Vandy Lance's game preview

There is simply no Vanderbilt fan anywhere quite as fanatical as Lance Smith, a.k.a. "Vandy Lance." As a semi-regular feature this football season, VandyMania will share Lance's (totally biased) thoughts on the season and the upcoming game. (Think you're fired up for Ole Miss now? Wait'll you've read this.)

It's been a rough offseason for Vandy Lance. He lost his mother, the legendary maker of banana pudding, to death after a lengthy illness. He's been beset by a mind-boggling array of bedeviling personal problems.

He still doesn't own a computer. He's still driving his delivery truck.

But just as you can predict the leaves will begin to slowly drop from the trees each autumn, it's easy to predict that about this time of year, "Vandy" Lance Smith will be ready for some Black and Gold football.

Look up "diehard" in the dictionary, and you'll see a photo of Lance. No one yells any more boisterously. No one dresses any more gaudily. No one can harass the visitors quite like Vandy Lance.

There is simply no Vanderbilt fan anywhere quite as fanatical as Lance. The Vanderbilt administration even acknowledged Lance's fanaticism last year by letting him dot the exclamation point on the field as the band spelled out "Vandy!"

As a semi-regular feature this season, VandyMania will periodically share Lance's (totally biased) thoughts on the upcoming game. This week we asked Lance for his opinions on Vanderbilt's opener vs. Ole Miss (11:30 a.m. ET, Jefferson-Pilot TV, WSM AM-650 radio).

*****

"Believe it or not, things are getting better," babbles Lance, his mouth moving a mile a minute in his inimitable Southern growl. "I still think we're too young. But I think Bobby Johnson's doing all the right things. You've just got to win some games. You wanna have packed stadiums? You're just gonna have to win some games.

"And we're still not gonna cheat to do it! We're gonna hold onto our integrity. Now, the schools we're playing... well, they cheat, quite frankly.

"You ever notice? Vanderbilt is good-- REALLY good-- at every single sport, except what two sports? Football and men's basketball. That's where all the cheating is, and that's where all the low academics are. I'm not going any further than that, because I want to be politically correct. But I'm speaking the gospel, bubba!"

In some ways, Vandy Lance represents a lot of Vanderbilt fans, at least the most loyal ones who are still supporting the program despite all the hard times. What's his mood heading into a new football season? Up high?

He has to think about it a minute.

"Well, we're undefeated, so we're excited," replies Lance. "We know it's going to take Johnson a little while. It's all about recruiting.

"Now, if you've been paying attention to Johnson since he's been here, the recruiting has been a little better... and if you can win four or five games this year, it will get even better. But we're gonna have to beat some people that we're supposed to beat-- every time-- and beat a couple of people that we're not supposed to beat.

"These kids-- we're getting in their living rooms. And we're taking them on our campus. Everything's perfect, except we haven't won enough for them. If we can prove to them that we can beat a Georgia, that we can beat an Ole Miss, then we can take that and put it on the table and say, this is what you were asking for. And it will just take off."

OK, Lance, prediction time. The opener vs. Ole Miss... Labor Day weekend... a midday game...

"It's gonna be hot," Lance says. "I hope depth don't get us in the fourth quarter the way it's been doing for about the last 22 years. If we can give people a good start-- like I said, we're undefeated-- and give us something to yell about, we can win that ball game.

"Now, we've gotta do something about that preseason All-American throwing the ball [Ole Miss' Eli Manning]. If we can get to him and just frustrate him-- we're not going to stop him-- if we can frustrate him enough and score with them, we can beat 'em at home," he drawls, confidently.

Who's your favorite player this year, Lance? Yeah, OK, we know all the players are your favorites, but do you have anyone on this team that you look at and say, that's my kind of player?

"Oh man, I'm a big 6-pack fan," he says. "I'm a BIG 6-pack fan. That's No. 6, Bubba. Jay Cutler. I nicknamed him 6-pack and he loves it.

"He is the toughest guy. If our players at every other position could be as tough as our quarterback, we're gonna beat some people we're not supposed to beat.

"He's an extremely, extremely tough kid. Comes from a tough family. His Daddy is a cop. I absolutely love this guy."

OK, time for a season prediction. How many games we gonna win? I say we're going 7-5-- whattaya say?

"Awww... if we win four ball games, I'm gettin' me both goalposts."


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