This is my second column as Vanderbilt sports columnist for The Nashville Newzine
Death Valley Is A Real Place. It Is In California, Not Louisiana.
by Robert Funke
Vanderbilt and LSU seem to be mirror images of one another right now. One is a team that, two years ago, was the best team in the land, and now seems to be on the good side of average (or the average side of good), and the other is a team that, two years ago, hadn’t played a bowl game in a quarter century, and now seems to be happily average, or perhaps the good side of weak, but with the potential to be on the weak side of surprisingly good. The respective post-game reactions were telling.
Les Miles had an attitude of, “Look, it wasn’t pretty, we looked bad, but it was a win, folks, and we’re still undefeated. Stop mailing me dead animals, you ignorant bayou cretins.” Bobby Johnson, on the other hand, had an attitude of “Look, we showed some flashes of talent, we competed hard, we gave it our best, and we played a respectable game against a perennial giant. But we still lost. We want to win. Stop congratulating me, you pathetic ninnies.”
I know we could have done better. I also freshly remember doing much, much worse.
The ‘Dores traveled to Baton Rouge to supposedly-terrifying, stupidly-nicknamed “Death Valley” for a game against the poorly-coached mutants at Louisiana State University. LSU was the only really disappointing showing last week (except for the SEC teams that lost, of course), so it seemed to all that Vandy might have a shot at pulling out a surprise.
Turns out, we did. A loss is a loss, but I think that if we played LSU ten times this year, we would win two of those games. In all my years of God-given life and God-advised-against gambling, I wouldn’t ever bet on a Vandy win over the Tigers, but we had a pretty good showing.
If you want a box score, look up the box score. Here are the facts:
Zac Stacy is a great running back.
Ted Cain still insists on making draws the bulk of our offensive plays, and will need to score more than once a game to convince me he’s not worthless.
Larry Smith will be just fine.
Our receivers are really bad at receptions.
Our defense played incredibly well, considering our offense didn’t give them many breaks.
A season without bye weeks becomes a problem when start to lose two starters per game.
When Jamie “Lockdown” Graham limped off the field at the half, I nearly wept. When he appeared to be fine at the beginning of the second half, I nearly wept (happiness).
I still think this could be a pretty good year for us.
I loved the game day atmosphere in Baton Rouge, though. The occasional LSU fan would try to bedevil me, saying, “come on, everybody, one, two, three, TIGER BAIT, TIGER BAIT, TIGER BAIT.” “Everybody” ignored him.
The archetypical LSU fan looks something like a man who stood a few rows below me. Overweight. Handlebar mustache. Eyes glazed over; vacant smile. Seems to have been drunk for the better part of the last thirty-five years. His buddies, also drunk, are hard at work sexually harassing the Vanderbilt cheerleaders, but he’s oblivious, smiling, smiling. He’s just happy to be at a football game. His team is winning.
To round up other sporting news of interest, things didn’t go much better for the Chicago Commodores, who looked rather potentially impressive, but ultimately flaccid against the Packers. Bright spot: Brian Urlacher had a season-ending injury. That means Commodore Hunter Hillenmeyer should get more playing time. Awesome. Sorry, Brian.
And finally, to end on a high note, I would like to point out that the Tennessee Volunteers got poop-on’d yesterday.