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Week Seven Football Mail Bag: Answers to your Questions

You ask, we answer.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 14 Georgia at Vanderbilt Photo by Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Question from WestEndMayhem:

Was this a genuine moral victory I should have enjoyed?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Enjoyed? No.

As far as the “moral victory” thing goes, though, sure. It’s fine to admit that we realistically weren’t going to beat Georgia, so you can account for the fact that we were a failed two-point conversion away from it being a one-score game with 6:14 left. That’s progress. This wasn’t snatching-defeat-from-the-jaws-of-victory against Kentucky or Mizzou.

PatrickSawyer: I did not enjoy the game. I was pleasantly surprised Vanderbilt looked like they belonged on the field. Similar issues with missed opportunities like the missed FG, INT just before halftime, and the dubious overturn of an originally ruled a 4th down stop. Those are more stomachable against #1.

It really just served to make the losses by equal or greater margins to Kentucky, Missouri, and Florida more frustrating. A team that hangs with UGA should not be capable of losing to UNLV either. Like Lynch's typical once-a-game magical playcalling drive, the respectable loss to #1 emphasizes why the general incompetence should not be tolerated or excused.

Andrew VU ‘04: There were parts of this game you should have enjoyed—namely the first drive in which Ugga busted a coverage and Landon Humphreys “Humphreys-to-Please’d” his way to the end zone. You could also have enjoyed Aeneas DiCosmo Forcing Di-Fumble on Ugga’s first drive. After that, your mileage may vary.

All in all, I thought the boys fought hard, and the only thing that pissed me off was weak-ass coaching decisions.

Question from Mesozoa:

When Vanderbilt plays the best team in the country, and loses by 17 in an entertaining game—looking far better than Kentucky—which crushed Vandy— did against that same team last week, why should we sourly dismiss the outcome as a meaningless “moral victory”? Why follow Vandy football if that’s the standard, and if that’s the standard, shouldn’t we want Vandy to drop out of the SEC and play in a league it might reasonably dominate?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Georgia is basically on a different plane than even the rest of the SEC — Missouri hasn’t beaten them since 2013, Kentucky hasn’t beaten them since 2009, hell Tennessee hasn’t beaten them since 2016, the point is that an inability to beat them isn’t something unique to Vanderbilt. (You’ll notice, too, that Vanderbilt has beaten them more recently than two of those.)

Now, getting dominated by Kentucky? That’s really a different issue, and if we’re not even going to bother competing with them, then yeah, drop out. From the sound of things, this decision will eventually be made for us when the Super League comes to fruition.

PatrickSawyer: It should be noted we lost to Kentucky, a game you said we were crushed, by the same margin as we did Georgia. Granted, the Kentucky game was never within 2 scores after 6:44 to play in the 3rd quarter. I think that emphasizes how quality of opponent understandably adjusts expectations.

It's not meaningless, but it's a bit empty when the rest of the season has been so disappointing. As I said, it shows how far below their potential this team has played this season.

Andrew VU ‘04: Calling something a “moral victory” is not sourly dismissing it. It is, in fact, claiming that while we lost, we succeeded in some ways. For instance, if a lawyer loses a case, but made a persuasive argument that might lead to victory down the line (you know, when you have a less reactionary judge, the culture progresses, etc.), that would be a moral victory. If a candidate loses an election, but their ideas lead to a movement that leads to a more free or enlightened culture down the line—or hey, even leads to a useful law being passed down the line—that, too, is a moral victory. If the shooty hoops team makes a deep run in the NIT (but eventually loses), which leads to a run in the NCAA tournament the next year, that, too is a moral victory. This was a moral victory in that the team could build on our successes and potentially knock off an SEC team later this year. Prior to this game, that looked like an impossibility.

*Note: With Taylor injured, it’s still pretty unlikely we’ll win another game, of course.

**Note also that I am 100% on board with Vandy Import’s Magnolia League concept.

Question from JesseCuster44:

How can folks call it a moral victory when HCCL decided to punt instead of going for it on 4th and 5 with over 2 minutes left? (the last of a few decisions that were less than aggressive) Isn’t the idea to try and win the game? What kind of message does it send to players that keeping it close is good enough?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: And Vanderbilt also had all three timeouts in its back pocket when Georgia took over with 2:27 left after the punt, and didn’t use any of them while Georgia ran out the clock.

The thing is, I’m not sure what “message” this is sending but I’m also not sure I particularly care, because the players aren’t idiots, could look at the scoreboard and see that they were down 17 points with 2:30 left, and probably came to the same conclusion that we all did which is that the game is over. If Vanderbilt converts a fourth down and either scores to lose by 10 or the clock runs out on them, does that actually make any difference? Are there any potential trade-offs to trying to score there? (Was our star defensive back/linebacker not injured during the game, albeit while the game was still technically in doubt?)

PatrickSawyer: Eh. I am leaning towards agreeing with Tom. This "message" idea paints a pretty bleak picture of our players' awareness. Scoring 3 times in less than 3 minutes is so much less likely than a player getting hurt on a fool's errand. It's not like we're playing in MACtion either where the odds of an opponent doing ridiculous things to gift you points and/or possessions are much higher than in the SEC, much less against Georgia.

Andrew VU ‘04: See my earlier answers for an answer to the first question. And, come to think of it, your other questions, too. This was a good effort from the boys, but NoHo Clark was far too timid for my tastes, as well.

Question from VU1970:

I turned off the TV after the Georgia game believing that the Commies can stand toe-to-toe with anybody else on the schedule, whether they actually win any of those games or not. If they only win one, shouldn’t it be in Knocksville?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: If we had our pick of which game we win, then yes, we would all pick the Tennessee game and I don’t even think there’d be much of an argument. (It will probably be Auburn if anyone.)

PatrickSawyer: Duh. But let's not overreact. They've also already shown they can lose to anyone and everyone.

Andrew VU ‘04: Yes. They drink with their butts.

Question from Dorewithdynamite:

What should we think about the defensive playcalling this week, especially on 3rd down?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I’m gonna admit that I wasn’t paying close enough attention to have an opinion on this (hell, I didn’t even watch the first half.)

Andrew VU ‘04: I did watch the whole game, but did so while grading student papers. Not nearly dialed in enough to answer that. I thought the defense played surprisingly well overall, but I yield the rest of my time to Patrick, who I am certain has watched this multiple times by now for reasons I cannot fully discern. He also watched the UNLV game multiple times, but that’s just garden variety masochism.

PatrickSawyer: I haven't re-watched yet. That's scheduled for tonight. My gut reaction is that it was better because screens and quick passes seemed to be closed down much sooner than in weeks prior. Georgia missed on two deep shots then did not got back to the well too many times.

One big surprise was how well a 4-man rush generated pressure early and in a few crucial moments. It also got stymied a lot, but any success rushing 4 was a pleasant surprise.

Note: I re-watch because initial reactions fueled by emotions and liquor are often flawed. It is entirely possible Vanderbilt did little to nothing different, but Georgia's offense (more traditional with a TE and less spread) played into our personnel and alignments.

Question from VandyFan1!:

Just plain and simple, what can we take away from this game?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: The effort on Saturday would have beaten UNLV and probably at least three of Wake Forest, Kentucky, Missouri, and Florida.

That we lost all five of those games is an indictment of somebody.

PatrickSawyer: Either Georgia treated this like a walk through OR some coaches need to be fired directly into the sun for causing this team to miss a bowl. Probably both tbh.

Andrew VU ‘04: Yeah, this is the Stackhouse effect. The effort seen now (later in the season) would have been enough to beat UNLV and Wake Forest—I’m not as confident it would have beaten The Jorts, Wedding Jerseys, or Missourah (spits), but it certainly could have knocked off one of them. That’s not nothing. Of course, if Stack pulls this “team’s not ready until SEC play” crap again this year, well, [insert The Honeymooners style joking threat of violence here].

Question from RaisedDawgChosenDores:

What’s everyone’s favorite momentum killing penalty or replay review so far this season? I think mine is the pass interference targeting that was neither

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: It ended up ultimately not mattering, but blowing a 1st and goal play dead to review what was very obviously a catch could have ended disastrously.

PatrickSawyer: Yeah, that DPI/Targeting is mine. The Sheppard catch review was egregious, but it ultimately did not and would not have mattered. The Missouri free first down may have mattered.

Andrew VU ‘04: I’m still mad about Earl getting flagged for dancing.

Question from SeaDog73:

What are the chances we will see similar game-planning on offense the rest of the year? And, what are the chances Seals continues to start, at least until he is either injured or proves the last game was an anomaly?

Answers from AoG:

PatrickSawyer: Not high enough. I've been advocating for being a Big XII offense since game 1 or 2. Maybe offseason.

I am okay with either QB. Just tailor the offense to them. Use the sprint outs, a few read options, and a lot of short to intermediate passing if it's Seals then use deep shots regularly but not too frequently. If it is Swann, the deep to intermediate throws are how you back off secondaries then eat them up underneath if they start bailing.

I doubt we see a real change though, which is why I am the negative one today.

Andrew VU ‘04: I’d say the shift to a pass-forward offense is pretty likely (you know, or we fire the Offensive Coordinator out of a cannon). Our RB room is trash, whereas our WRs are very good. As for Seals, I really want Swann to take that jerb from him, but until Swann makes it clear it’s his team in practice, Seals has earned more PT. He’s got the best chance of pulling a Patton Robinette, at least.

Question from Your Uncle Mike:

Do you watch the suspended Jumbotron and speakers at Dudley swinging over the end zone and just wonder what would happen if the cables snapped? I, for one, would enjoy the quiet. Surely, there was a safety study completed on that, right?

Answers from AoG:

PatrickSawyer: No? It's pretty stable. And the setup's failure is not going to end up with anything on the field, Jodi.

Andrew VU ‘04: Literally every game, my brain goes through a multiverse of Final Destination style mass stadium death options. If Leopold “Butters” Stotch ever starts tap dancing at half-time, that cable is going to snap and saw hundreds of people in half instantaneously, while the Jumbotron will fall and pop NoHo Clark’s Shine-O-Ball-O of a head like Gallagher seeing a watermelon.

*Note: That may well have been too many references for a two sentence answer. Abed from Community wrote it.