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.

For Vanderbilt Football, there are no moral victories. At all.

Hunter Long
Vanderbilt plays Notre Dame on Saturday. September 15, 2018. (Photo by Hunter Long)

Saturday’s game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish ended with another tally in the Notre Dame win column. Players, coaches and Commodore Faithful had high hopes it would end differently, but very few were taken aback by the loss.

The winning team may not have come as a surprise, but all things considered, the outcome of the game did. College football fans across the nation had their eyes on Vanderbilt.

Notre Dame is not to be taken lightly—they entered the game with over 1,000 votes on the coaches poll, ranking them eighth in the nation. Vanderbilt, the visiting team, hadn’t been ranked in the top 10 since 1947. They had a meager three votes in the coaches poll, placing them well outside the top 25 looking in. The Commodores were coming off decisive back-to-back wins against MTSU and Nevada, but were still the 14-point underdogs.

They played a mistake-ridden game and lost by just five points.

They suffered from two fumbles and an interception. Notre Dame didn’t turn the ball over once. Vanderbilt lost by just five points.

They fumbled on the one-yard line. Shortly thereafter, they were forced to settle for three after Donaven Tennyson dropped a very short, touchdown-destined pass from Kyle Shurmur. Vanderbilt lost by just five points.

Yes, the Commodores may have lost, but they sure did make a statement in this game. They impressed reporters everywhere, both those with and without previous ties to the school.




If one thing’s for sure, it’s that Vanderbilt could’ve won that ballgame. People now see the Commodores in a new light, as a team on the rise. That has to be worth something.

Not quite.

“If people feel good about that, great,” head coach Derek Mason said. “We don’t. We play the game to win. This isn’t little league baseball where everybody gets a trophy.”

Mason wants no praise from this game. Jared Pinkney said fans should be encouraged to attend the game because they “saw that we took a top-10 team to the ropes,” but for Mason, there’s no satisfaction unless there’s execution.

“It’s not like I can put a moral victory in my backpack, walk it down the street and get some energy from it. It doesn’t work that way. What you have to do is execute,” Mason said.

Kalija Lipscomb had himself a career day—his 11 receptions set a personal record. Lipscomb was one many Vanderbilt players to showcase great playmaking ability, drawing a large constituent of NFL scouts at Monday’s practice.

Surely, Lipscomb was wary of how impactful his performance would be on his NFL stock.

Wrong again.

“I didn’t really reflect on it individually. I guess I had a career high, I didn’t really think about it much,” he said.

Lipscomb cited the 24-hour rule as reason to move on from this loss, but directly after the game, he had just one thought: his final target.

Lipscomb nearly made a miraculous fourth-down catch to keep Vanderbilt’s last drive, and hopes to win, alive. As he leapt and fully extended his body, he barely corralled the ball at the apex. On the descent, Notre Dame’s safety Jalen Elliot jarred the ball loose at the last possible moment. Lipscomb felt as though he deserved blame.

The Commodores may have turned heads with their performance, but turning heads was not enough.

“No moral victories. We play the game to win,” Lipscomb said. “On the bus back [I received] texts and calls that said, ‘good game’ or ‘good effort.’ I don’t want any of that. I’d rather hear ‘good win, you guys did your thing.’”

Kalija Lipscomb and Derek Mason would agree with the great Frank Robinson that “close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.” They came close, but Notre Dame is no longer at the forefront of their minds.

Their only focus is going 1-0 this week, a challenge that starts and ends at home against South Carolina.

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About the Contributors
Simon Gibbs
Simon Gibbs, Former Sports Editor
Simon Gibbs (‘21) is the former Sports Editor for The Vanderbilt Hustler. He has been on staff since the first semester of his freshman year, previously serving as a Staff Writer, Senior Writer and Deputy Sports Editor. Simon is also the host of VU Sports Wired on Vanderbilt Video Productions and The Hustler Sports 30 on VandyRadio. Simon has attended several events as credentialed media, including the 2019 NFL Draft, 2019 College Baseball World Series and the 2019 SEC Tournament. Outside of his Commodore coverage, Simon has had bylines published on and When he's not writing, you can find Simon watching his hometown New York Mets, waiting for that next ring. For tips, comments or concerns, please reach out to: [email protected]    
Hunter Long
Hunter Long, Former Multimedia Director
Hunter Long (’21) is from Austin, TX and double majored in molecular biology and medicine, health and society. He is an avid lover of film photography, good music and all things coffee. He can be reached at [email protected].    
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