Saturday, September 4, 2010

Initial Thoughts on Loss to Northwestern

That was an absolutely horrifically, terribly, abysmally atrocious personal foul call on Jay Fullam to end our chances of winning tonight, a call for which the entire officiating staff should be truly embarrassed.

But bad calls are not why we lost. Top to bottom, I truly believe Vanderbilt is a better team than Northwestern. Bottom line: we killed ourselves with unforced errors. Some were on special teams (missed extra point was the real killer that kept coming back to haunt us), others were on the receivers (John Cole's dropped pass comes to mind), many were penalties, but most -- and I really feel bad to say this because I like the guy and he didn't play terribly the entire night -- were attributable to Larry Smith. He just cannot seem to throw the ball to a target: he aimed it all night, and as a result was either bouncing passes or, more commonly, spraying them high. Many of his completions were outstanding catches by his biggest target, Brandon Barden (who, I might add, had a great game). Larry had a few nice runs, and I do think the coaches put him in a tough spot several times by being too predictable on first and second downs. All that said, the contrast between Smith and Wildcat QB Dan Persa was stark. Persa is a very good and versatile quarterback, plays with a lot of confidence, and showed himself to be a gamer by putting together big drives when the Cats needed them. Whatever Larry Smith was tonight, he was not that.

I'm not ready to call it a season or say that we have no chance with Larry under center. But despite his decent stat line tonight, I was very unimpressed with LS. Too bad, because the defense played pretty well and our backs in particular fought very hard for a win tonight. This one stings.

Yet another game where I'm questioning why I put myself through the agony of being a fan of this team. But once again, they didn't give up. CRC said it at halftime: "The question is, can we finish?" At the risk of inviting "that's what she said" responses, the answer felt all too familiar.

Let it hurt for a while but no giving up yet. We won't have any of that round these parts. Go Dores.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'd gladly swap my indifference for hurt.

Anonymous said...

Larry and the team were not nearly as bad as sports analysts were making them out to be early in the preseason. VU offense showed they had an offensive pulse and overall I was happy with what I saw tonight. Sure, we shot ourselves in the foot (on special teams) a lot and some crappy calls were made against us. However, first game jitters are out of the way and hands down, we looked better than last year. Based on what happened in the conference today, the SEC might be in a bit of a slump this year (Ole Miss upset, LSU surviving UNC, Florida’s offense). Let’s get back to our old ways and pull some upsets against (overrated) teams in our league. I’ll be there next week to see a team hungry for a win….GO DORES!

Chuck Heston said...

There simply is no excuse for Vanderbilt having a SOS of 12 this year. Period. That's what makes me, as a fan, contemplate why I choose to invest any time or emotion in following (or caring) about the football program. Vanderbilt should not be facing teams from major conferences in their non-conference schedule. Period. End of story. Given the team's performance last night, I'm convinced that they might come up with 2 conf. wins. That's what makes the type of non-conf. opponents that the team faces so critical. Ok, sure. Maybe 1 lesser team from a major conf. might be acceptable, but 3 of 4 NW, Uconn and Wake? Until such time as TPTB realize that Mid-Major and even D-IAA teams could put Vanderbilt in a position to compete for bowl elegibility, I don't think I'll throw away my time like I did last night.

Call me when basketball season starts.

Andrew said...

1. I don't understand how Larry Smith keeps winning game starts based upon practice performances, when we already know that he can't match said performance in actual games. Until we can find a shrink who can fix whatever keeps Larry from completing short, open passes in games, the other guys need to start. It's at least theoretically possible that they can excel, whereas Larry has proven himself mentally/emotionally unable to be an SEC QB. (Is it possible that none of our QBs can complete a dink pass to a wide open receiver when they're under no pressure?)

2. I do not undertand your assertion that the defense played pretty well. They allowed the opposing QB to go 20 for 22. We got very little pressure on Persa and their receivers were getting wide open. The only reason they did not beat us by three touchdowns was that their coach was too stupid to adjust his play calling and pass more in the second and third quarter to prevent us from cheating up against the run. Once he opened up his game a bit, they scored on every possession. And yes, we were tired by that point, but part of running a football team is figuring out how to maintain energy for the last quarter.

Seamus O'Toole said...

Andrew - I think Persa played exceptionally well, I don't think it was just us making him look good. Would you not agree that the defense kept us in the game? We could easily have been down more than 10 by the time the offense came around and started scoring. But you're right -- definitely not enough pressure in the backfield, and that was a key to their receivers having time to get open.

Has anyone else seen Northwestern coaches and players defending the high-hit call on Fullam? Pat Fitzgerald says that's "not the way to play this game." Wow. Surprising he can keep a straight face while uttering a comment like that.
One more note: I think the AP report completely misses the boat by calling that bothced 2-point play a "bad snap." Larry got distracted by Cole who was in motion and took his eyes off the ball, plain and simple. Not acceptable.

Max said...

Bad snaps, poor execution from special teams, and stupid personal fouls were what cost us the game. Those mistakes are easy fixes. Sure the defensive put little pressure on the NW QB but I think he could have put up those numbers on any team last night. He was in the zone. We have little things we need to fix but I think the talent is there. No one is talking about our game last night, and we were in it until the end. This is season is far from over. Don’t forget NW finished 4th in the Big Ten last year.

I do agree Chuck about the schedule. We should not be playing as many teams from major conferences like we are. However, I do like the Northwester game a lot and glad to see we will be playing it for the next few years. SEC vs. Big Ten. It’s a great game, shouldn’t have been playing it for a while. Wake Forest is OK because we have similarities (like we do with NW) but we should not be playing UCONN. 2 opponents from major out of conferences max. That includes Duke. We should have gone after a Memphis or some FCS school. Pretty sure we play NW next year, not sure about UCONN or Wake.

AD said...

Have to say that from my seat in section G last night, the D looked like swiss cheese. Not sure how they kept the game close. Fumbled snaps, even had an intercepted snap by a back in motion. Special teams a real problem, and this does not just include all of the missed point-after conversions. Is there not a soccer player or somebody who can put kickoffs high and near the goal line? We give them ten yards on every kickoff, and more than that because there's not enough time for our tacklers to get down there. I don't know what NW's average starting position was after kickoffs, but it felt like it was about the 30.

I agree that the offense looked better than last year, and the play calling seems a little better. Still, too many unforced errors in terms of bad passes and penalties. I believe there was one INT in the game, but at least two others were dropped by NW DBs.

Whatever the health status of Norman and Stacy, they both looked decent. Signs of life in the backfield. Without a reliable place kicker and ability to get into the endzone (an unfortunate carry over from last year), this may be a tough season.

Anonymous said...

What's . . . ironic I guess is the word . . . is that if Vandy chose not to chase that missed extra point (i.e., if they didn't go for 2 twice), they would've tied the game. I never believe in trying to make up for a missed extra point right away. Late in the 4Q sure, but not right away.

Aaron said...

Bad debut for Coach...he may not keep his job if the players continue to perform this way.

Anonymous said...

got screwed by the ref

Vandymomma said...

What was up with the fans!? I have been sitting in the faculty/staff section for over 15 years, and I have never before heard the booing, cursing etc that I heard last night...AND can we talk about Star Walk.. throwing food at the officials and beating on their van? Has the fan base gone over the edge or has Robbie drawn in some sidewalk fans who are not up to the emotional roller coaster that is Vandy foot ball?

Anonymous said...

those big10 refs suck cocks and deserved every bit of what they got after the game and then some

VandyPhile said...

I am getting the sense that maybe the fans are tired of us getting abused consistently by the refs and they've basically have had enough of it.

Greg M said...

I think refs should be held accountable just like players and coaches. I say empale them.

Anonymous said...

I think most of you are being too critical of Vandy. I also think that you have underestimated NW. They will have another 8+ win this season and another quality bowl game. There QB is much better than I expected. I don't remember more than one throwing error from Persa. And he is also an excellent runner and adept at picking up critical first downs with his legs. Persa's only critical error was the fumble. But Persa had an excellent game and if he made a few more errors, then we win the game.

Our defense played well. We do need more depth, but we also know that we have a few guys injured that will help us when they come back. When you think about putting pressure on the QB, you have to realize that all of those runs and fakes gives the d-line the first responsibility of stopping the run. That will slow up the pass rush. But we did put up a few sacks and we would have had more if not for Persa's running ability.

As far as Larry Smith is concerned, he has improved and I believe he will continue to improve. He would be a adequate QB if we could rely more on the running game. Our o-line has simply not developed yet and Larry's running ability gives us a chance. How many first downs did he pick up with his legs?

Overall, I was pleased with the performance. If you would have told me that that Persa would have played like Mike Kafka before the game, then I would have told you that we don't have a chance. But we did. And if not for a bad call that we would have had the opportunity to win the game. You, as a Vandy fan, have to have realistic expectations. Our team fought hard and played very well at times. Suck it up and realize that being a Vandy fan isn't always pretty. If it were easy, you could always go be a typical band wagon fan like everyone else. What we need to look for with this young team is improvement and we got that with the NW game.

busey said...

i chalk up a lot of larry's errors to first game jitters. he was a markedly better QB in the second half (just watch his feet in the pocket). i think the missed snap on the 2 pt. conversion was the lone exception to this theory, but then again, we wouldn't have been in that spor but for the missed PAT. overall, i agree with the comment above: lots of encouraging signs. i think we'll pick off at least one CBJ-upset special in SEC play.

Anonymous said...

First game jitters my ass. He was a starter last year. It was persa's first game and he wasn't sweating from his huevos, overthrowing and underthrowing wide open WR's.

Anonymous said...

After getting over the awful (helmet to helmet) call late in the 4th quarter, it was the mental mistakes and penalties which even made the bad call by the refs an issue. Why were the freshman recs not more involved in the passing game. Krause is the real deal...however Mathews & Boyd would have been a much better matchup against the nw secondary. Yea I know they are freshman, but CRC must take chances and enject some youth , speed, and size into the game-plan. Its time to stop accepting 2-10 seasons based on games lost by 3-6 points from poor execution by the offense. Cant miss extra points and have a limited pass rush and expect to win in the sec. Go Dores !

Anonymous said...

One thing I really wish the offensive coordinator would do more is implement the screen more often. I know we were successful with the one WR screen that we called. But I would love to see more screens. Most defenses, especially young ones like LSUs, want to fly to the football and think later. I would love to see 5 to 10 screens called. Even if they didn't work, they would slow down the pass rush of the opposing team on other passing plays. Many of you have commented that Larry Smith has thrown a lot of balls in the dirt or over WRs heads. Alot of that has to do with getting pressure on the QB. If he gets rushed on one play and doesn't see it then he will rush on the next play with no rush. QB's have an internal clock and it gets messed up with poor protection. Also, the left side of our offensive line is pretty small and we should be able to take advantage of there mobility by moving them around in space. We all know that Warren Norman can really move in space. Seamus, try to forward this advice to the offensive coordinator for me!