Monday, September 14, 2009

VSL Hotline: Limiting LSU Game to One Loss

There's not a lot out there this morning on the Commodores, but what is, isn't good. Going into the season, Vanderbilt fans knew the 12 games in 12 weeks schedule could be costly. We just didn't expect it might start to cost us after week 2. That's the tenor of Monday's articles from your familiar Commodore sources, the Tennessean and the Nashville City Paper.

Jeff Lockridge's article in the Tennessean, "Vanerbilt's injuries take their toll," highlight the loss of starting right tackle James Williams to a broken ankle, and senior safety Ryan Hamilton's to an undisclosed right upper chest injury. While Williams is certain to miss some time, it's not clear whether or not Hamilton, who has started 34 consecutive games, will miss Saturday's action against Mississippi State. Given the resurgence of Vanderbilt's run game (or is it just a surgence since we never had a running game?), the loss of Williams could be huge. Lockridge opines that "Junior Reilly Lauer, sophomore Kyle Fischer and redshirt freshman Caleb Welchans are candidates to fill the void." Welchans is next on the depth chart, and both Lauer and Fischer have been working mostly at guard this season, but "they have experience at tackle and more game [experience]."

According to CBJ: ""We almost ran out of safeties at one time . . . Linebackers were beat up. We had some guys step up and do a commendable job … Eddie Foster at cornerback, Brent Trice at safety. It was a pretty good job by our defensive staff to get those guys in there and they played pretty well." Still, it's no wonder the defense was unable to prevent LSU from getting the pull-away touchdown in the 4th given the reshuffling the Commodores had to do.

Here's a great piece of analysis from Lockridge and a nugget that really highlights the potential perils of the no-huddle offense:
Worn down: When Vanderbilt's up-tempo, no-huddle offense failed to consistently move the chains Saturday, its defense had to work longer and harder. After the Commodores took 3:10 off the clock on their initial possession at LSU, they did not have a drive that lasted three minutes the rest of the game. LSU, which also ran some no-huddle, had six drives of three minutes or longer.

David Boclair echos the injury theme of Saturday's game in the Nashville City Paper. Boclair writes that "Vanderbilt's defense got younger as the game went on." He, however, is able to put a more positive spin on things, observing that statistically speaking, the reshuffled and young Commodore defense was actually better than the starters; "Of LSU’s 326 yards of total offense, 231 came in the first half. At one point during the first half the Tigers had five straight possessions of six plays or more. After an 11-play drive to start the second half, they were limited to four or fewer in four of their final five."

Patrick Benoist had to battle through a shoulder injury, but he returned to action in the second half, unlike Hamilton and Jamie Graham.

Which brings me to today's VSL Poll Question: Is it time to move Jamie Graham back to the offense? The wide receivers played abysmal on Saturday. Graham has experience, has shown a penchant for making big plays, and certainly has the most quality experience of anyone the Commodores could line up out wide. Still, with the defense banged up as badly as it is, it's doubtful is Bruce Fowler wants to give him up, or that after just 2 weeks, the coaching staff would ask him to start going both ways.

Our friends at have the early lines for next weeks SEC games. What's more surprising to you: Vanderbilt being a 8 point favorite or UT getting 28.5 points headed to the swamp?

Here's what our SEC Power Poll Ballot looks like:

1. Florida
2. Alabama
3. LSU
4. Ole Miss
5. UGA
6. Auburn
7. USC
8. Vanderbilt
9. Arkansas
10. Kentucky
11. Tennessee
12. Mississippi State

Nothing's official until tomorrow, so weigh in if you think I've blown it big time.

Finally, last night's performance by Jay Cutler and Earl Bennett wasn't the start Bears or Commodores fans were looking for. Cutler wasn't that sharp, but as Cris Collinsworth kept pointing out (rightly), his wide receivers continued to let him down (that sounds familiar). His Name Is looked especially dumbstruck to me. Hopefully they'll get on the same page quickly, as Vanderbilt's recruiting is helped out every time the announcers highlight that Jay went to Vanderbilt and threw the ball to Earl while he was there.

The Bengals heartbreaking loss cost me an entry in my survivor pool, but the fact that Mark Sanchez played the way he did made that pain temporary: New England, here we come (that's right Big Guy, I said it).

Bobby, OUT.

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