Vanderbilt should take opening loss personally
The Vanderbilt football team played its season opener Saturday night at Vanderbilt Stadium and it did what Vanderbilt football teams do – fought to the bitter end only to find yet another way to lose.
[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=Larry+Smith+Vanderbilt&iid=3337856″ src=”http://view3.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/3337856/gaylord-hotels-music-city/gaylord-hotels-music-city.jpg?size=500&imageId=3337856″ width=”234″ height=”317″ /]The Commodores failed on two 2-point conversion attempts and sealed their fate when safety Jay Fullam was called for a personal foul on quarterback Dan Persa with about 1:45 to play that gave Northwestern a first down and allowed the Wildcats to run out the clock.
The final score painfully read Northwestern 23, Vanderbilt 21.
“The most frustrating thing was that we botched two 2-point plays and that is the thing we worked on as much as any, so that was disappointing,” first-year VU coach Robbie Caldwell said.
The Commodores complained about the personal-foul call, and they might have been right.
“They said it was a high hit,” Caldwell said. “The boy was a foot off the ground. What’s a high hit?
“I asked the ref about it after it happened and he said I hit him in the head,” Fullam said. “I didn’t think I did anything wrong.”
But it hardly means the Commodores would have won the game in the absence of the penalty. That’s taking a Hollywood-type leap of faith. Northwestern would have punted from its own 38 after allowing the clock to run inside a minute. Assuming an average punt from the Wildcats’ Brandon Williams (42.4 yards in the game), Vandy would have taken over around its own 20 with, at best, 52 seconds to play. It would have had no timeouts, and it would have to have driven at least 55 yards just to be in position for a 42-yard field goal by Ryan Fowler, who missed badly from 46 yards earlier.
What’s dangerous about this game for Vanderbilt is to be satisfied. It’s easy to point at the officials and the personal-foul call. It’s reassuring to say it piled up 432 yards of total offense. It’s comforting to say it fought to the end.
Caldwell fell into the trap.
“We played well on both sides of the ball,” Caldwell said. “On defense we played great in the first half and the beginning of the second half. Offensively, we’ve improved. We got in there and I think we had 400-something yards of offense and we scored some points.”
The point is you didn’t score enough points, Coach. Really, the defense was great in the first half and early second? Persa was 14 of 15 through three quarters. Where exactly was the greatness?
Vanderbilt has to stop accepting moral victories. Moral victories are for losers. You don’t get to say you played well enough to win unless you won. You can’t allow a quarterback starting for the first time to complete 90.5 percent of his passes (19 of 21) for 222 yards and three touchdowns and rush for 82 yards. You can’t botch two 2-point attempts.
Privately, be encouraging, but make sure every player knows that you let that one get away, personal foul call or not.