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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 Eight: The end is near

Vanderbilt made history on Saturday as Sarah Fuller became the first woman to play in a Power Five college football game. Unfortunately, for the Commodores, they are also on the verge of making a different type of history: becoming the first winless team in Vanderbilt football history.
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Cam Johnson (7) is pulled down by Missouri linebacker Nick Bolton on Nov. 28, 2020. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

It was the perfect opportunity for Vanderbilt to make a statement. 

For most of the week, the Commodores were the center of national sports news, as they should have been. Vanderbilt and Sarah Fuller made history. The type of history where many people will remember exactly where they were when Fuller’s kickoff happened. 

So as a result, on Saturday morning, thousands of people tuned it to a game between the winless Vanderbilt Commodores and a mediocre, uninspiring Missouri team. The Commodores had way more people watching it than their play so far had merited. But with all these extra eyes on your program, might as well show something to be proud of right?

Nope. 

Instead, the Commodores laid a ginormous egg. Both in the goose egg that they put up on the scoreboard and the complete lack of fight and competitiveness shown from the opening kickoff. 

Vanderbilt was embarrassed by a final score of 41-0 and got completely dominated on both sides of the ball, with the Tigers out-gaining them 603-185 in total yards. 

“We just didn’t have it today,” Mason said after the game. 

You don’t say?

Without further ado, the Week Eight brunch menu:

Jimmies and Joes

“It’s not about the X’s and O’s man; it’s definitely about the Jimmies and Joes,” Mason said in his postgame press conference.

Loosely translated, Mason is attributing the team’s lack of success to the players rather than the playcalling. 

While I definitely have my share of skepticism over some play calls and schemes, I guess one could argue that Mason has a point. This team, more specifically on the defensive side of the ball, is severely depleted at the moment. A lot of this is due to things like injuries, COVID-19 cases and extended quarantine periods. These things are to be expected in 2020. But not all of the defensive struggles can be attributed to this. 

Why is it that, seemingly every week, someone else from the Vanderbilt defense opts out for the year or enters the transfer portal, many of whom are starters? 

This week it was starting linebacker Dimitri Moore and his 36 tackles. On Nov. 12, it was defensive backs Frank Coppet and DC Williams

It’s not normal for this to be happening so frequently, and it definitely raises questions about what exactly is going on in that Vanderbilt locker room. It’s also interesting that this comment came after a game against… Missouri? The Tigers are not exactly known as a recruiting powerhouse full of athletes that completely outmatch those at Vanderbilt. 

Predictably, the Vanderbilt defense was gashed yet again this week. This time by a Missouri offense ranked dead last in the conference in total offense. Larry Rountree III carried the ball 21 times for 160 yards and three scores. Quarterback Connor Bazelak completed 30 of 37 passes for 318 yards. Give credit to Dayo Odeyingbo for making some big plays but, apart from that, it was a disaster on that side of the ball. 

You can blame it on the “Jimmies and Joes” if you want. But I don’t believe Missouri’s roster is 41 points better than Vanderbilt’s. I just don’t. 

An Offensive Setback

For much of the season, Ken Seals has been incredibly impressive as a true freshman quarterback. The offense, particularly in the last few games, has been surprisingly successful, especially given the low expectations for the group entering the season. Much of the low expectations were due to an offensive line that had four starters opt-out before the season began, prompting moves such as Drew Birchmeier converting from a defensive lineman to an offensive one. But, for the most part, the line has held their own, giving Seals time in the pocket and even opening up some holes on the ground for Keyon Henry-Brooks. 

Against Missouri, however, the offense took a step back. A big one at that. 

Seals had by far the worst game of his young career, going 11/18 for just 79 yards and an abysmal quarterback rating of just 26.1. To put all the blame on Seals though, would be unfair. 

For the first time all season, the offensive line was completely manhandled up front. And it made all the difference.

It seemed as if, every other play, there was at least one Tiger in the backfield just a few seconds after Vanderbilt snapped the ball. Seals was sacked five times and hurried another three. The Tigers’ front seven were just as dominant in the ground game, holding Keyon Henry-Brooks, who had back-to-back over 100 yard rushing efforts before this game, to just 64 yards on 15 carries. 

The Commodores did not enter the red zone once all game and struggled to even make it across midfield. When they finally would reach Missouri territory, things like a false start or delay of game penalty pushed them out of it in mere seconds. 

It wasn’t pretty. 

Making History 

Twenty years from now, very few people will remember what happened in the game where Missouri beat Vanderbilt 41-0, dropping the Commodores to 0-8 for the season. And, honestly, we would all be lucky to forget this game as soon as possible. 

But one play will be remembered forever. 

Sarah Fuller took the second half kickoff and officially became the first woman to play in a Power Five college football game. She executed the squib kick perfectly, keeping the ball in bounds and in a position at the 35-yard line where the Tigers could not return it. 

And yes, Twitter tough guys, the design was for it to be a squib kick. No, you who played two years of JV football could not do that. 

It was of course disappointing that the Vanderbilt offense was not able to get in field goal range for her to attempt a field goal, but, nevertheless, the moment was still amazing. 

For her part, Fuller could not have handled the situation better. She did it all with a smile on her face and never let the moment get the best of her. She even gave the team a pep talk at halftime

“I just think it’s incredible that I am able to do this,” Fuller said. “And all I want to do is be a good influence to the young girls out there, because there were times I struggled in sports. But I am so thankful I stuck with it. It’s given me so many opportunities. I’ve met so many amazing people through sports. Literally, you can do anything you set your mind to, that’s the number one thing.” 

Her barrier-breaking kick was inspiring to young girls all across the world and its impact will reverberate for a long time. 

Fuller made history on Saturday and Vanderbilt, for all the program’s faults, should be incredibly proud to be a part of it. 

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About the Contributor
Alyssa Muir, Former Deputy Sports Editor
Alyssa Muir ('21) was Deputy Sports Editor for The Vanderbilt Hustler. She majored in economics with minors in business and sociology. When she has free time, she can usually be found binge-watching Grey's Anatomy or rooting on her hometown teams, the Tampa Bay Rays and Tampa Bay Lightning. For tips and comments, feel free to reach out to: [email protected].    
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