SEC Football: Vandy 1, Oklahoma 0

Let's give it up to the ugly, forgotten stepchild of the SEC. Vanderbilt isn't to be praised merely for winning a game; no, the Commodores deserve the laurels after week one of the college football season because they defied history.

What was special about Vandy's 24-20 victory over Wake Forest on Thursday --- besides giving the SEC a win against the ACC on a weekend when Auburn couldn't hold up its end against Georgia Tech --- was that it was exactly the kind of game Bobby Johnson's teams (and Woody Widenhofer's teams... and Rod Dowhower's teams... and Gerry DiNardo's teams... and Watson Brown's teams) have historically lost over the years. When Wake Forest grabbed that late 20-17 lead after the Dores led for almost the whole contest, no rational person would have said, "it's in times like these when Vandy comes back and wins."

Anything but.

Vandy was about to be Charlie Brown to Lucy, being teased, tormented and ultimately humiliated by the football gods once again.

But lo and behold, Charlie Brown actually kicked the football this time, as Bobby Johnson --- whose non-profanity practice pledges make him about as wholesome a figure as Charles Schulz' comic book hero --- secured the biggest win of his tenure in Nashville. After changing the culture of the practice field and locker room over a number of years, Johnson --- at least for one weekend --- showed signs that he and his team just might be able to change the culture of losing at Vanderbilt. And while that's a long way from being accomplished in its entirety, it's just as surely a lot closer to fulfillment as well.

Ask the Chicago Cubs in baseball, the Arizona Cardinals in football, and the Los Angeles Clippers in basketball. Go ask them just how difficult it is to change and uproot an entrenched culture of losing in a team. Go ask Bobby Ross how easy it is to build a winner at Army, or Guy Morriss how hard it will be to make Baylor a winner. As the quack in the classic sports movie The Natural says to the New York Knights and Roy Hobbs, "Loo-zeeng... is a disease."

So it's more than a little noteworthy when a team known as --- let's not pull punches here --- a loser manages to win a game it typically doesn't win. The fact that it came on the road against a program that had recently won a bowl game (two years ago, over Oregon) made the triumph all the more impressive for Vanderbilt.

This puts the Commodores in a distinctly positive light, which is a lot more than you can say for the Oklahoma Sooners. Whereas Vandy is to be celebrated for overcoming a calcified culture of failure, the Sooners and Bob Stoops have to be called onto the carpet for doing what Vanderbilt used to do: losing a game they should have won.

It wasn't that the Sooners made boatloads of mistakes against TCU (though they did); what made OU's performance so outrageously bad was that their mistakes came at the worst possible time. Oklahoma slipped on the proverbial banana peel so many times against the Horned Frogs that one had to wonder just how much coaching offensive coordinator Chuck Long gave to his two quarterbacks in the offseason. The combined failure of both technical execution and emotional fire in Norman was so shocking that the Sooners --- a major contender for the brass ring in each of the past five years --- now look like a team that will lose at least two more games for a very pedestrian 8-3 record and a mediocre bowl invite. It's never fun to be a winner who suddenly loses in the worst possible manner, but that's where the Sooners are, and after basking in the sunshine of two straight BCS title game appearances, OU must now take the heat that comes with a stunning and inexcusable home loss.

So while the boys in Nashville won't exactly be making a run for the Sugar Bowl anytime soon, it still stands that Vandy overachieved while Oklahoma underachieved this past weekend, in a pair of role reversals that underscore just how fragile... and fascinating... the sport of college football really is.


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