The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Commodore Brunch Week Nine: With apologies to Kyle Shurmur

Khari Blasingame (23) about to score a touchdown for the Vanderbilt Commodores on September 1, 2016. Photo by Emily Goncalves.

The Vanderbilt Hustler was all set to make the road trip to cover Vanderbilt’s matchup with South Carolina in Columbia, but last-minute issues with some of our team members forced us to cancel our trip.

We’re actually happier that we didn’t go.

The old dog of Vanderbilt couldn’t learn new tricks and fell to the South Carolina Gamecocks 34-27 on Saturday. The game was marred by targeting penalties, mishaps on defense and some injuries that could prove costly for Vanderbilt.

Here is your Commodore Brunch menu for this week:

Kyle “PLEASE HELP ME” Shurmur

For the first time in a few weeks, let’s start this Brunch column with a positive note. Kyle Shurmur is a freaking incredible quarterback.

Very few other quarterbacks could turn that performance into a close game. Shurmur’s 27 completions for 333 yards and four touchdowns should win any team a ball game.

Factor in the fact that Vanderbilt’s two best running backs, Ralph Webb and Khari Blasingame, went down with injuries and could not play through the stretch run of the game and you just might think Shurmur isn’t human.

Yes, his late-game drive came up short, but you can’t blame him for that (more on the play calling on that drive later). For the past few weeks, Shurmur has been the lone bright spot for the Commodores. Despite losing some pretty awful games, Shurmur is fifth in the SEC in passing yards, seventh in quarterback rating and second in the league in touchdown passes.

Two weeks ago, I said that Shurmur should make his offensive line do his laundry, scrub his feet and buy him dinner. Now, that might not be asking enough of his teammates.

Shurmur should be making his teammates drive him everywhere he needs to go, spoon-feed his lunch to him, fluff his pillows, do his homework, take his tests for him and then bribe the Honor Council to leave him alone. That’s how much credit Shurmur deserves.

A Series of Unfortunate Key Play Calls

Every year, it seems Vanderbilt has one questionable play call in a key situation that makes you wonder “how did this guy ever get hired?”

Last season, it was the decision to play Wade Freebeck for two series’ at quarterback after Shurmur led a masterful touchdown drive in the middle of the season opener against the Gamecocks. Earlier this season, Vanderbilt elected to take an onside kick with three minutes remaining, two timeouts left and a seven-point deficit against Florida.

This week, it was the deep pass on third-and-three in South Carolina territory.

With 1:18 left on the clock, Vanderbilt faced a third-and-three from the South Carolina 40-yard line. Instead of doing everything to just get the first down, the play called was a deep route to Trent Sherfield, falling incomplete. Vanderbilt would fail to convert on fourth down, ending the comeback attempt.

There is so much wrong with this play call, it’s hard to fathom. First, are you telling me Vanderbilt had no plays to get just three yards through the air? You could run a play comprised of all curl routes and you would have gotten the first down. That’s not any advanced analysis: that’s a recommended play in Madden. The clock stops until the chains get moved, so they would have had ample time to run the hurry-up offense or spike the ball.

Second, there was 1:18 left on the clock. That means that if the deep throw had succeeded, Vanderbilt would have given Jake Bentley, who looked like Steve McNair throughout this game, over a minute to get into field goal range for his kicker to win the game. That sounds like a situation Vanderbilt doesn’t want to be in, especially given the continuation of Vanderbilt’s poor tackling on defense.

You know what doesn’t give South Carolina over a minute to win the game? A THREE-YARD PASS.

Once again, Vanderbilt went for the flashy in lieu of the practical when the pressure was on, and failed miserably. This one doesn’t fall on Derek Mason, this is entirely on Andy Ludwig’s shoulders. He calls the offensive plays and he deserves the blame for what was a horrible decision in a key situation.

How many times are the people in charge going to let these kinds of mistakes slide?

Bowls on the Brain

With each passing loss, Vanderbilt’s leash gets shorter and shorter. With four games remaining, Vanderbilt needs to win three of them to secure bowl eligibility.

Realistically, they probably only need five wins to get into a bowl game. However, it’s not worth it to do more calculations regarding bowl games because if Vanderbilt continues to play like they’re stuck in the mud, they won’t make a bowl game.

Vanderbilt will miss out on a bowl game if they continue on this trajectory. Something has to change, and it has to change fast.

Even if Vanderbilt sneaks into a bowl game, for the first time in history, this team should be upset at themselves. The Commodores should have been competing for an SEC East title now, not clawing for six wins. For the sake of the growth of this program, this team should be upset with a six-win season, and anything worse should be absolutely unacceptable.

If you really want the standards for Vanderbilt football to change, act like it. Be upset. Don’t let this team sneak into a bowl game and call it a successful season.

Side note: the pipe dream of a matchup between Vanderbilt and Tennessee at Neyland with bowl eligibility and Butch Jones’ job on the line is still a possibility. Now, Butch just needs to hang on to his job. Keep up those leadership reps, Vols.

Vanderbilt gets their next chance for win number four when they host Western Kentucky this Saturday.

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About the Contributor
Cutler Klein
Cutler Klein, Former Sports Editor
Cutler Klein ('19) was the Sports Editor of the Vanderbilt Hustler. He previously served as Assistant Sports Editor. He majored in communication studies in the College of Arts and Science. When he's not writing stories, tweeting silly GIFs or watching any hockey game he can find, Cutler is running the sports department of VandyRadio, hosting VU Sports Wired on VTV and covering the Nashville Predators as a credentialed media member for Penalty Box Radio. Cutler has had bylines on and
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