Vandy Lance's season preview

No, he still hasn't graduated. But Lance Smith is to Vandy fans what Lance Armstrong is to cycling... he's the king, the imperial poo-bah, the Commodore-in-Chief. For the third straight season, the inimitable, irrepressible Vandy Lance returns to share his (highly biased) thoughts with VandyMania readers. Buckle your chinstraps, Bubba, because it's almost time to strap it up.

You know what? A lot of people label me the No. 1 Vandy fan... but I'm really not. Yeah, I'm probably the loudest and most obnoxious, but there's fans like the Hollands that haven't missed a football game in 16 years, at home or on the road. There are plenty of others more well-deserving than me.

On the other hand, I don't see them putting their face and their big mouth out there as much as me...

This time every year, I only have one way of thinking about the season... and that's that we're undefeated, untied and un-scored upon. If you ask me, I think Wake Forest is going to be thinking about someone else, so we might as well just go ahead and win that first game and wake everybody up.

I don't think we've got near the pressure on us this year. Aint nobody talkin' bowl. There ain't nobody acting like they're the big shot. Yeah, OK, we had some players that left, and thought their time might be better spent somewhere else. I don't hold nothin' against 'em... maybe they are better off. (I want 'em to come back and graduate, but maybe they are better off.)

But listen up, y'all, we got us a pretty good group of young kids right here. We've still got a coaching staff that loves being around each other. They love coaching! Yeah, I know it appeared that in some games we might've gotten outcoached once or twice. But we're not perfect, and we've never pretended to be perfect. If you think I'm gonna use my space to talk ugly about somebody who coaches at Vanderbilt, or somebody that plays at Vanderbilt, you've got the wrong guy.

At least our coaches had us in some games to win! And quite frankly, some of those games were not only out of our hands, they were out of the other team's hands too... if you catch my drift.

Whattya think we got instant replay for this year? I've always said that at Vanderbilt, you've always got to knock the champ clean out. You're not gonna get a call. You're not gonna get that respect. You gotta win that respect. I believe once we can beat somebody that we're not supposed to beat... and let our kids know, let the officials know, let the other team's fans know that we mean business instead of being somebody's scrimmage game, that's when we're gonna turn this thing around.

I can't judge how this instant replay thing is gonna work. I haven't seen it yet. But my thinking is, what can it hurt? Fact is, if I can see it, if you can see it, and everybody else in the stadium can see it... maybe somebody can replay it, slow it down a little bit, and those guys in the striped shirts can see what we saw.

Last year in the Rutgers game, Jay Cutler completes a long pass that would have sealed the win. Their whole coaching staff goes ballistic on this one official-- one who wasn't even near the line of scrimmage, coming from the other side of the field!-- and he throws the flag. That hurts. But then-- OK, let me be honest, so I don't blame everything on the officials-- we never should have let Rutgers back in that game. They never should have been in the position to come back and win that football game.

When we've got somebody down, we can't let them get up and breathe. Teams make big plays against us, plays that you'll never see the rest of your life. If we don't play 40 minutes, we can't win! We've got to win those last minutes of the game too. (Ed. Note: Football games have 60 minutes, but we didn't want to stop Lance while he was on a roll.)

We've got such good kids. We'll have our moments, but for the most part our kids don't get in trouble. We're still graduating 95 percent of 'em. We've just got to find a way to beat Ole Miss... Arkansas... (You know, don't you, that out there in Arkansas, those people eat the whole pig... the feet, the tongue, everything.)

As I was saying, until we find a way to beat them, we're only dreaming.

But while we're dreaming... what were we last year, three completions away from beatin' Tennessee? In the last game of the year?

It's not going to take a Top Ten recruiting class. Hey, how would you like to have to recruit to Vanderbilt, after 22 straight losing seasons? We've got to have a winning season, and we're gonna have to do it with high-character players, people that won't quit. You have to be able to win with what you've got.

Just look at this freshman class we got in here. You look at 'em, you can't pick 'em out as soon as you walk out at Fan's Day now. Have you seen the Bennett kid? He looks 32 years old! He looks like somebody we usually have to play against!

I haven't talked to anybody lately that seems like they remember any bad moments at Vanderbilt. Some fans might be a little discouraged, and we've had a few players leave... but on the other hand, just look at Cutler and Moses, who decided to stay around.

I'm tellin' you right now, Cutler made lifelong fans for himself, people that he will never meet, by his coming back and not quitting on the Vanderbilt people. Twenty years from now, people will remember that-- whether we win or not! It's because of what he told Vanderbilt. When other people were leaving, giving up on the program, this kid-- who gets hit more than any other quarterback in the NCAA-- decides to come back. That speaks volumes. Nobody deserves to win a football game any more than that kid right there.

It's not a question of competing, folks... it's a question of finishing! And believing! Until you get that mindset... until you find a way to break through and open up those floodgates...

And nobody's gonna give it to us, either. We've been losing for 22 years now. Man, I hope we do it soon... 'cause some of us are running out of time.

"Vandy" Lance Smith (All photos by Brent Wiseman for Top Stories