It might not be the case that Vanderbilt has brought out the best in its opponents this season. One thing is certain, though. The Commodores (2-4, 0-3 in the SEC) continue to face teams that are coming off some of their worst possible performances.
Georgia, which faces VU at 11:20 a.m. Saturday at Vanderbilt Stadium (SEC Network-Comcast Ch. 14), is just the latest example.
The Bulldogs (3-3, 2-2) were routed last week 45-19 by the University of Tennessee. They allowed 472 total yards to the Volunteers and did not have a sack for just the second time this season. Their offense was held to a season-low 241 yards and for the first time did not have a play of 25 yards or longer.
Thus they come into this one looking to play significantly better.
“We certainly had a disappointing loss last week,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said Tuesday. “ We have to get back on the winning track against Vanderbilt, that's our hope.”
It’s worked for several others already.
Mississippi State allowed a season-high 49 points to Auburn on Sept. 12 but came back and limited VU to three the following week. Ole Miss was smarting from a 16-10 defeat against South Carolina before it rebounded with a 23-7 victory over the Commodores.
Army played well but lost in the worst possible way to Tulane in its prelude to last Saturday’s overtime victory over Vanderbilt. The Black Knights never trailed until they allowed a field goal to Tulane with just over two minutes to play. They eventually lost by a point.
Even LSU, the Commodores’ Week 2 opponent, was not exactly glowing after a season-opening 31-23 victory over Washington, a game many figured for a blowout.
“Obviously, it was a heart-wrenching game (vs. Tulane), but we came back with a purpose,” Army coch Rich Ellerson said following the contest. “ I love … the effort and (the players’) ability to reload, believe in one another and in what they are doing and grow and get better.”
Vanderbilt’s attempts to reverse its fortunes following a defeat have been less successful. Only one of its two victories has come on the heels of a loss. The other was over Western Carolina in the first game.
The Commodores intend to try again this week, though.
“After an extremely disappointing loss it is important for us to bounce back right away and get to work against Georgia,” coach Bobby Johnson said Monday.
The challenge is nothing new.
It was almost mid-October before the Commodores lost their first game last season. Once they did, though, it was more than a month before they finally won again.
Perhaps the problem this fall is that they have not yet bottomed out.
They forced Army to overtime. They had a chance to close within a single score of Ole Miss in the fourth quarter until the Rebels intercepted a pass in the end zone. They trailed Mississippi State by no more than a touchdown until the final 3:20, and against LSU they were within a single score for more than half of the final quarter.
“All three of those (conference) losses were close enough that we had a chance to win the game, so it is real frustrating,” Johnson said. “We feel like we are better than that. We have to prove it on the field and do it in games that you are supposed to win.
“We just aren't holding up our end of the bargain right now.”
They do seem to be helping others prop themselves back up, however.