Monday, September 7, 2009

Thoughts on the Western Carolina Game

Saturday was a great night. Vanderbilt looked very impressive, the stadium was pretty packed for kick-off (even if it wasn't by the end of the 3rd quarter), and Tommy Tutone got up on stage at The Stage and played 867-5309/Jenny with the band. The Commodores (and their fans) saw a bright future in the backfield with freshmen running backs Zac Stacy and Warren Norman rushing for a combined 240 yards and 3 TDs. Larry Smith looked very comfortable in the pocket and completely in control of the new no-huddle offense. For me, it was clear Bobby Johnson made the right choice in making Larry QB1 when Mackenzi Adams replaced Smith after he went down with stomach cramps in the 3rd quarter. The difference in the way Smith and Mac handled the offense was night and day, with Larry looking poised, and Adams looking somewhat jumpy and unwilling to let the play develop.

The defense also looked extremely good, holding the Catamounts to just 115 yards of total offense and a staggering 0-13 on 3rd down (compared to Vanderbilt's 7-17 3rd down conversion rate). Western Carolina was completely over-matched, getting just 4 first downs, and helping the Commodores earn their first shut out since 1999.

The stats are impressive and are worth a read (particularly if you're having a bad day and need a pick-me-up). BUT, DO NOT GET TOO EXCITED. At the Vanderbilt Sports Line, we are prone to hyperbole and inflated expectations for our Commodores. Still, don't take Saturday's performance as a sign that Vanderbilt is a BCS "sleeper" (at least not yet). This was still a FCS (formerly I-AA) team that was 3-9 last year. They were terrible. Never before have I seen a Vanderbilt team dominate the lines of scrimmage as completely as they did Saturday. That says two things: first, Vanderbilt is finally at a place where they are getting big enough guys to be competitive in the SEC; second, WCU is a terrible team that was wildly over-matched.

Vanderbilt will face it's first test Saturday against an LSU team that did not look impressive against a Washington Huskies team that went 0-12 last season. While LSU won 31-23, it wasn't the "statement" many expected from a team that has entered the season picked by some to finish 3rd in their own division behind Bama and Ole Miss. I think LSU's uninspired performance against Washington is actually worse for Vanderbilt than if they'd gone out to Seattle and beaten the crap out of them. Now, the story is "what's wrong with LSU?" which is sure to get their attention. That, combined with Vanderbilt's 45-0 victory, means LSU is less likely to look past the Commodores (especially with Louisiana-Lafayette coming to Baton Rouge the Saturday after next). Don't get me wrong, I think Vanderbilt can and will give LSU a game. In fact, we'll have more on how as the week rolls on. All I'm saying is, let's not let Saturday's performance get us all carried away. We saw the team's promise on Saturday, but we still have no idea what they are capable of.


Tampa 'Dore said...

What an awesome story...try not to get too overconfident 'Dores! I agree 100%, but I want to revel in the fact that overconfidence is even a possibility. Just watched a replay of the game an I look forward to next week. Proud of the team, keep it rolling 'Dores!

AD said...

Nice account. Both you and local radio (104.5 The Zone) keep me hanging on with this lingering thought that a) LSU is beatable b) by Vanderbilt. I'm skeptical of the Commodores' chances in Baton Rouge at night. Maybe if the Tigers caught pig flu from the Huskies (who reasonably could have caught it from rival WSU students back home, I'd feel better about the possibility of Vanderbilt victory next week.

I am glad you also mentioned Mac Adams, and I'll be interested to see how he develops as an off-the-bench QB this season. Maybe he can punt?

Keep up the good work.

Your seat partner, new reader, and non-attender of Saturday Stage cameos,

Tom M said...

This I'm planning to have fun, but I won't expect to win.

Anonymous said...

i have a good feeling....

Anonymous said...

american idol blows