The Vanderbilt Vendidad

Vanderbilt Football

Reflections on the 56-31 moral victory over Georgia Tech

This article was originally published at the Bleacher Report.

Vanderbilt spent the first half of its season losing games and disappointing fans.  Today, after two games in a row of losing games and impressing fans, things are looking up.

Vanderbilt played three quarters of impressive offensive football, and one and a half quarters of flippy-flappy fumbly-bumbly whoopsieball.

But you know what?  Vanderbilt fans—at least the good ones—walked away from Dudley Field with heads held high, because Vanderbilt scored their second moral victory in a row.

Last year, moral victories were a despised unwelcome house guest. But as Joni Mitchell (or the Counting Crows featuring Vanessa Carlton, depending on your generation) sang, you don’t know what you got till it’s gone.

Here’s how the ‘Dores exceeded expectations Saturday:

  • Plenty of people expected Vandy to lose by 25 or so points, but they probably expected a score of 35-10. The offense, quite simply, got it together.  They drove, they completed passes, they converted on third down, they scored touchdowns, they made field goals, they broke off the occasional big pass or huge run.
  • Warren Norman matched the SEC single-season record with his third kickoff returned for a touchdown. As a freshman. He also leads the league comfortably in all-purpose yards with a whole freaking lot. Excuse me for not spending twenty of my precious minutes checking box scores with a calculator! I’m not getting paid for this, you know.
  • Larry Smith started strong, then pulled a hamstring, but really, truly, genuinely seems to be getting better. And senior Mackenzi Adams played well off the bench, which should sate the crotchety message-board posters for a while.
  • Vanderbilt played like the Music City Bowl team, which is to say, like relentless opportunists. Greg Billinger forced a fumble at the Georgia Tech 3-yard-line, which was picked up by John Stokes, who played with noticeable juice in the tubes. Udom Umoh had a highlight-reel-worthy catch-and-run, coming off an errant Adams pass tipped by a Tech linebacker.
  • Vanderbilt wanted to win the game, and played like they wanted to win the game. You know, for three quarters.

I said before the game that, in order for Vanderbilt to have a chance, they would need zero mistakes. And, at least on the offensive end, the first three quarters were—if not mistake-free—mistake-lite.

Frankly, I’ll take it. And so will most Vandy fans.

Because three quarters of good offensive football is three quarters more than Vandy fans have gotten to watch in some time.

So what about the defense? Georgia Tech put up 56 points. Aren’t we a defensive team?

You know what? Shut up. The defense played three quarters of the best football they could have been expected to play against an offense like Georgia Tech’s. Yes, they fell apart, but do you know what stat makes it forgivable? (WARNING: RESEARCH ALERT) Time of possession.

The defense was on the field fifteen seconds shy of forty minutes. So their collapse was technically the offense’s fault, just like it has been all year. The difference? The offense was scoring enough points to take some of the pressure off. And seriously, Tech punted four times, which is four more times than I expected.

And who would have guessed the Commodore defense would force the Yellow Jackets topass (some)? I figured the Jackets wouldn’t have to resort to trick plays!

Ultimately, the Vanderbilt defense couldn’t handle the added pressure of all the offense’s turnovers in the fourth quarter, but I forgive both of them. Three quarters of great football ain’t bad.

So what about the fourth quarter?

Seriously, shut up.

1 November 2009 Vanderbilt Commodores Vanderbilt Football You're safe for now Cain. Warren Norman Zac Stacy Larry Smith Mackenzi Adams Udom Umoh


Gameday: Commodores versus Yellow Jackets

Happy football. It’s Halloween

Tonight, Tech fans will be decked out in black and gold, while Vanderbilt students will be wearing pink and green sundresses/seafoam oxford shirts and pink ties/passed out on the KA porch, being urinated on.

I won’t reiterate my pregame prediction because I want to stay upbeat, and furthermore will note that I find things to be so bleak that the team may just pull off the upset, if only to spite me.

Follow @vandyvendidad on Twitter to see my updates/thoughts, which I will keep a pace of around 5/quarter.

Let’s get it on!

31 October 2009 Vanderbilt football Georgia Tech


Gut Feelings: Georgia Tech at Vanderbilt

This is my first article for Bleacher Report.

Note: Because this is my first article, I hesitate to make it downer. But when you cover Vanderbilt football, downers happen. The beauty lies in one’s ability to enjoy oneself nonetheless.

I am a Vanderbilt fan, which means I am, by definition, foolishly hopeful.

I think the Commodores have a decent shot against Florida this year. See what I mean?

But I have never, in all my days, been as confident of a Vanderbilt loss as I am right now, at this very moment, about our chances against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.

The Commodores are not expected to win any of their remaining games. I, on the other hand, think they will find a win somewhere.

But it won’t be against Georgia Tech.

It’s been a rough season. It really has. In addition to the expected challenges faced by a small, academically-focused school in the SEC, the Commodores have been decimated by injuries, weak play-calling, and, most recently, bad officiating. If the ‘Dores return to a bowl this year, mark my words, there will be a Disney movie about it next summer.

So my expectations are low. Historically, however, the ‘Dores have performed at their best when expectations are low. Who expected Vanderbilt to win a bowl game over a ranked team only after Jay Cutler and Earl Bennett had moved on to the NFL? No one.

Which is why the upset seemed especially likely against South Carolina last week. No one expected the ‘Dores to sneak up on the very same team they snuck up on twice in a row, least of all Steve Spurrier. But they did. Despite an inability to pull out the W, they were very sneaky indeed.

So one would think that this weekend, Vanderbilt might be a reasonable long-shot pick. Georgia Tech is flying high, surely looking past the Commodores and into the postseason. Maybe Bobby Johnson can get his team amped up and ready for an upset.

Nope. Not going to happen.

Upsets happen when the underdogs bring their A-game and the expected winners (overdogs? undercats?) show up weak, maybe with their C-game or D-game. But the Yellow Jackets’ terrifying offense lines up impeccably against the Commodores. For an upset, it would have to be an A+ Vandy against an F- Tech.

Georgia Tech is a running team. Georgia Tech is the running team.

Vanderbilt has had a bit of trouble defending against the run. Schools that aren’t Western Carolina have been putting up an average of 180 yards/game. But Army—ARMY—ARMY, a team that’s been struggling against the likes of Temple and Tulane, put up 222 yards on the ‘Dores.

Georgia Tech’s offense is similar to Army’s, except Georgia Tech is bigger, faster, stronger, and unquestionably better. They have been doing naughty things to nicer defensive lines than Vanderbilt’s all year.

Vanderbilt’s defense has been quite good, but Vanderbilt’s greatest strength this year has been its ability to guard against the pass. Taking the pass away from Georgia Tech is like taking away Batman’s bat-shaped shurikens. It’s just going to get you punched in the face.

My prediction? Georgia Tech scores 45 points on Saturday.

And Vanderbilt? The Vanderbilt offense has yet to score two touchdowns against anyone but Rice and Western Carolina. I don’t see this being their breakthrough game.

But Georgia Tech has been relatively weak on defense. Unfortunately, I have a bad feeling that we won’t get to see very much Tech defense, because Georgia Tech’s offense aims to control the clock, and between Vandy’s punt-based offense and its no-huddle pace, the Commodores may not control the ball for more than twenty minutes.

I boldly predict that Vanderbilt’s offense produces 10 points. But that doesn’t make my prediction 45-10.

Is a win possible? Yes. Vanderbilt wins if all of the following occur:

  • Warren Norman runs not one, but two kickoffs in for touchdowns.
  • Vanderbilt turns the ball over zero times.
  • Vanderbilt has zero penalties.
  • Chris “The Sticky Bandit” Marve forces three (3) fumbles, and Vanderbilt recovers all of them. Two of the three must be taken in for touchdowns.
  • Myron Lewis records two touchdowns, and Casey Hayward one.

So Vanderbilt wins if our defense and special teams combine for at least thirty-five points. Minimum turnover differential of +5. It could happen.

But not this week. Tech wins, 45-17

29 October 2009 Vanderbilt Football Bobby Johnson Georgia Tech Warren Norman Myron Lewis Chris Marve


Other Peoples’ Hard Work - 10.28.09

Here’s what I’ve found around the web, spladow! Tell your friends to read this blog.

  • This looks awesome. I’m all for early indoctrination of future generations of Vandy fans. It’s why I do this.
  • The Voice deals with frustrated fans with tact and aplomb. I completely agree with his assessment.
  • Barca rounds up information on Commodores in the NFL (read: on the Bears).
  • Great article about Brandt Snedeker, found on the home page. Between Snedeker and Derrick Byars, you have to love Vanderbilt’s loyalty to the careers of its alumni. No snark there. The only problem I had was that “earning about $110,000” was part of his “horrible” start. I think it was Craig Dolch deliberately taunting my unemployment.
  • In other news, college-aged men play video games and get really competitive about it. Though probably the lamest idea for a paid sports article I’ve seen in a while, Boclair’s piece actually does a great job of painting faces onto the jerseys we follow.
  • Warren Norman better take four or five kickoffs to the house this weekend, and Chris “The Sticky Bandit” Marve better be ready to strip some balls. No-huddle + punt-happy offensive scheme = major troubles for the ‘Dores this weekend.
  • Andy Kats gives some love to the ‘Dores basketball prospects. Provided by VSL. I commented!
  • Some guy in Idaho makes a prediction about a game between a team from Nashville and a team from Atlanta. He seems to know what he’s talking about, though.

28 October 2009 Vanderbilt Commodores Vanderbilt football Vanderbilt Basketball Derrick Byars Brendt Snedeker Joe Fisher Halloween Georgia Tech Warren Norman Andy Katz Time of Possesssion


Other People’s Hard Work - 10.27.09

It’s been a few days since I’ve done a roundup of news around the ‘Dores. Since then, Vanderbilt football has lost a game, Vanderbilt basketball has picked up a recruit, Bobby Johnson has been very BoJo about the officiating this weekend and the tone in the SEC, and I have sprouted a rather comely mustache.

  • It’s hard for me to get upset about the blatantly terrible replay call in the VU/SC game, because Warren Norman singlehandedly did what a call reversal would have done: evened the score, killed their momentum. But Jeff Lockridge and Chris Low both take note of Johnson’s passive-aggressive approach to a racket against SEC officiating that he could, but probably shouldn’t, “get in line” for.
  • Chris Low knows that Warren Norman exists, and is hot.
  • It’s official: We got Rod Odom.
  • Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech have similar Johnsons.
  • Georgia Tech sources are previewing this weekend’s game, and things aren’t looking good for the ol’ ‘Dores. Despite a big effort last weekend, the Yellow Jackets will have to put all their helmets on backwards to lose this one.
  • Derrick Byars made the Bulls. Byars will always have a special place in my heart for his game, his class, and his open appreciation of my electro-pop band, Hyzer Bee.
  • Kentucky football players know about as much about their school’s colors as their school’s fans know about football.
  • And my best friends from home have entered the surrealist sports blog market. They’re surprisingly good at it, despite barely reading above a fourth grade reading level. Check it out.

27 October 2009 Bobby Johnson Derrick Byars Georgia Tech Football Hyzer Bee Kentucky Football Officiating Vanderbilt Basketball Vanderbilt Football Warren Norman aroundtheweb


Gut Feelings: Vandy at South Carolina

Let me be clear: I do not care for the University of South Carolina. Not in the least. I’ve been there. You find yourself wondering, how are the “cock” jokes still funny? I mean, it’s written on every single article of clothing they own. Honestly.

And the good ol’ Carolina racism—it’s just a bit more… uncomfortably consistent there. They don’t say the word “boy” with hate, they breathe it with a smile and a whiff of nostalgia, like the sweetness whiskey in the breath of a sweaty guy in an oxford shirt, palmetto-patterned pants, and a visor. As in, “You run the ball, boy, like you were born and bred to do!” a direct quote from the student section of the 2005 Vandy game, at which I was present. I was dating a student there at the time. She called that “tradition.”

I don’t much care for Columbia, either. In fact, I might consider it the second worst university town in the SEC. Who’s first? Here’s a hint: Knoxville. Also, for the record, I don’t include cities in Mississippi on any “worst of” lists. It’s just unfair.


That’s who the ‘Dores have on their plate tomorrow. The Ol’ “There are no Vanderbilts in the NFL” Ball Coach and his army of cocks (okay, it’s a little funny).

Here are my conditional predictions:

If Vandy scores first, we win 12-10.

If SC scores the first 14 points of the game in the first half, they win 35-2.

This is why I think we might surprise the Gamecocks yet again: I strongly believe we will win one more game this year. We’re too good defensively not to run in a couple interceptions for scores and end up with more than 13 points on the board in one of these games, a scoreboard situation that our defense knows how to take care of.

So I think we’ll win again. Why not another game? Here’s my reasoning:

  • It won’t be Georgia Tech, because they’re like Army if Army was good at football.
  • It won’t be Florida, because, I mean, come on.
  • I don’t think it will be the Kentucky game, because every season in recent memory that we’ve looked forward and seen the UK game as our only hope for victory, we’ve managed to lose in different depressing ways. (see: VU/UK series, 2004-2007).
  • It could be Tennessee, depending on if they continue to improve, or if they’re bitter and angry and hoarse from booing their own quarterback.
  • Even though Spurrier is trying his darnedest not to look past this week, Vanderbilt’s offense is too awful, Carolina’s schedule too intense (past this week), and Spurrier’s head to darned big for them to take this game seriously. Yes, even after losing to us for the past two years. Spurrier is just that arrogant.

So Spurrier may look over us again. That doesn’t address our own struggles. What is it about the Commodores that makes our chances of winning highest tomorrow?

Because it would be our least satisfying upset possible. We have nothing to prove about matching up against South Carolina. If they hold us to 0 points tomorrow, whatever. Good for you, Steve, way to get it out of your system.

A win tomorrow would be a very nice dish, yes, but it’s not what we ordered. Nobody expects us to beat Carolina three times in a row. But even if we do, the emotional returns are quickly diminishing. I’m tired of beating South Carolina. I want to beat UT again. Vanderbilt is my well-meaning aunt, whom I love; beating South Carolina is the special toffee candy she’s been convinced I love for three years now, when really I’m ambivalent about toffee, but love taffy. But hey, these days, I’m just glad to get some candy once in a while.

We may expect to lose to teams we’re heavily favored over (I called the Army loss), but these days, we also expect to win at least one game as major underdogs. Last year it was Auburn. Before that, South Carolina. Before that, Georgia. Before that, Tennessee.

So I think we win one more time this year, and of our remaining games, I would say we’re most likely to win against SC. Then UT, then UK, then UF, then GT. Yes, I think we’re more likely to beat Florida than Georgia Tech. I also think I’m more likely to marry Natalie Portman than Scarlett Johansson, but you don’t see me ring shopping.

If we get an upset, let’s have it be a crazy upset, like against Florida, or the happiest upset possible: beating the Vols again.

This is where the crazy neurosis of Vanderbilt fandom really shines. I don’t make my predictions based on statistics, player performance, or any of the like. Using only my gut, I am fully convinced of the following facts:

  1. We will have a major upset this year.
  2. It will not be against Kentucky, Georgia Tech, or Florida.
  3. If we win tomorrow, we will certainly lose to Tennessee.
  4. If we lose tomorrow, we have a pretty good shot at beating Tennessee.
  5. Therefore, I would not be all that excited about beating South Carolina, because if we do, I will already be lamenting a loss to the Vols.
  6. As a Vanderbilt fan, I have fully accepted the fact that the team rarely gives me what I want (a win over UT), even if they give me nice things (a possible win over SC).

So there you go. I kind of think we have a bigger-than-expected chance tomorrow. I think we’ll either come out and quickly show we came to win, or come out like the team we’ve been all year and get smoked.

This makes complete sense to me. If it doesn’t make sense to you, you haven’t been following Vanderbilt football closely enough.

24 October 2009 Vanderbilt Vanderbilt football Spurrier South Carolina


14 October 2009 John Cole Vanderbilt Football City Paper