Depending on your team, the bye week can work for you, or against you. If you are coming off a loss, you can either sit around and obsess over the loss, or you can turn things around and head into your next game with the desire to put that loss completely behind you. On the other side, if you are coming off a win, a bye week can keep the momentum going and allow you to improve on weaknesses and build on your strengths.
For the Vanderbilt Commodores, the bye week is here. Unlike last season, the Commodores have a bye week, and have it at the right time. Vandy enters a much-needed off week with lots of positives to build off of after a 31-17 win in Nashville over the Ole Miss Rebels. No matter how good you thought Ole Miss was, it was a big win for this program, and puts them back in the right direction.
In what was considered a "must-win" game for the Commodores, they came out and handily defeated the Rebels, and move a step closer to bowl eligibility. Offensively, the Dores looked pretty impressive. Defensively, I don't think you could have asked for a much better game. Although there were some miscues in the game, they were still in control of the game throughout, and finally put the hammer down with a couple minutes left to go. With the bye week ahead, the Commodores are able to build off these mistakes, such as improving the kicking game and working on preventing the deep pass play. But all in all, the win was the best ingredient for a good bye week.
Even more importantly, the bye week also gives them time to rest up, and try to heal some nagging injuries. Several players had some minor injuries during the Ole Miss game, and the bye provides them some much needed downtime in order to progress the healing process. The off week gives quarterback Chris Nickson time to heal his hamstring, as well as the minor shoulder injury he suffered on Saturday. It also gives guys like Jeff Jennings and Theo Horrocks some downtime in order to get them ready to go for the next Commodore opponent, Eastern Michigan. For this team, it's obvious that the bye week couldn't have come at a better time.
Although there's probably one guy who wouldn't mind skipping the bye week, and that's Cassen Jackson-Garrison. The Dores' running back ran for 119 yards and three scores again Ole Miss on Saturday, in what was probably one of his best games as a Commodore. If he continues to play at a high level, it should make the Vandy offense much more balanced, and in turn, should make them much tougher to defend on a consistent basis. Jared Hawkins also ran the ball well against the Rebels, and if Jeff Jennings heals up this week, the coaching staff will have three solid running backs to work into the scheme. It's safe to say that the game against Ole Miss proved that the running game will be a key to our success if we can stay consistent in that aspect of the game.
And if you look at it, the schedule sets up nicely coming off the bye week. Although you must take every game seriously, which is something we could probably call Michigan 101 for the next couple years, playing a team like Eastern Michigan will give the Dores a chance to build even more momentum, before heading south to play the Auburn Tigers, who were upset by the Bulldogs of Mississippi State this past weekend. The best recipe for success against Eastern Michigan is to pick right up where they left off against the Rebels. If the Dores can once again establish the run, and the defense plays to the level they are capable of, things should take care of themselves next weekend here in Nashville.
All in all, things are looking up for Vanderbilt, as they now sit at 2-1 on the season, and have a great chance to be 3-1 after next Saturday. After last week's loss to Alabama, everyone was in doubt, and didn't know what to expect in the weeks ahead. But thanks to the win, things have become more peaceful in Commodore nation, and doubters have been quieted for the time being.
If the team can have an injury-free bye week, and can heal some other injuries, we should be in for a very interesting next couple of weeks as we head into the bulk of the SEC schedule.