Glimpse of Greatness: How Does Vanderbilt Get Over The Hump?
When the Vanderbilt Commodores traveled to South Bend to take on Notre Dame, the game came down to the very last play. So far this season, Vandy has shown us a glimpse of greatness; we can see the potential of this team. So why can’t we see this every week? How does Vanderbilt get over the hump? As the internet trolls and keyboard cowboys all have their opinion as to what needs to happen to turn this team around, personally I am convinced that their head coach Derek Mason knows what is best for his team.
Shurmur and Company
Kyle Shurmur is one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC. He is surrounded by an excellent and productive squad, so why can’t Vandy get the points on the board? Why do other teams make it look so easy to score? What needs to happen to turn every offensive possession into points? If you think college football is a frustrating game for the fans, imagine how the players and coaches feel. It’s their futures that are affected by the wins and losses.
Is offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig to blame? I don’t know, maybe. However, if you read anything on social media, then it is a big bold YES, it is Ludwig’s fault. Does Mason need to find the offensive equivalent of Jason Tarver? If so, who is the offensive equivalent to Tarver? Is it possible that there is some other tiny tweak that will help the offense put more points on the board?
Just The Stats
The Vanderbilt offense is in the Top Ten in 21 out of the 23 offensive categories. Take a look at the rankings.
That being said, where is the disconnect? Why isn’t Vandy winning? Why are they making so many simple mistakes?
To the keyboard cowboys mentioned earlier, the ones who post “we need to clean house, fire them all”, perhaps you do not know how a football program works. When a head coach is fired, the football program takes a three to five-year step backward. I discuss that in depth here. How many times does it need to be said? Mason is building a team. A football program takes time. But it is a long and slow process.
You have witnessed glimpses of greatness in this team. You know they are capable of winning, yet the minute you get frustrated you want everyone fired. Who are you going to hire as a head coach that will do a better job?
I will wait here until you can give me five better head coach candidates to replace Mason, and James Franklin is NOT eligible for the list.
Bigger & Better
The scuttlebutt this summer and going into this season was the Vandy faithful vs. the Vanderbilt administration and their lack of financial support for Vanderbilt football and athletics in general. Vanderbilt Stadium has not updated since 1981. Mason has improved the weight room and the locker rooms since he has been at the helm. He also took the institutional beige walls in the football offices and meeting rooms, and he turned them into hallways of highlights, albeit cosmetic improvements but improvements nonetheless.
Various academic institutions, most notably Northwestern recently built a $270 Million dollar football facility, taking them from one of the worst in the Big Ten to one of the best in the nation. Those facilities are no guarantee that they will start winning Big Ten championships, but I would be willing to bet it will help them land a few more big-name athletes which will eventually help them win more games. There is no reason Vanderbilt cannot do the same.
Vanderbilt is a turbulent sea of unanswered questions. Does the Vanderbilt administration need to invest in the football program as well as their other sports? A rousing and loud YES! Vanderbilt gets an exorbitant amount of money for being a member of the SEC, which begs the question: Why are they so hesitant to invest in athletics? Why are they afraid to become the Stanford of the south? No one knows those answers except for the administrators themselves.
Furthermore, now that athletic director David Williams has announced his retirement, who will replace him? Will the new AD be pro-Mason? Will he push Chancellor Zeppos to loosen the purse strings for better facilities? Like I said, a turbulent sea of unanswered questions. How will the Commodores right the ship and anchor down?
P.S. Gators Gone Wild
Meanwhile, this season continues on despite all the questions. On Saturday, the 14th ranked Florida will travel to West End. This has the potential to be a tough game for the Gators, coming off a big win over LSU and looking ahead to their trip to Athens. If Vandy plays as well as they did in the second half of the Notre Dame game, it will be a fantastic match-up. Ultimately, the ‘Dores will need to play a full 60 minutes of their best football and limit their mistakes to compete with the likes of Florida.
I do not have the answers to all the questions I asked above. I am hopeful that Mason and his team find answers this week against Florida. The next six games are winnable if Vanderbilt starts to play with the greatness that we know that they are capable of.