Sept. 17, 2011
Complete Recap: Vanderbilt 30, Ole Miss 7
The radio was playing Buffalo Springfield's 1968 classic "Somethings Happening Here" as we drove to the stadium.
It was a harbinger of what would happen hours later and could be the theme song for Vanderbilt Athletics right now. There's something happening here!
On this perfect September afternoon, the college football world sees the Commodore football team heading in the proper direction. True. But if one could walk the hallways of McGugin Center on a regular basis it is apparent there's something happening on many other fronts. Let's focus first on football.
Last January James Franklin challenged his new charges to become one of the fastest teams in the SEC by following the lead of Dwight Galt, his savvy and experienced conditioning coach. Flash forward to the third quarter of Saturday's rout and television analyst Andre Ware is telling viewers "even though we heard a lot about the Ole Miss team speed, Vanderbilt seems the faster team today."
It sure did - on both sides of the ball. The smaller Vanderbilt defensive line made life miserable on the Rebel quarterbacks, dominating the trenches and forcing mistakes that for the third consecutive game led directly to pay dirt. How many mistakes? Well, there were five Vandy interceptions today, making a total of ten in just three games.
Offensively even the grumpiest skeptic would have to acknowledge progress. The behind-the-back Statue of Liberty from Larry Smith to Zac Stacy was nifty and speaking of Stacy, he had 11 carries and 178 yards while the game was being decided.
Franklin does not look beyond the next game and refuses to allow anyone in his program to do it either. He showed his emotional side early in his post-game press conference, choking up as he tried to thank his team and coaches for giving it their all since last winter. But he was equally passionate making the point that there is much work to be done.
When someone wondered if he could ask more of his defensive unit, he replied simply: "Yes."
Enlarging the picture beyond football to the total program, there's something happening here. Big-time recruits representing a handful of sports were on hand for official visits this weekend. Nice timing. The special guests meet with Vanderbilt faculty, attend a class or two and get to know members of the athletic department. David Williams, for one, dedicated four and a half hours to those visits.
Vanderbilt will field two excellent basketball teams this winter and baseball is always a contender. Readers may not realize our women's cross country team is one of the favorites to win the SEC championship, the women's golf, tennis and bowling teams are coming off NCAA Top 10 finishes, soccer is 5-2 despite a rash of injuries, men's tennis is working with the nation's No. 1 rated freshman class. We could go on. There's something happening here.
Right about here, let's remember that things are never as good as they appear or as bad as they seem. Nobody in this department is claiming its work on earth is done. But the power of positive thinking mixed with hard work is doing nicely.
It was suggested Franklin was naïve when he insisted the Elon and UConn games meant as much as the Ole Miss game. A few in the media guffawed.
"He doesn't understand the SEC," some whispered, "but he will soon."
As Saturday's scoreboard ticked down and the gallant Commodore defense was finally dented for a score long after the game was decided, it is fair to wonder just who was naïve.
This is not "the same old Vanderbilt" and it is certainly going to be interesting to watch this football season - and this rest of the year -- unfold. There's something happening here.