Building the Masonic Tradition is a Vanderbilt Football blog written by VandyRadio sports hosts Joshua LeBorious and Jason Eggold, new for the 2015 season. They unwaveringly cover the Commodores for VandyRadio, keeping a steady watch on the Vanderbilt football front. Check in throughout the season for a realistic breakdown of all the stats and updates, as we cover the start of a Masonic tradition.
A New Dawn
Welcome back Vandy fans! This is Josh’s cohost Jason finally getting in on the blog action. Keep reading for a breakdown of Vandy’s opening game against Western Kentucky.
If you were with us last year for the opening game against Temple; that Thursday night filled with rain, lightning, and a delay so long barely anyone was left in the stands, then you probably remember how that game turned out. It’s too painful to report statistics, so I won’t refresh you all on those. Needless to say, it set a poor tone for our then new coach Derek Mason’s first season. Winning only three games after the previous coach (who shall remain nameless) went to three bowls in a row was a serious letdown. That being said, it was hardly surprising. In this offseason coaches were let go, new ones brought on board, and Coach Mason has transitioned to calling defensive plays, which, for anyone who remembers how much better the defense looked in the Tennessee game last year when he did the same, is definitely a step in the right direction. The team also did better in recruiting as well, which will help Vandy football in the next few years. In short, it’s a new season and a new team, and there’s no game like the first to make an impression.
I’ve probably never been to a more important game while attending Vandy than the one that’s about to happen on Thursday. You might think that games to get 6 wins and be bowl-eligible or even bowls themselves would be more important, but that’s not true. Honestly, our confidence was shaken last year. We were used to Vandy improving every year, and with a coach with Derek Mason’s resume we saw very little reason to expect the drop off that we did. Not only did it shake the fans’ confidence, but it no doubt had an impact on the players and the administration as well. Getting off to a strong start is necessary to regain the momentum that will be required to have an improved season. After we face WKU, our next opponent is Georgia, who we have little chance of beating without some sort of divine intervention, because even though we have gotten better we’re definitely not up to that level yet. We need to start off with a winning record, and with Austin Peay being our third contest, a win on Thursday would basically guarantee a 2-1 record to start this season; and a 2-1 start is exactly what Coach Mason needs in order to regain the fans’ trust and begin building his program to new heights in the future.
If you don’t know too much about college-level football, it might surprise you that the point spread for the game basically implies even footing on Thursday since WKU is not a very well-known team (a 3 point edge is usually given by default to the home team, and the spread is around 2 in Vandy’s favor), but in reality that seems generous to Vandy. WKU had one of the most prolific offenses in the 2014 season, with their quarterback passing for nearly 5,000 yards and throwing 49 touchdown passes with a completion rate near 65%, which is very high. A lot of that same offense is coming back this year, so expect to see a very high-tempo gameplay style on Thursday.
WKU’s explosive offense leads me to discuss what I believe is the key to victory for the Commodores: controlling the tempo of the game. We should expect to see a more stable quarterback situation-it looks like McCrary or Freebeck will get the starting gig, and we shouldn’t see a quarterback change every series like last year. Our receivers are looking better as well and hopefully our offense will be more complete this season, but it probably will not be as potent as WKU’s. What needs to happen is on the defensive side of the ball. Coach Mason needs to slow down WKU’s fast-paced gameplay to a manageable level because there is almost no way that we will win in a complete shootout-that’s just not how our team is built. If the defense can hold WKU to under 30 points that would be a good performance, and if they can keep them under 21, I will have confidence that they can hold almost any offense to a low score. Given his success in building up Stanford’s defense to one of the best in the country, I believe Coach Mason has all the tools he needs to make the game competitive.
That being said, this game is going to be close, and even if we can hold back WKU we probably will not be able to score much more than them. The game may very well be decided in the first few minutes; if WKU gets up early the game has a real possibility to get out of reach for Vandy. One other danger is if Vandy’s offense fails to move the ball and constantly punts, the defense will get tired and may give up a lot of points in the second half. This game, while definitely winnable, will be a true test of how our team can function this year as a cohesive unit.
While it will be tough for them, we the fans have to be there to give them the energy to get off to a great start to the 2015 season. I expect the student section to be loud and proud, because it’s good to be gold! Go ‘dores and ANCHOR DOWN!
Check out VandyRadio’s comprehensive Vanderbilt sports blog series. Building the Masonic Tradition covers Commodore football, The Black & Gold Standard covers VU hoops, and Eyes of the Hawk covers Vandy baseball. VandyRadio.com is your home for year-round coverage of your favorite Vanderbilt teams. ©Jason Eggold 2015