Saturday, September 19, 2009

Initial Thoughts on the Mississippi State Game

Tonight's game was incredibly disappointing, because it confirmed our worst fears about this team: that the wide receiving core was simply not good enough to play in the SEC. The team was devastated by the academic ineligibility of Terrance Jeffers, but we at VSL held out hope that the guys we had would step up and make plays. They haven't. In fact, they've done just the opposite. Vanderbilt's offensive ineptitude is based in large part on the clear lack of confidence the coaching staff has in the team's ariel attack. I was at the game, so I don't have exact numbers, but I counted at least 6 drops spread pretty evenly among John Cole, Udom Umoh, and Alex Washington, to say nothing of drops from the tight ends. In fairness, Larry threw several bad balls tonight as well, and didn't always give his receivers chances to make plays. It's no wonder the running attack could only manage 33 yards on 29 carries, Mississippi State was able to stack the box all night long.

This is certainly a broken record, but Ted Cain's play-calling is abysmal. Everything we do on offense, we do in bunches. In the first half, it seemed to be all runs up the gut, with the occasional pass play that was either poorly thrown or dropped. In the second half, Vanderbilt sought to air it out somewhat, which was successful when the receivers actually caught the ball. Maybe I'm being too harsh, but does it seem to anyone else like Ted Cain refuses to mix it up? Is there any cohesion on offense? Does it ever appear that one play is setting up another? Because if it does to anyone out there, I'd love to know what I'm missing. Take for example, 1st and goal on the 5 in the first half after Chris Marve's strip and Vanderbilt's subsequent recovery. What plays do we run? 3 right up the middle. If you've got Larry under center, why not consider play action? Something other than what they ran, especially after it didn't work on first and second down.

Was it all bad tonight? No, the defense, as usual played extremely well, especially when you consider that Mississippi State controlled the ball for 38 of 60 minutes. Vanderbilt's defense was particularly adept on 3rd down, holding the Bulldogs to just 2 of 15 on 3rd down. Mississippi State did gain 341 total yards, including 260 yards on the ground. Clearly those are not great numbers, but again when you consider how much time the Commodore defense was on the field, you can explain some of those yards away (especially Anthony Dixon's 40 yard scamper in the 4th to put the game out of reach).

I thought special teams play was strong (with the exception of Alex Washington's muffed punt). Brett Upson played a great game, pinning the Bulldogs deep in their territory throughout the game, and averaging 43 yards per punt, including 5 inside the 20. Warren Norman was great on kick-off detail, averaging 30 yards a return (5 returns for 150 yards), including a 41 yard run that electrified the crown until the offense took the field.

With all that said, make no mistake about it, Vanderbilt got skunked tonight. It's hard to be proud of night where the only offense is 3 points. But that's downright impossible as far as I'm concerned if those 3 points come on a 3 play 2 yard drive that started on the 5 and ended on the 3.

There was some debate as to whether this was a "must-win" for the Commodores. I personally thought it was if Vanderbilt had a good chance of playing football in December. Is it impossible? No, but next weekend's game in Houston (my bad) against Rice absolutely is. Rice is now 0-3 and will be playing in front of their home crowd for the first time all season. If you're 1-2, is it possible to have a trap game? I don't think so, but whatever label you want to assign to next Saturday's game, "must-win" has to be in your first breathe.

What did you think of tonight's game? Am I wrong? Am I missing something? We want to hear from you

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ted Cain sucks. Given his numbers the last few years, Bobby Johnson has no excuse for him anymore. Except a 30 year friendship, I guess.

Joseph said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDAq5tyfk9E

sums up how the team (well offensive side) should feel after tonight's abyssmal game.

AD said...

I share your perspective on this, Bobby, and I don't think you're wrong. Last year's loss in Starkville was heartbreaking (despite Vanderbilt's eventual successful bowl appearance), and this one was just plain frustrating. Although the defense was strong, it seemed like MS St. didn't have too much trouble running consistently. Obviously I didn't see the numbers either, but from the stands it looked like the D-side injuries had a significant effect. MS St. isn't exactly the best team in the league.

Whatever possible postseason outcomes remain for Vanderbilt, I think next week is a must-win. I'll be in Houston to cheer on the 'Dores.

PhilipVU94 said...

Rice is in Houston.

Games like last night make me glad I don't follow our football team as closely as you guys. Fans who actually go to watch games like this deserve a medal. (I still get mine for State and Duke last year.)

Anonymous said...

cain sucks. larry smith looked like the second coming of chris nickson last night. lots of promise, lots of disappointment. i wanted adams in the game come the 2nd qtr but that didn't happen. only scoring 3 pts is pathetic. pathetic...... i hate this team.

Robert St. James said...

The offense didn't look prepared. Larry looked like he hadn't prepared to read Miss. State's blitzes and some of his awful passes came as a result of people not picking up blocks on blitzing defenders. There's no one player than can be blamed here, there is plenty of blame to go around, but the buck has got to stop with Bobby Johnson and Ted Cain. If Coach Johnson has not yet realized that Ted Cain is not cut out to be an offensive coordinator in the SEC, then Vandy may have reached as far as it can with this staff. Somebody, whether it's Zeppos, Williams, or a big money donor, has to have a Come to Jesus meeting with Coach Johnson about Ted Cain.

I mean, seriously, running your third-string running back straight in to the pile three straight times from the six? Why doesn't the coaching staff just hang a big sign from the press box that says "Hey Larry, we have zero confidence in you!" Embarrasing. Hopefully, things will bounce back against Rice, but the team I watched last night is headed more for 3-9 than another bowl game.

Elliot said...

Remember FireRonZook.com? It's time for FireTedCain.com. For the sake of Vandy football, we need to get this going.

Nikhil said...

Completely agree with everything you wrote. Why is Jamie Graham still not playing at wide receiver? He proved he can do it last year. Larry also needs to calm down a bit I think...he seemed to be just drilling the ball at the receivers every pass he through. But of course, does not help that none of the receivers can catch.

Anonymous said...

I felt Larry's work was worse than the receivers. Many of his throws were way off and some of those "drops," not all, were not good throws.

Anonymous said...

FIRE TED CAIN. HIRE TONY FRANKLIN.

Anonymous said...

Legendary Orioles manager Earl Weaver: "You're never as good as you look when you win, and never as bad as you look when you lose."

There's a lot of football left. The defense should keep them in every game. Is it possible to fix the offense? Yes.