Vanderbilt's comeback win at Ole Miss is more than just another win. It's huge for Vandy for many reasons but here is a big one. It gives Vanderbilt a chance to win five SEC games in a season for the first time since the 1935. Yes, it's been that long since the Commodores won five conference contests. If the Commodores can pull off a victory over the rival Vols on Saturday they'll finish a very un-Vandy like 5-3 in SEC play. Not many people alive today can remember Vanderbilt winning five SEC contests in a season.
The way Vanderbilt battled back in the second half was impressive. Facing a 23-6 deficit early in the third quarter, Vanderbilt methodically got to work and chipped away at Rebel lead until there was no more deficit. It wasn't smoke and mirrors either. Vanderbilt won that football game by getting it done late on both offense and defense. There were no multiple roughing the punter calls (see UK '08) or fluke plays. It was just Vanderbilt getting it done in every facet of the game.
One thing that stood out to me during the game was that it was evident in the second half that Vanderbilt was man-handling the Rebels. The 'Dores just seemed better conditioned. Not surprisingly, Vanderbilt players heaped credit on the VU strength and conditioning program after the game but they wouldn't go so far as to say that Ole Miss was not as well conditioned as them. Strength and conditioning director Dwight Galt deserves a ton of credit for the expertise he brings to Vandy. Utilizing his program Vandy players have actually gained strength and size during the season which is not easy to do during the grind of the season.
Hopefully the Commodores have put the emotional Ole Miss victory behind them already. They'll need to devote their entire attention on a struggling but dangerous UT squad. Yes, UT's defense (37 ppg) stinks but the Vols have an offense (38 ppg) that can light up the scoreboard. You can bet that Derek Dooley and his staff are working hard prepping for the Commodores. Simply put, their jobs depend on beating Vandy so I guess you could say Vanderbilt Stadium might just be Dooley's Little Big Horn. If you are UT and you beat Vandy you then need only to beat Kentucky and you're in a bowl game, then maybe the Dooley staff gets another year. Lose to Vanderbilt and you're pretty much history.
I personally have nothing against Dooley and I'd love to see him be able to stay on the job at UT a few more years. That said, losing to Tennessee just stinks and it's been stinking terribly for Vandy fans since 1926. Since that year VU has managed just nine measly victories against the Vols. Just when it looks like VU has a shot at beating the rivals our Commodores seem to just choke or just not show up mentally. We saw that in 2008 when a clearly better Vandy team was soundly defeated in Nashville and again last season when VU errors coupled with some inept officiating resulted in another VU loss. There are many other examples. On Saturday Vanderbilt just needs to kick the door in and send the Dooley staff packing while keeping the Vols at home for the holidays.
I've always believed that for Vanderbilt to have a decent season it has to beat Kentucky. Similarly, for the Commodores to have a really good season they must beat Tennessee and with that comes stuff like 5-win or more conference records, better bowl bids, and better in-state recruiting. All those good things set the team up for even more future success and more five win conference seasons.
Is Vanderbilt Dooley's Little Big Horn?
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