Final score: Auburn 23, Vanderbilt 16.
Most observers predicted a much wider margin of victory for the Tigers, including this observer. However, I did think Vanderbilt would make it a tighter game than many believed. When you consider that the team had an extra week to prepare for Auburn and combine that with Derek Mason's ability to coach defense, you have the makings of something interesting.
In the end, it was another loss but the game served as an indicator that Mason is indeed improving this team and that includes the offense, which played its best game of the season against a SEC opponent. A couple weeks ago at Kentucky in the post game presser Mason spoke of the wildcat employed successfully by UK to defeat Vandy. It looked like a light bulb was going off in his head as he spoke. Now the wildcat is back in the Vandy offense. What took so long? I expect this wildcat to be perfected more in the coming weeks and that's good news for Vandy's bowl chances.
Zach Cunningham's vault to block an Auburn field goal was simply amazing. I was crouched down on the sideline on the opposite end of the field in the end zone behind the goal posts at the time. I had pretty much assumed that Auburn was going to lock up the game with a chip shot field goal from the Tigers' excellent kicker. I had looked down at my camera for a moment and then caught a glimpse of a Commodore flying through the air above the line. I won't quote what I said but it was an incredible sight and I'll always regret not having my camera ready. While Vanderbilt lost this game, the program gained some wonderful publicity for battling a great Auburn team close and even more notoriety for that Cunningham block. That can't hurt.
This game will be discussed for years to come, much like the Florida game in 2005 with the crazy celebration call on Earl Bennett. In this game it was a controversial reversal of an apparent Vandy fumble recovery. The big question is how was that conclusive evidence to overturn the call on the field? The outcome of that was a quick Auburn touchdown, which provided seven points for the Tigers- the difference in game. This is not a complaint against Auburn, they won fair and square, it's a concern about officiating and following the rules. If the replay is inconclusive they are supposed to go with the call on the field and that wasn't done. For what it's worth, if Vandy had gotten the ball there it doesn't mean they would have won the game but it would have been huge at the time if the Commodores did take over possession of the ball.
My trip to Auburn was kind of crazy. On Friday evening I drove down I-65 into Birmingham and then got on highway 280 east and stayed in a motel in one of the towns along that road. In the morning I noticed the traffic on 280 in the east-bound lanes was thick and many vehicles had Auburn flags flapping. I went to a McDonad's drive thru to get some coffee. I drove up the window to get my coffee and this young gal greets me with "Roll Tide!" I said, "I'm a Vanderbilt fan." She handed me my java and said nothing. I wonder how all those Auburn fans reacted with this young lady's greeting of the day.
I drove about 70 miles on highway 280 before getting into the Auburn area. Finally, I'm nearing the stadium. I'm moving along in the traffic and in one of the many stops in the stop-and-go mess, I look in my rear-view mirror and see a vehicle barreling toward me. This vehicle slammed into my smaller car and pushed me into the car in front of me. A caveat here; if you have a little kid, it's not smart to have them in the front seat. That's the most dangerous place they can be (that kid is okay). If you see my photos you'll notice that there aren't many taken in the first quarter thanks to an inattentive driver.
Vandy has just three games remaining and I think they have a shot at winning at least two of them. That doesn't mean they will but they have a chance. First order of business is to dispatch Missouri. So far the Commodores are 0-1 against conference teams they beat in 2015. The Dores have to approach this game with the same intensity they did with Auburn: be road warriors but get the win this time.