Monday, September 3, 2007

Naval Intelligence: An ugly win, but high hopes for the Tide


The Star Walk -- still giving out chills.
The Star Walk was just one of the traditions that Vanderbilt faithful renewed this Saturday. Photo by Neil Brake, Vanderbilt University.

There's nothing like college football. Seeing the Commodores emerge from McGugin Center with the Golden Anchor to the strains of the Spirit of Gold Marching Band while hundreds of Vanderbilt fans cheered them on brought back the old familiar feeling, and one accurately summed up by our current marketing slogan: "It's good to be gold."

Though the 'Dores didn't look pretty early (that offensive yardage deficit to Richmond at half-time still sort of sticks in my throat), a win is a win, and it always feels good to say Vanderbilt is undefeated.

That's the general gist both inside and out of the Vanderworld, today (and this weekend). There's a lot to take a look at today, so let's get started.

In the mainstream media, our beat reporters in Nashville were busy over the past couple of days. Maurice Patton at the Tennessean has the general recap of the Richmond game; the article can be summed up by this quote from Coach Johnson: "'Everything wasn't pretty,' Vanderbilt Coach Bobby Johnson said. 'But we had some individuals play a tremendous game. It was good to get out and play.'"

Tennessean staff writer Jessica Hopp has a review of Earl Bennett's record-breaking performance. David Climer writes about the Defense's Jekyll-Hyde performance, and how they'll approach 'Bama. There's a piece on up-and-coming defensive tackle Gabe Hall by Maurice Patton and Jessica Hopp. Finally, from Sunday, there's a bit of subtle Vandy-bashing in some commentary about the Richmond game by David Climer. Now, don't get me wrong, I recognize that he's trying to be nice and say that Coach Johnson and his staff have brought Vanderbilt a long way. But the way he does it is to basically say, "Look how bad Vanderbilt has always, always been, and look -- they didn't even barely win!" Maybe I'm being overly sensitive, but I found it a bit condescending.

The Richmond paper apparently found the Spiders' performance flat-flooted, in a piece by John Packett.

On Monday, after some perspective, Brett Hait writes in the City Paper about the Richmond game while looking ahead to 'Bama. Maurice Patton noticed that Appalachian State beat Michigan an Ann Arbor home opener while Vanderbilt didn't, and wondered whether the Commodores took note as they took the field against the Spiders.

The folks at VUCommodores.com have been all over the place this weekend, too. First up was Rod Williamson with his first "Commodore Notebook" in a while, called an Encouraging Beginning. Will Matthews, the former professional sportswriter, is also back, with a quality piece highlighting the relationship between Vanderbilt quarterback Chris Nickson and wide receiver Earl Bennett. Coach Johnson's press conference was today, and you can read the transcript of it; more importantly, you can also watch (on your PC or Mac) the press conference (and they fixed the sound problem they had last week). And speaking of All Access content, Brandon Barca and staff continue to impress with all that video and audio content (check some of it out). There's also an AP story on the press conference (though they really don't add alot to what you read in the transcript) that highlights Johnson's Saban-related comments.

Since school is back in session the Vanderbilt Hustler staff is back in business, and InsideVandy, their online presence, had several solid articles on Chris Nickson, on the defense, and (in unrelated stuff) on the Commodores playing for Team USA in baseball.

Which brings us to the published accounts of Alabama and how they did and how folks think they'll do. Generally, the Alabama press is giving Vanderbilt a lot of respect, which is surprising (at least to me), considering that most SEC media generally do not respect Vanderbilt football. The Mobile Press-Register has a concise report on Alabama's performance against Western Carolina. They also feature commentary about Saban's first outing as the heir to the Bear. In the Huntsville Times, Vanderbilt -- and Earl Bennett -- get plenty of respect in John Pruett's Vanderbilt preview article.

In the AP's article on Saban's post-Carolina presser, Vandy continues to get (what I believe is) genuine respect as the Tide prepares for their trip to the Music City. The Huntsville Times also looks at Saban's presser.

I'm curious as to why the Birmingham News feels like this article makes a lot of sense for the post-Carolina articles. Be sure to look at the Tuscaloosa News' "First and 10" article summarizing the Bama-Carolina game.


The Earl of Dudley -- Heisman candidate?  Photo by Neil Brake, Vanderbilt University.
The Earl of Dudley -- Heisman candidate? Photo by Neil Brake, Vanderbilt University.

On VandyMania, Michael O'Neill has begun the hype for Earl for Heisman (really). VM poster "J2M" begins an apparently weekly feature called "J2M Stunners" (I wish they'd spelled it "Stunnerz" instead).

The VM forums were (finally) abuzz during and after the game. There's a great thread about the new scoreboards (and I have to agree that I really like them, too). We learn that Reshard Langford will probably be back for the 'Bama game. Brent has his usual articles summary post that includes some I haven't covered here. There's a thread about the betting line for the 'Bama game, with even some Bammers joining in (and generally showing respect, though there is a crazy in there looking for Vanderbilt +24 -- for real? can someone actually think that?). There's a discussion of whether LF Sports will be streaming the 'Bama game. There's a "hot thread" on the logic of scheduling I-AA/FCS teams like Appalachian State. Speaking of Appy State, apparently we offered their quarterback.

I really want to draw attention to a post by "JeffersonDavisBeauregardIV" which he claims is in its 10th year on VM -- it's an awesome fan-article on the upcoming season that reveals alot about Vanderbilt fan psychology. You've got to read it. There's a good thread reviewing the Richmond game, with the general consensus being that we didn't look good, but that it's good that even when not playing well we still pull out the win (and hey, let's review: there were times in years past we would have lost to a team like Richmond under similar circumstances). If you want to read some good, old-fashioned trash-talking, check out that post.

There's a statistics argument about our rushing game, and some more Earl Bennett for Heisman by people who aren't Michael O'Neill.

Over on VandySports, most of the big articles are premium content, so you'll have to buy an account and tell me what they're all about. On the VS boards, there's an interesting post about "Nickson, 'Bama, and signature wins" (though who is our "top kicker"?). One VS poster points us toward the Tuscaloosa News and their piece about the Tide's preparation for the Dores. Another VS poster sends us to a Michael O'Neill article summarizing the Richmond game (is this the same O'Neill that wrote a VM headline article?). VS poster "DynamiteDore" has a link to a must-read post on a personal blog by a Nashville-area high school football coach, and it's got great insight into how Coach Johnson is changing things on West End.

Finally, in non-Vanderbilt (or pseudo-Vanderbilt) news, Vegas has the line for this Saturday at Vanderbilt +3.5 (I think that's probably about right; and I think it's a favorable spread).

Last, but by no means least, there's a lengthy-but-awesome "Love Letter to Southern Football" by Wright Thompson over at ESPN.com. You've got to read it (they even get a Vanderbilt tradition in there -- look for Rotier's).

1 comment:

Mike said...

Yes, that is the same Michael O'Neill in both the articles you mentioned!