VU Football: A Story Of Resilience

Statistics from the 2013 football season paint a striking and impressive portrait of the Vanderbilt Commodores. One of this team's better characteristics was its ability to win sloppy and uneven games, prevailing on days when fluidity and precision weren't easy to find.


BEAUTY IN THE MIDST OF STRUGGLE: WHY 6-6 BECAME 9-4.

Last season, one of the more outstanding features of Vanderbilt football was the team's ability to win ugly, as shown against the likes of Kentucky, Tennessee and Massachusetts. You saw this with your own eyes, but the numbers tell their own stories, and it's worth underscoring the extent to which the Dores persevered last autumn.

What jumps off the printed page when looking at VU last year is that the Dores' record remained steady regardless of turnover and penalty differentials. In this respect, Vanderbilt did not put together a typical profile for an FBS team. It's true that a lot of teams can and do win when committing more penalties than the opposition; penalties, if you study them, aren't automatic indicators of winning or losing. (Think of Miami routing Texas in the 1991 Cotton Bowl despite racking up tons of penalty yards. Think of physically superior teams committing personal foul penalties and managing to overcome them.) Turnovers, however, are generally fatal in football. They remain one of the foremost reasons games are won and lost. When you commit more turnovers than the opposition, you're setting yourself up for failure.

With all this in mind, Vanderbilt pulled off something unusual in 2013: The Dores went 3-2 in FBS games in which they turned the ball over more than the opposition, and went 1-0 in FBS games with no turnover differential. This was mirrored by VU's record in FBS games in which it committed more penalties than its opponents. All told, VU's FBS records (not including the contest against Austin Peay) were the same regardless of penalty and turnover differentials: 3-2 when committing more turnovers and penalties, 4-2 when committing fewer turnovers and penalties, 1-0 with no differential.

That's not easy to do, and naturally, most of Vanderbilt's games weren't easy at all. The ability to gain an 8-4 FBS record, 9-4 overall, was and is a testament to the Dores' resilience.

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