AUGUST - SEPTEMBER 2008 ARCHIVE
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TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 30- 1:03 PM
Well, it's official... ESPN's College GameDay show will broadcast live from The Commons, located on the edge of the east side of Vanderbilt's campus, this Friday and Saturday.
You may be thinking to yourself... The Commons? I've never heard of it. And why was that area chosen?
First, The Commons is a brand new residential area on campus specifically designed to house all first-year students (approximately 1,600 overall). It's a state-of-the-art living and learning facility covering six acres that consists of ten residence halls or Houses plus dining and educational areas.
Recently, ESPN has made an effort to broadcast their GameDay show from other parts of campus to showcase the universities, instead of the usual area surrounding the football stadium. For example, last week's show at Georgia was in one of their student quads. After surveying several locations for the show yesterday, The Commons was a no-brainer for the ESPN executives (and yes, it was their decision).
We'll post more news about the GameDay show on VUcommodores during the next day with a timeline of events including info on where to park and how to get to The Commons. I do know ESPN's GameDay show will air from 9 - 11 a.m. CT Saturday, with gates opening at 7 a.m. They will also broadcast from 3:30 to 3:50 p.m. Friday. The rest of ESPN's segments during and after the game will be inside the stadium.
We are going to need the Commodore Nation in full force at these events (especially Saturday morning) to show the rest of the world that support for the black and gold is as strong as it's ever been. These activities will be open to both the students and the public, so bring your family and friends out to enjoy an event that has never been to Nashville before!
If you want to learn more about The Commons, click here. Also, here's info from the 2008 football media guide:
This year, Vanderbilt officially opens The Commons, providing first-year students with one of the nation's truly unique and modern on-campus residential communities.
Built on six acres in the southeast quadrant of the Vanderbilt campus, The Commons includes ten residence halls or Houses, spacious study and social areas, and the showpiece Commons Center, a modern dining and activity hub, all located on the Peabody campus.
Vanderbilt officials believe The Commons will provide first-year students a truly special living/learning experience. Bringing scholars, leaders, teachers and learners together to create a vibrant intellectual community is at the heart of The Commons. It will be home to both new students and an extraordinary connection of people, ideas and opportunities that distinguish the Vanderbilt experience.
The Commons Center also features the Eatery, the place to dine with friends and study with classmates. At the Commons Cafe, students, faculty and staff can develop friendships while listening to Vanderbilt and Nashville musicians.
While all new students to Vanderbilt will reside in The Commons, plans are underway to eventually replace or renovate existing facilities to complete College Halls at Vanderbilt, the university's future residential college system.
Finally, with GameDay coming here, there's only one word for it: Rad.
Thanks to Wes for submitting this video from the 1986 BMX biking movie.
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 29- 5:24 PM
ESPN's College GameDay show is coming to town.
With eight ESPN television trucks scheduled to roll into town Thursday and the national spotlight glaring down on West End, it would be easy to get caught up in all the excitement around Saturday's game against No. 13 Auburn.
Even some of the players admitted at Monday's press conference to watching college football's most popular program, ESPN GameDay, on occasion.
"It's what you do on Saturday morning," senior placekicker Bryant Hahnfeldt said, "so for it to be here and be about our game, it means a lot to us."
Yes, the GameDay crew -- Chris Fowler, Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit and Desmond Howard -- will be on hand for the 19th-ranked Commodores' biggest game in a long, long time. In fact, you have to go back to World War II to find the last time Vanderbilt started a season 5-0.
But with all the attention and hype surrounding the event, the team only wants to talk about the importance of concentrating on the actual game and not the bells and whistles around it.
"I think it's great that we're getting this opportunity for them to come here," said senior safety Reshard Langford. "It's great for our fans and our students, but in the end it's about us playing football against Auburn and that's what it's going to be about."
Senior quarterback Chris Nickson agreed.
"The hype that's there, we enjoy it and appreciate it because it shows that our hard work hasn't gone unnoticed," added Nickson. "But in terms of gameday, we just want to perform well. That's the biggest thing about it."
Well, you can feel the excitement around campus... even Vanderbilt University mascots got in on the act and paraded through the Commons Dining Hall Sunday promoting the Commodores' upcoming game and appearance on College GameDay. Thanks to Jason for sending this in.
Finally, I couldn't end today's post without a video of the day.
I thought I'd show a clip from two weeks ago when the GameDay crew was at Auburn.
The question will be if Corso puts on Mr. Commodores' head in the final segment Saturday. Either way, it's always entertaining to see what he will do and I'm glad ESPN picked Nashville to host their show.
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 22- 9:48 PM
For 53 seconds on Saturday, Ole Miss had the Commodores on the ropes, looking for a knock-out punch. The Rebels scored 17 points in the blink of an eye, and Vanderbilt was facing an uphilll battle in a hostile road environment.
The Commodores responded to the challenge and held Mississippi scoreless for the rest of the game, earning their fourth win of the season and a No. 21 national ranking -- the first time since 1984.
Junior quarterback Mackenzi Adams can remember the other side of the coin.
Vanderbilt would stand toe-to-toe with the best in the country, but in the end, a play or two would cause the squad to come up short on the scoreboard.
Adams found himself in a similar situation at Ole Miss Saturday night when he replaced Chris Nickson, who exited the game with an injury in the third quarter.
You see, back in 2006, Adams tried to engineer a comeback in Oxford with Vanderbilt trailing 14-7 in the final minute. Adams drove the Commodores to the Rebels 22 before throwing an interception to end the game. It was the first time Adams had seen extended action on the field in his career (Nickson had left in the second quarter with an ankle injury).
"I got some good experience in that game," Adams recalled, "but I wasn't really developed as a quarterback yet. I didn't know exactly what I was doing."
This time around, Adams and the rest of the Commodores took matters into their own hands.
Holding a three-point advantage late in the fourth quarter, it looked like Vanderbilt would relinquish the lead to Ole Miss until redshirt freshman linebacker Chris Marve forced a game-changing fumble at the two-yard line to give the Commodores the football back.
The offense knew they had to at least get field position back and maybe even put points on the board.
As Adams entered the huddle, he could see the confidence in his fellow teammates.
"We were pumped and everyone was ready to go down and win," Adams said. "We just kept saying 4-0 in the huddle."
On the very first play from their own 20, Adams ripped off a 17-yard rush, followed by junior Jared Hawkins' 40-yard burst to the Ole Miss 23. The Commodores ran three more plays before senior placekicker Bryant Hahnfeldt nailed a 40-yard field goal to extend the lead to six with 31 seconds left.
The drive was not only important because it ran valuable time off the clock, but it forced the Rebels to score a touchdown -- instead of a field goal -- on their final drive. Once junior safety Ryan Hamilton recorded his third interception of the game to seal the 23-17 victory, the Commodores proved once again that their "do whatever it takes" attitude is here to stay.
"It's just a different vibe this year," said Adams. "It's my fourth year here and we've had some great players and some good teams, but there's something just a little bit different about this team.
"We had some bad things happen to us early in the (Ole Miss) game and nobody really freaked out. Everyone was still in it and focused and just ready to come back. We expect to win."
No matter what the odds have been this year, the Commodores haven't given up... just like Daniel Laruso.
You know where I'm going with this.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 19- 1:56 AM
With the nation abuzz over Vanderbilt's undefeated start, a team motto has emerged within the Commodores' locker room and spilled over onto the gridiron.
Faced with a lengthy bowl drought, losing six players to the NFL Draft, and an inexperienced starting lineup heading into the season, the Commodores knew they could count on some inspiration from within to turn things around.
Four simple letters that reflect the mentality of the 2008 squad: Do Whatever It Takes.
Through three games, it's apparent that the team has embraced the slogan.
Case in point: Rather than fading in the late stages of the game, the Commodores have been extremely productive, outscoring opponents 45-10 in the second half to clinch their victories.
"We've played in a lot of close games in the past that we didn't pull out," said junior safety Ryan Hamilton. "We've been close to bowl games every year I've been here, and a lot of guys are just tired of it. We want to go out, and we want to win every game. So this is a big thing for us."
Quarterback Chris Nickson agrees.
"Just to have DWIT as a representation of this organization and what we do, I think it's a perfect model for us, and I think we play with that mentality."
So how did it all start?
Junior center Bradley Vierling was in high school when his dad gave him the nickname DWIT. Vierling taped the motto to the top of his helmet as a reminder of the task at hand.
Fast forward to last spring's "It's Good to be Gold" film shoot, where Vierling shared his mindset on camera, not knowing it would become contagious with the rest of his teammates. The video was later discovered by senior co-captain Reshard Langford, and now the team is wearing black wristbands inscribed with the acronym.
"That's the kind of motto we need to have this year - do whatever it takes to win - because we have to change this program," said Langford. "We have a lot of goals to accomplish, so part of it's going to be doing whatever it takes to get there."
To Nickson, DWIT is bigger than football. It's the spirit of the players' lives on and off the field.
"Not only do whatever it takes to win, but do whatever it takes to help your teammates, do whatever it takes in the classroom, do whatever it takes in your spiritual growth, do whatever it takes in all aspects of life."
With a tough road ahead and only a quarter of the season finished, the Commodores know there's still work to be done to reach the destination for which they are striving.
"You're doing whatever it takes to get the job done and get the victory," Vierling said. "That's what it's all about."
Speaking of doing whatever it takes, Alfonso Ribeiro -- best known as Carlton from Fresh Prince of Bel Air, gave 110 percent in this video with eye-popping moves like the centipede. One of my favorite parts is at the end when they say it takes 4-6 weeks to ship the entire package. If only we had amazon.com when I was a kid... then I wouldn't have had to check the mailbox every day after school for a month in disappointment while I was waiting on my breakin' and poppin' collection.
and, if you watched that first video, I'll throw in this second one for free. I couldn't log off without showing footage of the final Carlton Dance. Enjoy.
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 17- 12:24 AM
Commodores to see new-look offense at Ole Miss
After holding Rice's high-powered offense scoreless in the second half last weekend, Vanderbilt's defense will face another stern test Saturday against first-year head coach Houston Nutt's revamped attack at Ole Miss.
"I think Coach Nutt brings an attitude of toughness and efficiency in offense to Mississippi," said Vanderbilt head coach Bobby Johnson. "I think he has made them so much better."
Not only do the Rebels still possess their signature power running game, but with the addition of sophomore quarterback Jevan Snead, a transfer from the University of Texas, Ole Miss now displays a more balanced offense that's averaging 34.3 points per game and 407.3 yards per outing.
At the core of their offense is an experienced starting line consisting of three seniors and two juniors. Led by All-American left tackle Michael Oher (6-5, 318), the Rebels front weighs a beefy average of 324 pounds -- 56 pounds heavier than the Commodores defensive line.
Johnson was complimentary of Oher, considered to be the nation's top tackle, during an interview with the 104.5 Wake Up Zone Tuesday.
"Oher's a huge, mobile offensive lineman and when he gets those big paws on you, it's over for that play. He's just hard to deal with."
When Nutt arrived in Oxford, he changed the Rebels blocking style to a more physical approach. The change has paid off and Ole Miss has yet to allow a sack on the year. With more time to throw, the offense has flourished under Snead, who's first in the SEC with six touchdown passes and second with 220 passing yards per game.
"He (Snead) has delivered for them," Johnson stated. "He gives them a big play opportunity on play-action passes. Overall, I have been very impressed with his consistency and how they have used him. He has a huge offensive line in front of him and they have done a good job of protecting him."
Snead has a trio of targets at receiver in junior Shay Hodge, junior Dexter McCluster and senior Mike Wallace. All three have at least eight catches and 150 yards receiving on the season.
Nutt has even added a few wrinkles to the play calling by installing the "Wild Rebel" formation, which features a player other than the quarterback taking the direct snap (usually McCluster), the same set he used with Darren McFadden at Arkansas.
And don't forget about the tailbacks. Freshman Brandon Bolden leads the team with 161 yards on the ground (6.7 per rush) while junior Cordera Eason has added 118 yards on 31 carries.
No matter what look Ole Miss presents, the Commodores defense will have to be ready for the new-look Rebel offense.
"They will run power football, but they're going to try and test us in the passing game also because they have a quarterback who can deliver the football," added Johnson. "It's going to be a game where we're going to have to play it all, which makes Ole Miss much harder to play than last year."
And to close today's post, here's a random video of one of my favorite informercials from the 80's.... BluBlockers.
"So there you have it folks, out there in TV land, getcha some glasses that's sweepin' the land."
Oh, and if you want a pair of these polarized sunglasses, they still make them... click here!
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 15- 9:56 AM
MONDAY MORNING NOTES FROM MCGUGIN
Hahnfeldt Breaks Career Scoring Mark
One of the best stories of the Commodores 3-0 start has to be senior placekicker Bryant Hahnfeldt.
After experiencing plenty of ups and downs throughout his career (like all kickers do), Hahnfeldt looks like he's fully recovered from a 2006 leg injury and has been nothing short of spectacular during his senior campaign.
The Nashville native now stands as Vanderbilt's all-time leading scorer with 210 points after contributing eight points in the Commodores 38-21 victory over Rice Saturday night. His extra point after Chris Nickson's touchdown run in the fourth quarter pushed him past fellow Montgomery Bell Academy product John Markham (1997-2000) on the career list.
"I feel really good kicking the ball," said Hahnfeldt. "I had a fine preseason camp, felt good in those first two games, and kicked well this past week."
Showing more leg strength in 2008, Hahnfeldt's been perfect on field goals (4-for-4) and extra points (12-for-12). Two of his attempts have been successful from between 40-49 yards with several yards to spare. His booming 48-yard field goal in the third quarter against Rice was critical because it enabled the Commodores to get its first double-digit lead (31-21) in the high-scoring affair.
"Bryant's such a gamer," said Nickson. "He came in and put some points on the board and gave us something out of the drive. It was great for us and helped us continue to keep our momentum."
Scoring hasn't been the only place Hahnfeldt's provided a boost. On kickoffs, four of his five touchbacks came against Rice, forcing the Owls potent offense to start from their own 20-yard line.
"Everybody was wondering if Bryant was good enough and now he is the leading scorer in the history of our program," said head coach Bobby Johnson. "He has been a good kicker ever since he has been here."
Opening the season with three wins has been exciting, no doubt about it.
Having the opportunity to be around the postgame press conferences, it's obvious to me that this team has a confidence about them that's as high as it's ever been in my six years of following football on West End.
Sure, the players know the history of the program and the pressures that come with it. They are reminded about it on a weekly basis on and off camera. Even after a big win, the focus is on whether or not they will have a letdown the following week.
But I don't sense that any of the guys are satisfied just yet. They know there's still a long mountain to climb to get that coveted `prize' that Chris Nickson referred to after the third victory.
Here are a couple of post-Rice comments that I thought displayed this never-quit attitude:
Nickson: "I'm very excited about what we've done. I'm more excited about what were going to do. Our team's confidence is way high and we couldn't ask for a better situation for Vanderbilt football right now. We're going keep our heads up and our eyes on the prize each game and just continue to focus."
Hahnfeldt: "We have confidence in everybody. Whoever has the ball wants to get the job done and we can count on anybody right now."
Myron Lewis: "Our defense is a four-quarter team, not a second half team. We struggled a little bit in the first half, but we settled down. As the game went on, we pulled it together."
Moore Continues to Shine
When D.J. Moore touches the ball, we expect big things to happen.
After the junior specialist ran a punt back 17 yards into Rice territory during the first quarter, I found myself to be a little disappointed.
Disappointed? Really? That's just ridiculous.
But it's also a compliment.
We've all come to know Moore as an explosive playmaker who can impact a sixty-minute game with one jaw-dropping play, whether it's on defense, offense or special teams.
"Every time they put me in the position to get the ball," said Moore, "I think that I can make a big play or score."
In his first year handling punts, Moore's almost hit the paydirt twice with returns of 91 (Miami) and 67 (Rice) yards in which he ended up one yard short of reaching the pylon.
Moore, whose lone collegiate score came on an interception against Eastern Michigan last year, knows it's only a matter of time until he becomes the first Commodore to return a punt for a touchdown since Jimmy Williams in 1999 (65-yard score vs. Northern Illinois).
"I was thinking to myself, 'One yard short, again?' I'll get one before too long."
On the night, Moore finished with 206 all-purpose yards. He had 84 yards on punt returns, 54 on kick returns, 37 yards rushing and 31 yards on an interception return.
For the season, he's tied for the SEC lead with two interceptions, second in punt return average (29.0) and third in passes defended average (1.33).
When describing the type of player Moore is, I think Coach Johnson's preseason remarks said it best:
"I've seen a lot of guys who can do that many things, but not many who can do them that well," Johnson said. "D.J. is just a pretty talented player, one of those guys that really knows how to play football."
I'll close out this morning's post with the video of the day.
Nobody would be prouder of our 3-0 start than Mr. Perfect himself, Curt Hennig. Hennig is joined by six-time Pro Bowl tight end Steve Jordan, who should get an oscar for this inspiring acting performance. Simply perfect!
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 10- 9:29 PM
As I stopped by Memorial Practice Gym Wednesday morning to peek in on the men's basketball intro video shoot, I was surprised to see the team sporting a new look for this fall.
That's right. The Commodores will be switching to Nike's System of Dress design. You might remember Arizona, Florida, Syracuse and Ohio State as the first schools to debut this style of uniform last season.
Vanderbilt's 2008-09 outfits will now feature a more lightweight, form-fitting jersey with loose-fitting shorts. The Dri-FIT materials will also include a superior moisture management system.
I did some research on Nike's website about System of Dress and here's what I found:
"System of Dress from Nike is a dramatic new design direction in basketball performance and customized fashion," said Nike Executive Hans George. "It is a performance look borne out of a shift in culture surrounding the game to a more sophisticated, tailored look, but also the desire among youth to personalize their uniform."
So what do some of the players think about the new look?
"They're really exciting," said sophomore forward Darshawn McClellan. "I was kind of waiting and anticipating to see what they would look like, and they turned out great.
"I like the fit and the new material. It's pretty light, so when you get drenched in sweat they won't be as heavy; and I just like the design of them."
Sophomore forward Andre Walker was also pleased with the uniform.
"It's tighter and it also is a little lighter," added Walker. "I like how it sticks to your body. It's sort of like wearing compression shorts, but up top, and I like the shorts because they're baggy and you know we like our shorts baggy."
The Vanderbilt script on the jersey will stay the same, and the primary star logo will be placed on each side of the shorts.
College basketball fans can expect to see more schools in this style for the upcoming year. To learn more about System of Dress, click here.
Check out these photos of the new black uniforms:
VIEW PHOTO GALLERY
And to show how trends have changed in athletic wear, here's a flashback to the 80's with Olivia Newton John's hit "Physical."