Commodores' bowl talk quickly quashed

Sunday, October 25, 2009 at 11:34pm

Steve Spurrier said “the best thing” about South Carolina’s 14-10 victory Saturday over Vanderbilt was the fact that it was his team’s sixth win of the season, which meant the Gamecocks were bowl eligible.

Bowl talk around the Commodores has been minimal at best in recent weeks. This latest defeat, their sixth in eight games, all but quashed it altogether.

In order for Vanderbilt to make back-to-back postseason appearances for the first time in school history, it must win each of its four remaining games. That’s a dramatically tall order given that its next two are — in order — at home against No. 11 Georgia Tech and on the road against No. 1 Florida.

“We need to learn how to finish games,” linebacker Brent Trice said. “We had them pushed back a couple times but let them go and get big plays. We have to eliminate the big plays.”

South Carolina’s touchdowns were on passes of 35 and 43 yards, respectively. The second score capped a 99-yard drive, which required just five plays.

It was the second week in a row the Commodores gave up a touchdown n a play of longer than 30 yards. Georgia opened the scoring a week earlier with a 65-yard touchdown pass.

Last season, VU’s defense typically made the opposition earn every yard. The only scoring play of more than 30 yards it allowed in all of 2008 was a 41-yard touchdown pass to Florida’s Tim Tebow.

“Give credit to South Carolina,” Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson said. “They did some good things and [made] passes when they had to. That was the difference in the game as far as our defense is concerned.”

It’s also a big difference this season.

A look at some other areas where the Commodores have not performed as well as last season:

Red zone production. Vanderbilt has scored on just 18 of 27 trips inside the opposition’s 20-yard line (67 percent) and has scored touchdowns on just 10 of those drives (37 percent).

In 2008 the offense got points on eight of every nine red zone possessions (89 percent) and scored touchdowns two out of every three (67 percent).

Turnovers. The defense forced 30 (20 interceptions, 10 fumble recoveries) in 13 games last season, an average of close to two and a half per contest. With four games remaining this fall, the Commodores have created half as many (nine interceptions, six fumble recoveries) as all of last season, an average of fewer than two per outing.

The turnover ratio is a respectable plus-5, but it could be worse given that Vanderbilt has lost on three of the 16 fumbles it has committed.

The final 15. Vanderbilt’s highest-scoring quarter last year was the fourth – 65 points overall. At the same time, it allowed fewer points in that period (37) than any of the others.

Among the seven teams the Commodores defeated, only Boston College in the Music City Bowl outscored them in the final 15 minutes (7-3).

This season, opponents have scored more points in the fourth quarter than any of the previous three and have outscored VU by eight (51-43). The Commodores’ overall point differential for the season is minus-9 (142-133).

Points. In the first eight games of 2008, Vanderbilt scored 14 or more seven times. It has been held to 13 or fewer six times, including each of the last four, in its first eight games of 2009.




8 Comments on this post:

By: frank brown on 10/26/09 at 4:56

Bowl Talk!!! Surely no one thought that Vanderbilt had a bowl team in the making.

By: Dore4Life on 10/26/09 at 9:51

Based on every other year (2005 notwithstanding) of Bobby Johnson's tenure, I'm still in shock they pulled it off in 2008! Tough years still ahead for Bobby Johnson and VU football unfortunately. Looking at it in hindsight, VU simply hired the lesser Johnson. The other one rolls into Nashville again with his Yellow Jackets this Saturday.

However, on the upside, men's and women's basketball season is right around the corner and the parity in SEC Men's basketball this is season is going to make SEC football look tame. Go Dores!

By: OneTimer on 10/26/09 at 10:27

yeah, we just might look back on 2008 and wonder how it ever happened. GT has a running back who is quite sizable. they should be able to run it at will. or at whomever.

it's time for Stallings to have another good year.

By: MetalMan on 10/26/09 at 11:03

Vanderbilt...a bowl game? Yeah right! They'll be doing well if they finish 3 and 9.

By: jwk6179 on 10/26/09 at 2:32

Vanderbilt is one of those programs that will have a WINNING SEASON every 20 to 25 years or so. The Vandy faithful will spend the next 20 years or so wishing they could have another season just like they had in 2008.

By: courier37027 on 10/26/09 at 9:01

jwk, give Vanderbilt fans another year or so. They willl call into the radio stations, sounding like they during late-80's and all 90's. Plaz will worship Watson Brown's 10-45 record as visionary. There will be comparisions of how other private schools Notre Dame, Boston College, Stanford, Duke and Northwestern will make bowl appearance before the crafty Commodores recreate their post-season return. 2008 was a perfect storm of weak competition, catching Ole Miss before they got hot, beating Rocky Top for first time in 25 or so tries. Sadly 2008 will also become like their 1982 team: a once per generation event.

By: courier37027 on 10/26/09 at 9:03

...and Vanderbilt should have easily dispatched Duke in 2008, perhaps getting into a better bowl game. Oops, I forgot. Nashville Sports Council considers Music City Bowl the best bowl not in the BCS New Year's lineup. It is the crown jewel of NCAA holiday football matchups.

By: courier37027 on 10/26/09 at 9:20

correction; Vanderbilt should have defeated Tennessee in 2008. Forgot for a moment Cutler and Commodores beat Tennessee in '07. Sorry for that error.