I’m not even sure I know the difference.

Other Vanderbilt Headlines

Vanderbilt men’s golf shot a 1-over par 361 in the first round of the Carmel Cup on Friday, and the Commodores find themselves in seventh place. Michael Shears posted the low round of the day for Vanderbilt with a nice 69.

Men’s cross country finished in fourth place and women’s cross country in third at the Mizzou Opener on Friday.

Five for Friday: East Tennessee State

Preseason SEC Power Rankings from the Hustler