As long as sports are played, there will be games in which nothing goes right.
A bad bounce here, an unlucky call on a bang-bang play there, a fumble on the opponent's 3 over there.
We all have bad days, and the worst bad days (in a professional context, not in any other ones) are the ones when we think we can achieve something, but the forces of life have other plans. We do our best, but the worst luck emerges at the worst possible moment. We can only shrug our shoulders, laugh, and hope that tomorrow is a better, fairer day -- maybe not a day imbued with good luck, but a day in which bad luck stays the heck out of the way.
We know what it's like when we have a chance to do something good, but run into absurdly bad luck.
For a football team, losing 38-7 to a triple-option opponent -- the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets -- could certainly seem like one of those Murphy's Law days.
Must have been a big turnover differential, right? Sure -- the triple-option team was opportunistic and managed to string together scores because it was given short fields.
Must have been a large time of possession differential, right? The triple option team held the ball forever. The offense couldn't get any rhythm, and the defense was absolutely gassed in the second half.
It is so easy to imagine a day against a triple-option foe "slipping away," being winnable but then descending into a worst-case scenario.
It would be -- counterintuitively but genuinely -- comforting for Vanderbilt to know that it had a chance, but got a series of bad breaks against Georgia Tech.
Unfortunately, VU can't make that claim. Neither can any impartial observer.
No, this wasn't a game which "got away" from Vanderbilt, because that turn of phrase implies that it was within VU's grasp at some point.
It wasn't -- at least not after Georgia Tech answered VU's opening drive.
Vanderbilt didn't score a single point after its opening drive.
There was no turnover differential in this game -- both teams committed the same amount of turnovers, but more specifically, both teams committed only one turnover, so it's not as though the Yellow Jackets were consistently furnished with short fields. If both teams had committed four turnovers, it's quite possible that Vanderbilt's turnovers could have been much more damaging in nature (coming at the worst possible times or the worst possible places on the field). However, a 1-1 turnover tally just doesn't allow for that argument. It can't hold.
Time of possession? No, this was not a game in which Paul Johnson's offense kept the ball away from Vanderbilt. The Commodores finished with more time of possession -- under a minute, but nevertheless with more of the ball. Both teams had the ball for roughly 30 minutes.
The sad yet undeniable truth of the matter is that this game didn't "get away" from VU. Georgia Tech simply did a lot more with its 29-plus minutes than Vandy did with 30 and change.
Georgia Tech hit two pass plays longer than 75 yards. Vanderbilt produced one scrimmage play longer than 20 yards, a 22-yard pass.
Georgia Tech more than doubled Vandy in the average amount of yards per pass -- 13 to 6 (rounded off) -- and the average amount of yards per rush, 6.3 to 2.8.
Georgia Tech's quarterback, Justin Thomas, was dynamic. VU's Kyle Shurmur was not.
Georgia Tech's offense was potent and consistent. Vandy's wasn't, including on third downs. (Tech converted 8 of 15 third downs, VU 4 of 13.)
It was reasonable and -- moreover -- fair to say that after a sluggish opener, the jury was still out on VU's offense. Openers do tend to be sluggish, and on that basis alone, the Commodores and Shurmur still deserved the benefit of the doubt. Moreover, after Vanderbilt hung 47 on a Middle Tennessee team which subsequently spanked reigning MAC champion Bowling Green on the road over the past weekend, it was easier to think that the Dores were improving.
This game against Georgia Tech -- how it unfolded -- simply doesn't support the idea that it was a "bad day at the office." It supports the contention that this team has a very low ceiling, lower than many anticipated.
The good news? (Is there any?) Actually, yes: It's only September.
Even though this game marks a setback, and even though we're now three games into the season, it's still the first month of the season. Recall how many Septembers have gone wrong for Arkansas under Bret Bielema, or how other teams don't seem to find their best identities until late October and November.
It appears Vanderbilt will require more time to meet its potential in 2016. There is time for this team to develop and grow. All is certainly not lost.
That's genuinely good news; it would be so much worse if this 38-7 loss in Atlanta had occurred in late October.
Nevertheless, Vanderbilt definitely has to reframe the narrative in these coming weeks. The Commodores have to push upward, raising what is currently a very low ceiling.
Let's hope the roof doesn't cave in, as it did against Georgia Tech.