Saturday, October 18, 2008

Between the Hedges, Running Diary

Jared Hawkins pounded out 4.8 yards per carry and added 23 receiving yards in Vandy's losing effort. Photo by Associated Press.
I thought I’d mix it up on the blog and write a running diary for the big game today against Georgia. Three things I’m eager to see: (1) Mackenzi Adams' performance at quarterback, (2) our defense’s ability to contain Georgia’s explosive offense, (3) whether we throw the ball more or continue to run run run. I really think we can hold them under 28 points – but can we score more than that?

All times are Pacific Daylight because, well, that's where I'm watching.

9:30am - We are LIVE between the hedges in Athens, Georgia for homecoming. Is there a better football stadium nickname than “between the hedges”?

9:31 - Of course there is – that was a dumb question. I’d say there are two better nicknames in this league with “Death Valley” and “The Swamp.”

9:35 - The gold pants! When was the last time Vandy didn’t wear all white on the road? Maybe South Carolina last year? Probably could have achieved a better color match between the gold pants and the gold helmet though.

9:36 - We are underway in Athens. Ruff. Ruff Ruff. Vandy starts on the 30.

9:38 - Sean Walker end around. Hawkins off tackle and a first down! That was easy. Six more to tie last week’s effort.

9:40 - So much for renewed confidence in the passing game with Mac under center. Five rushing plays for 19.5 yards and a punt. Throw the ball!

9:43 - Georgia is across the 50 on their drive. And now inside the 30 after a big run by Moreno. I don’t want to overreact because we’ve struggled holding our opponents on their first drive seemingly every week (remember Auburn?). But we also haven’t played an offense nearly as good as Georgia’s…

9:46 - Bend; don’t break. I firmly believe that our defensive philosophy is to allow the other team to move the ball so long as it happens in small increments. If they’re going to score, they really have to earn it with a long sustained drive. Plus it shortens the game and gives us a better chance to have it close at the end. It's a vintage Bobby approach - if you ever need to predict what Bobby will do, just think of the most conservative tactic there is. He’s like Goldwater.

9:47 - Wide left!

9:51 - Georgia’s red circle SEC logo doesn’t have the contrasting colored border like the other 11 schools. Special treatment.

9:52 - DJ Moore is such a playmaker! Love the end around. I feel like it’s been a few games since he’s contributed on offense.

9:52 - Pass complete to Sean Walker. 1 for 1. And the next play is play action going deep (yes!) and Mac dumps it off to Hawkins. 2 for 2. Liking it.

9:55 - I still can’t get over how strange it is to see Jeff Jennings playing for Vanderbilt again. The career arc of a college player is that you see them for a few years and then they leave. Jeff did that – he was playing back with Jay Cutler – but now after a year off he’s come back. It's just feels like he graduated and now returned. Sems out of place with all these other guys.

9:55 - In the same vein, Chris Nickson and George Smith also seem out of place to me.

9:56 - Tough pick for Mac on the tipped ball. That was a nice drive we had going. I’m always a big proponent of the passing game, but sometimes it’s like Woody Hayes said – when you throw the ball one of three things can happen and two of them are bad. Tough break.

9:59 - Big pass play down to the 17 for Georgia. That’s a 49 yard completion. What’s the longest play Vandy has allowed this year? Maybe from the Rice game? I think Miami had a long run…

10:01am - Touchdown Georgia. That was a great catch by AJ Green. Dawgs 7, Dores 0.

10:03 - Seventy yards on four plays in two minutes. Atypical for a Vandy defense.

10:09 - Two runs, a bad pass and it’s punt time for VU. Georgia’s averaging 10.8 yards per play.

10:09 - Announcer just said we’re 116 in the country in passing. So who’s worse? Georgia Tech? Navy?

10:11 - I think we’re at 6 Hampton Inn ads to 5 Vandy passing plays. Smart move Tracy.

10:13 - Georgia swings and misses on the quick snap to trap Vandy offside. Getting a little too cute. But we let them convert on third down anyway.

10:14 - Second long pass attempt and they almost completed this one as well. Other teams have tried going deep on us this year; what makes Georgia different is a QB who can actually throw that deep.

10:16 - What a pick by DJ! That was an incredible catch over the shoulder! Too bad we’re starting inside the five.

10:18 - And another three and out for the Vandy offense. Play Chris Nickson! He's the answer.

10:19 - First shot of the new Uga. Much uglier than Uga IV was.

10:21 - Following up on my earlier question, according to ESPN Vandy is actually 117th in passing yards per game. And 118th is Air Force, 119th is Navy, and 120th is Army. These colors do run.

10:21 - On the rushing side for yards per game, Navy is 2nd, Air Force is 5th, and Army is 10th. Vandy? 52nd. And we're #22 in the country.

10:25 - Another Hampton Inn ad! I think we’re averaging one per commercial break. We have Doctor J for Dr. Pepper, Pioneer, Sling Box, and Toyota Tundra as advertisers. Pretty sure that’s the comprehensive list.

10:28 - First down Jared Hawkins! And a great block from George Smith. Do it again.

10:29 - Another pass. 3 of the 4 plays on the drive.

10:32 - Jamie Graham with the first down! Love it. Now if we can just get him wearing the same number for both sports...

10:33 - Mac’s jump ball goes to Georgia. The guy was open when he released it, but come on – you can’t give them a chance like that.

10:35 - Another big run my Moreno. I think the goal at this point is to be down 7-0 at the half.

10:37 - Touchdown Bulldogs. “And boy did that look easy” quips the announcer. Vandy’s now down 14 with no signs of offensive production.

10:40 - Josh Allen takes the kick-off. Is he third on the kick return depth chart? Why no Gaston Miller?

10:42 - Adams pass incomplete to Asher Allen. 3rd down.

10:42 - Scramble for a first down. I love the way Mac runs. He takes those long strides and looks so frantic. It works.

10:44 - Big break on the pass interference penalty and then Georgia almost gets another pick on a tipped ball. It would be very nice to score right here.

10:48 - Alright! A justified pass interference call for a first down and a BIG catch by Jamie Graham! Brings down the rebound and we’re trailing by 7 with 22 seconds in the half. Very big score to keep this game close.

10:50 - And we head to the half! If Vandy can restrict the big plays (and the turnovers!) in the second half we have a very good chance. It’s seemed more one sided, but we have 154 yards. Hanging in there.

--- Halftime Break ---

Jamie Graham catching his first of two touchdowns against the Bulldogs of Georgia. Photo by Tennessean.
11:20am - Well, I missed the first few minutes of the second half and just saw the reversed touchdown run. Wuh-oh. Glancing at the play-by-play I see that it was big plays again.

11:22 - Is there a more obtrusive graphic in all of sports than the Honda Generator Red Zone Report?

11:23 - Touchdown Moreno. Hampton Inn. Doctor J. Toyota truck. Pioneer television. And we’re back.

11:31 - Chris Nickson in at quarterback! QB keeper! Nope – fumbled snap. Punt time. Maybe after the game Bobby should ask Mark Richt about that David Greene, DJ Shockley rotation he used for three years. Worked pretty well for them.

11:32 - And Georgia takes the fair catch at the 4 yard line. For being so talented, Georgia sure makes some dumb mistakes. Most penalized team in the country, right?

11:34 - Big pass interference on third down by Myron Lewis to keep the drive alive. That would have been a significant three and out.

11:36 - Yes! Interception on the tipped ball! Stafford to Billinger to Lewis. And Diezba on TV shaking his shaker.

11:38 - We just miss a pass play down the sideline and then Hawkins runs into the line. Big third down here.

11:38 - First and ten George Smith! Nice pass by Mac. First down and goal to go.

11:39 - Jamie Graham!! WOW!! That was gorgeous! And perfect placement by Mackenzi Adams. Down seven again.

11:40 - That was a really great catch.

11:45 - King swallowed up by Reshard Langford on the toss sweep! Three and out.

11:46 - Just noticed that Maryland is up big on Wake Forest. You think Vandy is inconsistent – Maryland lost to MTSU and Virginia while beating #25 Cal, Clemson, and now #21 Wake Forest.

11:47 - Pass interference – automatic first down for Vandy!

11:48 - You reach a point in a game like this when it doesn’t feel like you’re trailing anymore. Like after JD Drew’s homerun on Thursday. Or like the Auburn game after Wheeler’s touchdown. This Georgia crowd is getting quiet.

11:49 - Uhh, and then Mac throws incomplete into the Georgia guy’s chest. So much for that. Instead of going for it on their 30ish we just miss downing it at the one and Georgia gets a touchback.

11:55 - End of the third quarter!

11:56 - Second Hampton Inn ad of the commercial break. Whatever the over/under was, we are now way over.

12:03pm - Another three and out. One thing distinctive about Raycom’s presentation is that they zoom real tight on the punters. Kinda odd – you’ll never see a block or a fake coming.

12:06 - Punt time again for Georgia! 11:47 remaining in the game. Time to get moving, Dores.

12:11 - J Hawk! As much as I hated our offensive balance early, we have been completely unpredictable since the second quarter. And it’s producing results.

12:11 - And even more unpredictable was that Mac to Walker to Graham to Mac to the turf play. That one didn’t work.

12:13 - Just saw ‘Rambo’ on the Georgia sideline. There ya go. Ken-Yon’s brother maybe?

12:14 - Third and eleven and I’m predicting a QB draw. Nope! Incomplete after we can’t pick-up the blitz. 8:39 left. Running low on time.

12:15 - Brett Upson is so valuable to this team. He has done this his whole career – he’s just incredibly skilled at killing punts inside the 20. Georgia gets it at the 5.

12:18 - Moreno out to the 19. So much for that. Georgia’s offensive line sure doesn’t seem ravaged by injuries. Any chance the back-ups at Georgia are pretty talented as well?

12:20 - Oh man, Georgia’s out past the 50 now. This game looked so in reach a few minutes ago with our defense making big stops. Our offense on the other hand…

12:25 - Another first down and 4:24 left in the game. And they’re in field goal range. This one might be over.

12:29 - Alright, Stafford throws it out of bounds with 2:56 remaining. He probably should have just taken the sack or even run out of bounds (new clock rules). Now block that kick!

12:30 - Ok! The upright blocks the kick and there’s still a pulse. Three minutes to go, one timeout, and eighty yards to tie. Let’s go!

12:31 - Six yard pass across the middle.

12:31 - Bobbled by Brandon Barden and barely not intercepted. Whoa. Third down.

12:32 - Sprint out pass, incomplete to Sean Walker. Fourth down.

12:33 - Pass caught by Jamie Graham! At the line!

12:33 - And it looks like he’s just short. Turnover on downs. Game over.

12:34 - This marks the second week in a row that Vandy's had the ball with a chance for a two minute drive that could win the game. And both times we've failed to deliver a single first down. This offense is bad - the problems don't end with Chris Nickson.

12:38 - The Georgia kicker makes the kick and we’re down 10 with 17 seconds left. Another close loss.

---

Well, it’s a tough loss because it was certainly winnable. Vandy had chances – and a gift with the ball and three minutes left – but we just couldn’t get the consistent offense to win.

But Georgia is a very good team. They are one of the elite teams in the county and one of the few who still has a chance at winning the national championship. (By my count: Alabama, Georgia, Florida, LSU, Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, USC, and Penn State). We looked dramatically better than last week – and while Mac wasn’t great, he did alright. And our defense is the real deal.

Now it's time to get ready for next week's homecoming, bowl eligibility celebration against Duke. We’re 5-2 (3-2) and firmly in the upper middle class of the SEC with Kentucky, Carolina, and Auburn. This week was the mildest of setbacks - we're still in great position.

2 comments:

evenmoreanonymous said...

Great report! I see that we're one of eight Top 25 teams that got bet this weekend.

evenmoreanonymous said...

The eight Top 25 teams that lost on Saturday were: BYU, Wake Forest, Vanderbilt, North Carolina, Michigan State, Kansas, Missouri and Virginia Tech.

All but BYU, Kansas and Missouri fell out of the Top 25 in this week's polls.