Monday, November 12, 2007

Two Down, Two to Play

Backs are against the wall.

The 27-20 loss to Kentucky was yet another demonstration of (1) this team's ability to compete with any team on any day, and (2) this program's consistent inability to FINISH games. Compounding the disappointment, two key players -- CB D.J. Moore and RB Jared Hawkins -- were taken out of the game with injuries and did not return. Losing D.J. was particularly brutal (I think he's an All-American caliber CB) and noticeable on Andre Woodson's second-quarter 55-yard TD pass and fourth-quarter 34-yard pass that set up a TD for the Wildcats. Hawkins had 50 yards on 7 carries before he got blasted on what was arguably a cheap shot out of bounds. No word on their status, but suffice it to say that this is not what we were looking for heading into the UT game.

I'm not going to go into the UK game too much -- shop around for articles online if you missed the action -- except to say that this was (finally) one of the best offensive performances I've seen out of Vanderbilt in a long time, but two key factors prevented us from winning. First, Bryant Hahnfeldt missed two VERY makable field goals and an extra point (NOTE: those seven points are the difference in the game) that would have put us in a position at the end of the game to set up for the winning field goal instead of having to air it out for a touchdown just to send it to OT. Special teams has killed this team on numerous occasions, and once again we see why it really matters to have a kicker who can put it through on a consistent basis from reasonable distances. Second, as impressed as I was with the coaching throughout the game, the clock management down the final stretch left an awful lot to be desired. Why, after a sack on second down, do you spike the ball on third instead of using your final timeout to set up two plays (e.g., a pass near the sideline followed by a quick-out to Earl) to put it in the end zone. I don't care what anyone says about disparity in athleticism, size, speed, etc. -- those are coaching blunders that aren't acceptable at any level, much less the SEC. So says me, anyway.

So with two down (Moore and Hawkins) and two to play (UT and Wake), the Commies need something special to happen to keep their bowl hopes alove. At the moment it looks like 10 SEC teams are definitely bowl-bound. We almost certainly need seven wins to go bowling. (Misery note: reps from the Capital One Bowl, Liberty Bowl, and Music City Bowl were on hand at the game.) Can Vandy work some magic and make it happen? We'll be discussing that throughout the week, but for now I'll leave you with the words of defensive end Curtis Gatewood:

"We're still in it. From our perspective, we feel like we can beat Tennessee and Wake Forest. I've got two games left in my career and I really want to make history."


Douglas James said...

According to the Tennssean Hawkins is pretty much done for the year and DJ should be back practicing tomorrow of Wed

Anonymous said...

I don't think that anything particularly "special" needs to happen to beat Tennessee.

Unless by "special" you mean executing on offense, defense and special teams better than they did against Kentucky.

Seriously: Does TN scare you? Maybe a little bit, but we all know that a victory is within VU's capability and would be at most a minor upset.

Aaron said...

What scares me the most is that UT has played some of their best football in the past couple of weeks with wins over UGA and Arkansas.

Seamus O'Toole said...

I'm a pretty big homer, but I'm not about to call it a "minor upset" if we win in Neyland when they're the #20 team in the country on a 3-game winning streak, having just shut down arguably the best backfield in the country, and playing with an SEC Eastern Division title on the line. UT doesn't "scare" me, but let's not pretend this will be a walk in the park either. From an objective observer's standpoint, how impressive do you think this team has been? The best win on the schedule came against a team that is now 6-5 overall and 3-5 in the conference. We need this win, and I would not be ashamed to call it an upset.

Seamus O'Toole said...

Clarification: by "this team" I meant Vanderbilt.

Anonymous said...

This team is capable of winning these last two games. Two consecutive wins in Knoxville would definitely be acceptable!