Vanderbilt football looks forward to South Carolina after loss at Florida

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The Vanderbilt Commodores are already pushing a boulder up a steep hill as it is. No one expected them to beat Florida or even come particularly close to doing so. The last thing the Commodores need – and deserve – is a bad replay review to go against them.

By Matt Zemek

Yet, that’s what happened against Florida.

A touchdown catch by Chris Pierce which was reviewed for a very long time – which itself means the replay reviewer had a very difficult time making a decision on the call – got overturned. One can perhaps say that the call was right, but if a review takes a long time and then overturns a call, it reflects an inconsistency in procedure and interpretation. The very fact that a replay review takes longer than it should is itself a declaration that a play can’t clearly be evaluated. Maintaining the call on the field should be the industry standard if the review takes longer than a few minutes.

Point made. Let’s move on.

The final score was 42-0, but Vanderbilt did things which made the final score far more lopsided than it could have or should have been.

Florida, frankly (Gator fans would tell you this) did not play well. Vanderbilt could have scored that touchdown on the disputed and ultimately overruled Pierce catch. It also missed three field goals, shanked a punt, and allowed a 24-yard punt return. That’s nine points the Commodores missed, plus short fields for Florida which contributed to more Gator points. If you get out your calculators and do some simple math, what was a 42-point loss could have been 28-16 instead, when combining the points VU left on the field and the points the Dores allowed Florida to accumulate.

This is all very annoying, but it also shows that there is potential for growth and development with this team. Imagine a game in which available points not scored and cheap points easily allowed to the opposition are significantly reduced. Imagine a game in which Vanderbilt squanders few opportunities and doesn’t give the opposition any hand-delivered, gift-wrapped touchdowns. The Florida game involved at least 30 such points if not more (16 points not scored when they easily could have been, 14 points gift-wrapped for Florida, as a conservative estimate).

As the scene shifts to South Carolina for this Saturday’s upcoming game, that should be Clark Lea’s main point of focus: See what happens when nothing attainable is squandered, and when nothing cheap is hand-delivered to the opposition. Start there and watch how different a game can become when those two boxes are checked.

The simple beauty of this point of focus lies in the idea that Vanderbilt doesn’t have to do spectacular things to win games. One could certainly argue against that point, but the Commodores clearly have a problem making use of all their obvious opportunities in games, and they just as clearly have a problem avoiding the kinds of mistakes which make it easy for opponents to score.

Attain what is attainable. Give away nothing. It might not be enough to win games, but it will certainly mean Vanderbilt will not get blown out. It might not be enough to ultimately prevail, but it will definitely mean that a game will be within reach late in the third quarter instead of being done and dusted.

Vanderbilt played a four-quarter game against Connecticut. It hasn’t played very many four-quarter games this year in which the outcome was in doubt in the final minutes. If Vanderbilt wants to play a four-quarter game in which it is in the hunt until the very end, latching onto this idea of collecting the points which are immediately available and giving away nothing cheaply is a great building block for the Commodores and their new coaching staff.

Let’s see how far this can take them against South Carolina.

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