The Vanderbilt Vendidad

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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 VUcommodores.com 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

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Other People’s Hard Work - 10.21.09

Note: These stories were lazily taken directly (and I mean, bam bam bam, straight down the line) from VUcommodores.com’s “Around The Web” section.

  • Steve Tchiengang, frustrated with having to share the honor of “loveable foreign player” with so many others, attempts to head-butt A.J. Ogilvy to death. While he waits for the headache to go away, Ogilvy will also be icing his foot and listening to Panic! At The Disco. Jeff Lockridge of The Tennessean reports.
  • Jeffrey Collins reports that, despite a season-long commitment to luring South Carolina into a false sense of security, the Gamecocks haven’t forgotten their last two meetings with the ‘Dores. This weekend’s matchup gives Bobby Johnson a hard decision: win, just for kicks? or lose handily, a brilliant strategy to make Vanderbilt a true sleeper upset threat against the Vols?
  • ESPN.com’s Chris Low accurately identifies two of Vandy football’s bittersweet standout performers. He also calls it like he sees it with Larry Smith, remembering to give some of Smith’s troubles to the receiving corps, and refusing to describe him as “mobile” or “nimble.”
  • This video about something about Cutler opens with a Hooters commercial.
  • The City Paper’s David Boclair really works some heroic diction into the title of this sympathetically-rendered injury report.
  • Steven Stone is mercifully back this week. Let’s hope he scores us some points. Credit Lockridge again.

I recommend not reading all our injuries in one sitting. It’s disheartening.

21 October 2009 Football Vanderbilt Commodores Spurrier Ogilvy Tchiengang Bobby Johnson So many freaking injuries Steven Stone Cutler Hooters

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Reflections on the 13-16 loss to the Army Black Knights

This is my sixth column as Vandy sports columnist for the Nashville Newzine

Modest proposals for Vanderbilt Football

by Robert Funke

How does a sports columnist approach a defeat at the hands of Army, especially when the reasons for defeat were the very same things that have plagued us all season long?  Things like an impotent offense that magically seems to get worse with practice? Things like another dozen penalties?

First: congratulations. To myself. Last week, I correctly identified the problems in our offense. I also correctly identified our strengths. I am a great Vanderbilt sports columnist. Tell your friends.

Second: write a column. I did some soul searching. I felt like I had three choices for how, exactly, to approach this thing.

Option 1: A cuss-word-filled tirade against Ted Cain, who makes a very qualified applicant for any job that isn’t “Vanderbilt Offensive Coordinator”—keep an eye on this one, potential employers!* Nope. Did that a couple weeks ago.

Option 2: Start talking about basketball season. This was a tempting option, but I think I’ll hold off at least another week.  Vanderbilt doesn’t do “hype” well.

Option 3: Babble inanely about ways to make our team more successful that have nothing to do with coaching, athletic skill, or strategy.

Bingo.

First idea: Let’s talk mascots. I love Mr. Commodore as much as the next guy, but frankly, he’s not getting the job done. I’ve come up with two alternate mascots: the Vanderbilt Blacksmiths (Smithie the Blacksmith) and the Vanderbilt Vampires (Count Cornelius).  For more detailed plans of my proposed mascot rebranding, visit VandyVendidad.tumblr.com.

Next idea: Also mascot-related. A couple years ago, Vanderbilt debuted “Big C,” a large, inflatable, Big-Boy-esque rendition of Cornelius Vanderbilt. Like the Sarah Palin of Vanderbilt athletics, he’s a polarizing, but nonetheless entertaining, figure. He’s wacky! What’s he going to do next? Stand in front of the student section, obstructing the students’ view of a game-changing play? Bounce upside-down on his head? Run around and look crazy? It doesn’t matter what he does; it’s always going to be terrifying.

Because Big C is creepier than your Uncle Paul. Which is why I propose we buy 49 more Big C costumes.

Imagine an army of FIFTY BIG C’s, running around the field, bouncing on their heads, convulsing on the ground! It would freak you out! Lane Kiffin would think someone slipped acid into his coffee! Think about it, boosters!

Final idea: Change the stadium. While I appreciate the time and money and enthusiasm that has gone into updating our facilities over the last few years, especially Dudley Field’s recent renovations, I think we’ve been going about things the wrong way.

Trying to make our football stadium more intimidating in the SEC is like trying to run a simple running offense against SEC defenses. We aren’t big enough for that. Seriously. You dolts. So how can we leverage Vanderbilt’s unique offerings into a more threatening home field environment?

Solution: Memorial Magic.

I propose we start playing football games on Ingram Court in Memorial Gymnasium.  Think about it. Memorial Gym is our single greatest asset. It throws off other basketball teams with its unique raised court, odd goal-post placement, and bench location.  Think of what it could do to football teams! Have you ever tried to wear football cleats on a wooden surface? Good luck!

Our students can get loud in Memorial. Imagine trying to hear a snap count with cries of “Walsh You Suck!” thundering across the mezzanine. Nearly impossible.

That’s my brainstorm.  Granted, these proposals are unorthodox. But since when does Vanderbilt go about sports according to orthodoxy? We’re revolutionary, remember? Less than a decade ago, we dismantled our athletic department!

I’ll see you at the homecoming game.

*As a sympathetic member of the country’s booming unemployment sector, I’ve decided to stop calling for Mr. Cain to be fired, and instead call for someone else to hire him away from Vanderbilt.

12 October 2009 Army black knights Vanderbilt Vampires Vanderbilt Blacksmiths Fire Ted Cain football Vanderbilt Commodores loss football

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Reflections on the 23-7 loss to the University of Mississippi Racists

This is my fifth column as Vandy Sports columnist for The Nashville Newzine

Vanderbilt and its fans: the odd couple

by Robert Funke

I have a few rules about fandom, especially Vanderbilt Commodore fandom.

Rule 1: There is no stronger bond a fan can possibly have with his team than that of a student or alumnus to his alma mater.

This rule is the very basis of collegiate sports.  Every college team has a built-in fan base: its students.  It’s so simple, and yet, for Vanderbilt students, it’s difficult.  The amount of Vanderbilt students wearing Ol’ Miss attire to the game was horrifying.  It is acceptable to be a fan of other teams.  It’s even acceptable, when Vanderbilt plays those other teams, to feel like your loyalties are divided.  But—but—but—never mind.  Forget it.

You know what?  I’m not even going to continue with this list of rules.  I noticed VandySports.com’s Mike Rapp considered “The Students” part of the “Bad” in his weekly Good, Bad, and Ugly breakdown of the game.  As a Vanderbilt loyalist, I, too, am often frustrated with our students.  They show up an hour late, they leave an hour early, dress in irrelevant colors (as if they don’t make oxford shirts and ties in black or yellow), they are drunk, but not a fun way (a la LSU), they are easily distracted, they complain about forgivable mistakes (like a running back getting tackled for a mere gain of three yards on a draw up the middle on first-and-ten) as if they were unforgivable mistakes (like a running back getting tackled for a mere gain of three yards on a draw up the middle on third-and-ten).

But I’ve seen our student section get excited for Vanderbilt sports.  I’ve seen them wearing black and gold.  I’ve seen them knowledgeable about our team and players, and I’ve seen them chanting and cheering and thundering and hollering and doing every single thing that makes the SEC such a fun place for a sports fan.  It happens.

Vandy fans go wild in two settings.  The first, obviously, is basketball.  The second is when we win.

We aren’t winning, at least not in the SEC.  We aren’t even playing respectable football.  Right now, Vanderbilt seems completely outmatched in the SEC.  Here is the reason: We aren’t doing the little things well.

Any decent Commodore fan will cut the team some slack for not blowing the Rebels line off the ball every down, or for dropping the ball on a double reverse, or for not keeping both feet in bounds on a tricky sideline catch.  We understand.  We’re an underdog.  Do the little things well, and we’ll be happy.  And you’ll have a chance at winning, which makes us even happier.

Here are the little things we are not doing:

FOLLOWING THE RULES. Every offensive line in the country—nay, the universe—must stay still until the football moves.  I would bet good money that the Commodores committed more false start penalties (6) this week than any middle school team in Nashville.  Somebody fact-check me on that.

KICKING.  Scoring record, schmoring record, Bryant Hahnfeldt was an inconsistent kicker.  Ryan Fowler isn’t shaping up to be much better.  In my fantasy universe, where all women are vampire slayers and all Vandy kickers make over 70% of their kicks under 40 yards, we are on a three-year bowl streak.  And I can grow a beard.

THROWING AND CATCHING.  I’ve been defending Larry Smith, and still feel that he’ll be a great quarterback someday, but good gawd.  He missed some incredibly open receivers.  To be fair, though, some of those open receivers couldn’t catch swine flu.

FIRING INEFFECTIVE STAFF.  Our offense is bad.  Who coordinates our offense?  Ted Cain?  Was the offense good last year?  No?  How about the year before?  No?

Last week, Bobby Johnson and the team sent out a personal request (via InsideVandy.com) for students to show up early and get loud for the game.

My response: We were there.  Where were you?

4 October 2009 vanderbilt commodores larry smith fire ted cain fans loss

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Reflections on the 36-17 victory over the William Marsh Rice University Owls

This is my fourth column as Vandy sports columnist for The Nashville Newzine

Vanderbilt Triumphs over the mighty Owls of William Marsh Rice University

by Robert Funke

Vanderbilt wins.  No poop jokes this week.  No cheeky impotence comments, either.  Let’s just talk football.

Vanderbilt can win.  Vanderbilt can even run up big scores, as we have against Rice and Western Carolina.  But it would be lily-livered of me not to mention that the Catamounts and Owls have a combined record of 0-8, and beating up on C-USA teams is, frankly, the minimum expectation for an SEC team, no matter how apologetically underdogged we may be in our own league.

But we can win.  That much is clear now. The embarrassing loss to Mississippi State is slightly less embarrassing today, now that we’ve returned to .500 and Mississippi State fought valiantly against LSU and had a rather Vandy-esque moral victory this weekend.  But I’m not here to talk LSU football; I’m here to talk Commodore football.

First, I would like to commend our defense once more.  They are our rock and our shield, and any wins we get this year will be on their backs. The Commodore D was able to knuckle down against a pass-happy Rice offense that’s put up relatively respectable numbers against Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. Between Myron Lewis and Chris “The Sticky Bandit” Marve, the Commodores have filled D.J. Moore’s shoes, and perhaps then some.

So let’s talk offense.  Last week, I lashed out against Ted Cain, the Vanderbilt O.C. who, befuddlingly remains employed, week after week, year after year, please God, make it stop.  Bobby Johnson, obviously a reader of my columns, made it clear on Monday that it is not Cain, but quarterback coach Jimmy Kiser who calls our—time to walk the walk on my “No cheeky impotence comments” pledge—occasionally unimpressive plays.  For the record, even without Cain calling the plays, our offense must be better coordinated.

So. Here’s the rundown.

Larry Smith has the best arm the Vanderbilt QB position has had since Jay Cutler.  The problem: the man has NO touch.  Lord knows, our receivers can’t catch a ball that hits them in the hands too hard, so touch is something Smith will need to develop. Furthermore, Smith was far too easily harassed by the 170-pound pass rush attack that Rice threw our way.  Smith can be great, but he needs help.

First, our offensive line must play to the peak of their ability, every single down.  That’s a lot to ask of anyone, but so is a winning season.

Second, we need to use our receivers more effectively.  Smith has a big arm, so we should attempt more big plays.  Vanderbilt cannot win without aggressive passing, nor can we win, as we saw last week, without any catching.  Two of our biggest plays involved receivers: Udom Umoh’s 54-yard pass and John Cole’s fantastically smart reverse-play touchdown.  Unfortunately, we lack blazing speed in our receiving corps, so it’s tough to throw many big bombs down the field.  But it never hurts to try

Finally, we need to give our tailbacks a fighting chance.  All three of our top runners—Zac Stacy, Warren Norman, and the newly-rehabilitated Jared Hawkins—can dazzle, provided our receivers catch enough balls to deter defenses from cramming seven men in the box.

The things that made Commodore fans ill last week were far better this week, but our coaches need the confidence to “play to win,” as they say.  If you ask me, Larry Smith can be a great quarterback if we let him.  There are some pissed-off Rebels coming to town next week and I would rather have played them while they were still overrated, but such is life in the SEC.  I’ll see you at the game.

27 September 2009 football vanderbilt commodores larry smith offense fire ted cain

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Reflections on the 15-3 loss to the Mississippi State Bulldogs

This is my third column as Vandy sports columnist for The Nashville Newzine

Fixing a flaccid offense

by Robert Funke

My dear dog, the late Elmo, would excitedly mount other dogs, only to be reminded of his pathetic lack of testacles. He would then, without fail, let out a big sigh, watch me sing the alma mater, and stagger dejectedly away, confused about the source of his impotence.  “It’s not your fault, buddy,” I wanted to say.

So who neutered the Vanderbilt offense?  The answer, I’m afraid, is the same it has been for the last three years: offensive coordinator Ted Cain.

Since I got the job as the Vandy sports columnist at the Nashville Newzine, I’ve occasionally wondered how many columns it would be before I got a rant out towards Cain.

That number is two (2).

Let me preface this by saying that, to me, “Ted Cain” is a symbol, not a man.  He is a symbol of “Vanderbilt’s offensive impotence.” Therefore, when I say, “I hate Ted Cain,” I mean “I hate Vanderbilt’s offensive impotence.”  I have never met Ted Cain, and if I did, I would likely find him frustratingly pleasant and good-natured.

But since the end of the Jay Cutler era, I’ve found myself more and more obsessively fixated on the idea that this man, this Ted Cain, remains in the employ of Vanderbilt University.  We have the worst offense in the SEC, and one of the worst in the country.

I say this now, of course, because of our performance against the mighty Bulldogs of Mississippi State.  They came in unheralded.  They pooped on our field.  They rang their stupid cowbells.  They gave their coach a Gatorade (excuse me, “G”) bath, and then they left.

Before I lose it completely, let me say that our defense played admirably yet again, despite being on the field twice as much as the offense.  I like our defense against almost anyone in the conference.  They play heroically.  Now to the game notes:

At the beginning of the third quarter, it was quite feasible that we could double our total offensive production in a single play.  We had thirty-three (33) yards on twenty-nine (29) rushing attempts.  I don’t put the numbers in parentheses because of grammar or protocol.  I do it so that you see those numbers twice.  We had more punts than first downs.  I realized, at one point, that it seemed more likely for us to catch a pass on defense than on offense.  Our only score was set up not by a drive, but by a fumble on the Mississippi State five-yard line (spoiler: it wasn’t a touchdown).  Note to defense: just pick up the ball and run it in next time.

Prior to the opening game, the media seemed to believe that a no-huddle offense would somehow fix our offensive woes.  Not true, friends.  The no-huddle offense does little more than allow us a dozen punts per game.  Our typical series gambit last year was “Draw, Draw, Pass, Punt” whereas this year’s is, “drawdrawpasspunt!”

After the game, the once-proud ‘Dores walked to the student section with the gait of poor Elmo, saddened that someone had removed their virility.  It begs the question, “How bad must Vanderbilt’s offense be before someone is held accountable?”

Listen, Bobby.  He may be a nice guy.  Judging by the way we run up the score on cupcake teams, he could be a fantastic D-II offensive coordinator.  But the man does not get results.  People who don’t know football think this is your fault, but I know it isn’t. I’ve said it for three years now.

Fire Ted Cain.

20 September 2009 football vanderbilt commodores fans mississippi state bulldogs offense fire ted cain

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Reflections on the 23-9 loss to the LSU Tigers

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.

13 September 2009 Vanderbilt commodores football lsu tigers loss away game

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Reflections on the 45-0 shutout of the Western Carolina Catamounts

The following is my first column as Vanderbilt sports columnist for The Nashville Newzine.

Hello.  I love Vanderbilt sports.  I don’t even love sports that much.  But I love Vanderbilt sports.  And I’m here at the Nashville Newzine to share that love with you.  On with the show:

Something is different.

First shutout in a decade.  First time two Vandy running backs have had one-hundred-plus-yard games in blah blah years.  First time ever that they’ve both been true freshmen.

Sure, the Commodores took care of business Saturday, but that happens from time to time.  They took care of business, but that isn’t the shocking thing. And that is the shocking thing.

The shocking thing is that it’s not shocking.  Get it?  OR DID I JUST BLOW YOUR MIND?!

Things are different.  As I worked my way up the stands to my usual Vanderbilt football perch, I couldn’t help but realize that the student section looked a bit more spirited than usual.  For once, I was too distracted by the black-and-gold attire to notice the occasional buffoon wearing a grease-stained pink oxford shirt with a lavender tie and crimson croakie.  For once, I was convinced that the team for which this student section cheered wore black and gold football uniforms, not pink and green sundresses.

Now, you might take from my tone that I am a typical Commodore cynic, jaded by years of losing and unenthusiastic about the team, unconvinced by a bowl season that, let’s face it, had some uncharacteristically lucky breaks.  I am not.  Four years ago, Jay Cutler threw a football to Earl Bennett in a little town called Knoxville, Tennessee, and at that moment, everything changed.  Vanderbilt beat the University of Tennessee, shaking from its back the losing-streak monkey that had humped us annually for over two decades.

It was a crocus peaking through the snow, signifying the end of winter, and if you’ll walk with me through this rather trite metaphor, the snow stayed on the ground for two more seasons before spring arrived and we won a bowl game last year.

I truly believe that it is a new season for Vanderbilt football.

The students wore gold.  The young running backs moved like cheetahs on roller skates.  The receivers caught passes like pigskin OB/GYN’s on roller skates.  The offense scored points.  The crowd did the wave (something I do not support, for the record, in any situation).  Chris Marve (nickname: The Sticky Bandit) lived up to his hype.  Larry Smith (nickname: The Present) looked great.

Vanderbilt, an SEC team, played like they belonged in the SEC.

The interesting thing to watch will be this: on a Saturday when it seemed that every SEC team was defecating all over lesser squads, Vanderbilt stood in the ranks of such typical bullies as Tennessee, Florida, Auburn (and, uh, Kentucky and Mississippi State and Arkansas and surely-they-can’t-be-that-good Ol’ Miss). Three teams had close games: Georgia, Alabama, and LSU.  Georgia and Alabama had tough games; LSU alone surprised the country with its mortality.

I doubt they’ll still be on their heels Saturday.  But who knows?

6 September 2009 football larry smith fans vanderbilt commodores vols tennessee

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