Thursday, September 24, 2009

VSL Hotline: "It's Division I FOOT-ball," Edition

Jeff Lockridge goes into detail on the foot injuries sustained by Jared Hawkins and Steven Stone. Apparently Hawkins (Jared, not Dan) got a cortisone shot last week and the pain has been bearable since then, so it looks like he'll play on Sunday. Stone is expected back for the Army game. Personally, I'm happy for Jared that he's coming back for the game in his home state, but I certainly don't think he's THE answer to our running woes (see 33 rushing yards against MSU, widely considered the doormat of the SEC). The O-line has GOT to pick up blitzes and start pushing some people around, and Jimmy Kiser or Ted Cain or whoever the hell is sending in the plays needs to, as Bobby emphasized, develop a cohesive game plan to where one play sets up the next.

At the end of the day, I hesitate to place too much blame on the offensive play-calling because it's tough to establish the run when the passing threat just hasn't been viable. That requires Larry and his receivers getting on the same page -- better throws, fewer drops. That's why I was encouraged to see that Larry and Austin Monahan stayed after practice this week to work on routes. My only question is: Were they the only two that put in extra time, and if so, why? In any event, better communication and timing will be important this weekend against Rice, a game in which CBJ tells us we could see as many as 160 offensive snaps between the two teams, both of which run no-huddle offenses.

As Chris Low aptly points out, the Commodores are now in "must-win mode." Forget about a bowl game for the moment, because we're a loss away from spiraling toward an embarrassing season reminiscent of the Vanderbilt of old. And it'll be that much tougher without the help of Jamie Graham. He, Zac Stacy, and Sean Richardson have missed practices this week. Jamie had a concussion and will sit for Rice; Stacy and Richardson are questionable.

I don't think we lose to the Owls. We're a more talented and tested team, and the guys are just too angry from last week to let this one get away. I've been reluctant to comment on Mississippi State for fear of launching into an undignified tirade (what else would be new?), but I will say this: I was a little disappointed to see how quick Bobby Johnson was to throw his players under the bus and blame execution rather than taking some responsibility on the part of his staff. If the playbook is too complex for the players or if people are having trouble with certain routes or blocking schemes, at some point the coaches have the job of getting everyone on the same page and developing a successful game plan that will work for the players you've got, not the players you wish you had (thanks, Don Rumsfeld). Does that mean running up the gut on three straight plays from the 6? No. No, it probably doesn't.

Make some noise, VSL Nation.

15 comments:

Daron said...

I disagree with the assessment that he threw the players under the bus. The players overthrew or dropped perfectly fine plays. The route isn't the reason a player can't hold on and Larry Smith presumably proved able to throw these passes in August. We are still Vandy, and experienced talent is still something that we only have a finite amount of, to this point, so when a series of problems occur at one position (receiver), it's unlikely we'll have proven playmakers or even highly talented UNPROVEN playmakers ready to immediately fill the void. This team is built to compete via execution and discipline, and right now, the players aren't executing. I blame youth (at receiver and QB) far more than a lack of adjustments.

Seamus O'Toole said...

Good points. I don't disagree about the lack of execution, which is why I said I was hesitant about laying too much on the play-calling. Still, at the end of the day I would like to see the coaching staff taking a more "we didn't have our guys ready to play" position instead of being so defensive and making comments that start to sound like "wish we would've had our other QB on the field."

Daron said...

That's fair. I think Bobby Johnson is too much of a straight shooter to try and hide what's going on, particularly when it's obvious to those watching. I see your point about wishing he was less so, publicly, at least.

Either way, I think we're about to (in the process of?) find out that "reloading" at Vandy is a lot less pleasant than reloading elsewhere. Four wins, right now, looks like bonus territory.

Anonymous said...

More tested than Rice? Seriously? Western Carolina and Mississippi St make us tested? LSU away, yes. But Rice played OK State and Texas Tech on the road. I wouldn't say we are the more tested team. If anything they are AND this is their home opener, AND they are 0-3 and even more desperate to win than us, AND they know us from playing us last year and kept it pretty close. This game worries me.

Zac Stacey practiced yesterday as well.

Seamus O'Toole said...

I may be wrong but I thought we had more experience on both sides of the ball than them. In any case, regardless of returning starters and such, our guys (with the exception of the freshmen) have seen a range of SEC opponents. Rice plays in C-USA.

Bobby O'Shea said...

Rice was destroyed by graduation. Overall, they've played better opponents this season than the Commodores have. With that said, Vanderbilt is definitely the more experienced team.

The 0-3 and coming home for the first time scares me. This is a big game for Rice and every day it seems another Commodore is injured. While CBJ predicts a shoot-out, I think Vanderbilt would be well-served to establish the run early and stick with it. An effective no-huddle offense does not require snapping the ball with 20 seconds or more left on the play-clock, and I'd like to see them mix it up.

Daron said...

That's probably the best way to win NOW, I agree. From what I've seen though, that's not what is motivating Coach Johnson. Rather, he seems serious about implementing a faster pace and (theoretically) increasing Vanderbilt's scoring. What drove him to this change, I'm not sure, but I've seen recruits cite it as a reason that they've chosen Vandy this year, so it could be his way of attracting more offensive talent. Perhaps it was harder to attract talent to the "wait for the other team to screw up, capitalize, and squat on it" gameplan that worked last year.

And yes, as bad as the offense is playing, this is a team we *should* beat.

AD said...

I think you're right to be worried, Bobby. I think Vanderbilt probably would be 0-3 too if they played Rice's schedule to this point (not going to fight about UAB either way). VU's schedule certainly hasn't been any harder than Rice's. Yes, Rice is a CUSA team, but Vanderbilt's SEC experience hasn't done too much for them yet this year.

On top of that, this is Rice's first home game of the season, so I think they'll be extra eager for a win. This will be the second Rice football game I've seen (saw them loose a close one to Memphis two years back). Their gameday scene usually is pretty sparse (an effect enhanced by their vastly oversized stadium), but this being both the home opener and family weekend, I think we can expect an uptick in energy for an already energetic offense.

A steady hand on defense and ball control with some trust in the run strike me as key elements for a Vanderbilt victory.

Bob Loblaw said...

Believe it or not, I'm going to the game on Saturday, and I know nothing about Rice, Rice football, or their stadium whatsoever. I do know that it should hopefully be an interesting game featuring some contrasting styles of offense, a hip flask and a Commie win.

Ryan M. said...

Vandy's secondary takes another hit, as Jamie Graham is a no-go for Saturday.

As the sole Vandy alum in a grad school class with five Owls, I need a win on this one. May the best academically-respectable-and-athletically-underperforming school win.

Ryan M. said...

p.s. please just make him go away:

http:blogs.riverfronttimes.com/therundown/tim%20tebow.jpg

Stanimal said...

We're playing Rice? Was I supposed to be paying attention?

Just kidding. We really need to win this game. Fact of the matter is that our conference schedule is going to be getting even tougher in the coming weeks and we're going to be in serious serious danger of taking a massive poop in the sack for our season if we don't put together something even resembling a drive. There is nothing more BORING than 1-2-3 punt.

Commodores problems boil down to one simple fact: Our talent is not making up for our inexperience. Most of these wideouts have never gotten in games before. Our defense has been fine, but we lost too much with graduation and injuries to hang on. Plus it's not like we have any time to get healthy, we have zero bye weeks.

Maybe we gel tremendously in the next few weeks, but right now the rest of the season is not promising.

Anonymous said...

definitely not promising. i feel a 1-3 record coming on and a rebels team the next week looking to seriously avenge their gamecocks loss to send us into oblivion. not that a rice loss wouldn't already do that. the game falls at a time where i fortunately can't sit and watch it. i honestly won't be optimistic unless we drill rice, and some how top ole miss to get to 3-2 heading into army. that would feel good, but only at that time would it feel good. and my friends, i can pretty much say that ain't happenin

Joseph said...

I think our next conference win will be at SC. They will have just come off Bama and we will have just lost to UGA at homecoming.

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