By the time the game ended between the Vanderbilt Commodores and the Florida Gators, everything was broken.
The Commodores were broken. Vanderbilt Twitter was broken. Even ACME Feed and Seed was broken.
Severe damage to the roof bar of Acme Feed and Seed. It will be closed for the foreseeable future. pic.twitter.com/0KtQhq54Qx
— Nashville Fire Dept (@NashvilleFD) October 13, 2018
In the most incredible Vanderbilt moment of all time, the bar that Vanderbilt students go to in order to ditch football games broke during a football game.
This is why we can’t have nice things.
Here’s your Commodore Brunch menu for this week:
The Mamba Ate, then he Ate No More
If the first half of this game proved anything, it’s that the Commodores must protect Ke’Shawn Vaughn at all costs.
Give him extra security around campus. Add extra padding in practice. Do whatever you can to keep him healthy moving forward, because he is the key to offensive success.
Before he got hurt near halftime, Vaughn was energizing the Vanderbilt offense. He was the team’s leading rusher for the full 60 minutes and he didn’t even play in the second half. He broke off some long runs, and also scored an electric 75-yard touchdown on a screen pass.
He was a huge reason why Vanderbilt raced out to a 21-3 lead, and his absence in the second half was a huge reason why Vanderbilt’s offense completely collapsed and only scored six points in the latter half of the game. Without him on the field, Vanderbilt’s offense sputtered and couldn’t seem to string drives together without a legitimate rushing threat.
Vaughn is legit. He’s quick, he’s fiery and he runs hard on every single play. The offense looks infinitely more dynamic when he’s on the field. The Commodores better hope he’s healthy next week against Kentucky, and Vaughn himself seemed to indicate as much on Twitter.
Hey, Where’s Kalija?
In the second half of the game, while Vaughn was missing from the field, it seemed wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb was missing from Vanderbilt’s game plan.
Throughout this game, Lipscomb accounted for four catches on six targets, and all of his catches went for 10+ yards. Quarterback Kyle Shurmur threw 36 pass attempts throughout the game. That means that only six of those 36 passes went to his team’s top receiver.
With your dynamic running back out for the remainder of the game, how do you not target your top wide receiver more? It’s true that Florida’s coverage on Lipscomb was excellent, but you have to be able to get the ball to him more. That comes down to game planning and putting Lipscomb in positions to get the ball.
You have to be able to adjust on the fly and create more plays that give Lipscomb a chance to catch the ball. Instead, the offense sputtered and couldn’t even find the end zone. Regardless of how the defense fared, the offense could have kept the team in the game if it had figured out how to get a spark.
That spark should have been Lipscomb. It needs to be Lipscomb going forward.
Stop Questioning Vanderbilt’s Toughness
During this game, I noticed a familiar trope come up among Twitter users.
“Maybe VU players should grow a spine,” one user said. “Always weak when it matters most. Maybe today will be different.”
This is such a tired and lazy narrative. The athletes that put on the black and gold for Vanderbilt are as tough as they come. They go up against juggernaut teams week in and week out and hold their ground. That takes some guts.
Just look at the way the Commodores stood up to Florida players that came dangerously close to bumping into an injured player on the field.
Benches clear after Vandy head coach Derek Mason screams "F— YOU! F— YOU!" at Dan Mullen. pic.twitter.com/dV6BI9lbN7
— Cork Gaines (@CorkGaines) October 13, 2018
First of all, getting that close to an injured player is downright ugly and wrong. He was already injured by a reckless and dirty Florida defender, but having the entire team encroach on his player’s space was absolutely abhorrent. But Vanderbilt’s response was justified and showed its mettle.
The Commodores were ready to come to blows over their teammate. Head coach Derek Mason was right to restrain them, but the fact that they were ready to square up over this incident shows that they aren’t afraid of anybody and won’t back down to any opponent.
Vanderbilt athletes are a special breed. It takes a special kind of mental fortitude to be able to take the field at home and battle against an intimidating opponent with the majority of fans wearing the opposing team’s colors. Despite the loss, this game showed that Vanderbilt players are tough mentally and physically.
Stop questioning the strength of these athletes. They deserve better.