Vandy is Candy
Vanderbilt vs. Tennessee | 20 Nov 2010 | Vanderbilt Stadium/Dudley Field
7:30 pm EDT | CSS / ESPN3.com
Vandy’s entertaining head coach Robbie Caldwell summed up the state of his 2-8 Commodores quite succinctly:
“We haven’t been creating turnovers defensively, we haven’t moved the ball until right here recently offensively. Unfortunately our bright spot has been our punt team. That’s the one thing you don’t want to have showing good signs.”
Here’s what the ol’ boy had to say following last week’s loss to Kentucky…
The former turkey farm worker, concrete pourer, and tractor driver is a refreshing change from the typical cookie-cutter molded coach; a throwback to some former age.
Problem is, his team sucks.
Before taking the job this season, and musing on what was realistic to expect on the field after last season’s disappointing 2-10 finish, Caldwell said the key would be finding ways to win those games hanging in the balance in the fourth quarter. Losing the close one is a mainstay Vandy characteristic. During predecessor Bobby Johnson’s tenure, the Commodores lost 27 games by a touchdown or less.
This season under Caldwell, all but one of the Commodores’ losses have been by more than a touchdown; the opener against Northwestern the exception (2 points). The other losses this season have been by 14, 18, 19, 24, 35, 41, and 43 points. Not exactly cliffhangers. The only wins have been against Ole Miss, who is assuredly headed for a 4-8 season, and Eastern Michigan, the runt of the MAC at 1-9.
Tennessee hasn’t exactly been world beaters – victories over UT-Martin, UAB (barely), Memphis, and Ole Miss are hardly the stuff to stick your chest out about in the corner tavern. But the Vols have a new way about them after going 0-for-October. The Vols have been injected with juice, driving even some of their own kind just a bit crazy.
Why are things all of a sudden looking up? Because Tennessee has posted two 50-point performances in a row, for the first time in a very long time.
Coach Dooley credits that to: Some players finally getting healthy; some simply improving their performance — both in the games and at practice — while others have acclimated their skills to the collegiate level. Senior Jerrod Shaw at several positions on the OL and junior LB Daryl Vereen drew kudos from Dooley this past week. Somehow, assistant coach Justin Wilcox moving upstairs from the sideline also brought improvement – by luck or something else. And, not to be forgotten is the season-perfect Daniel Lincoln who is salvaging his senior season by working hard to come back from long-term, lingering injury.
This turnaround this season is akin to last season’s Georgia game in which the Vols salvaged a quarterback and a season from drifting into oblivion.
Speaking of last season, RB Montario Hardesty was a beast in 2009. We dreaded 2010 without a monster ball carrier even though David Oku and the now-forgotten Bryce Brown were waiting in the wings.
Enter junior running back Tauren Poole who has quietly become the hidden star on this team now that Tyler Bray has emerged as the media point-of-focus as well as the on-field leader. Andrew Gribble points out that Poole has just as many 100-yard rushing games (six) as Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, the most among SEC rushers. If Poole eclipses the 100-yard mark Saturday in Nashville, and against Kentucky during Thanksgiving weekend, Tauren will not only be above the 1,000 yard mark for the year, but will also set the Tennessee record for most 100-yard games in a season, breaking the record of seven set by Travis Stephens in 2001.
Amazingly unexpected. Unexpectedly amazing.
Dooley said that on the injury front for Saturday, defensive back Eric Gordon was held out of practice Wednesday because of the lingering effects of his concussion suffered Saturday, and offensive guard Zach Fulton (ankle) still is not 100 percent. He added that safety Janzen Jackson (ankle) and wide receiver Zach Rogers (concussion) are doing fine, as is placekicker Daniel Lincoln, who had a good kicking session Tuesday.
It’s hard not to think further ahead. Two wins in the last two and it’s probably the Music Bowl to face the #6 ACC team. Carolina? State? Boston College?
Bad luck. Back to the present.
Saturday will be like taking candy from a baby. Then the baby will cry, and the big bad bully will go back home to prepare for one more robbery.
Take it to the bank, boys…
Tennessee 44 Vanderbilt 20
Boom Boom Pow!