Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Some final thoughts on Vanderbilt's "flat" performance against Tennessee

So the Commodores were flat against Tennessee, just like they were flat against Miss State and Duke.

I don't buy it. When the Commodores lose a game they have a legitimate chance of winning, everybody says they were flat. Heck, even they say they were flat.

But do you ever read a story about a team that was flat but won the game? No.

Do you ever read a story about a team that was fired up and ready to play and then lost decisively? No.

So did the Commodores lose because they were flat, or did everybody say they were flat because they lost?

In the Tennessee, Miss State and Duke games, they got punched in the mouth early and they didn't get the breaks and turnovers and freakish good luck they'd come to expect in their first five games.

And then there's the offensive line. I don't know much about the offensive line, except that nobody but Bobby Johnson talks about it. We went into this season with five brand new starters and by all accounts they've had trouble gelling. But when Chris Nickson gets tackled for a loss or Jared Hawkins gets stuffed at the line, the average fan — and especially the average sportswriter — concludes that those two guys aren't on top of their games. After the Tennessee game, everybody was talking about Chris Nickson's meltdown. Bobby was talking about the poor play of the offensive line.

Think about this: Against Tennessee, our offense was flat but our defense was not. That's what everybody is saying. Hmmm. So our offense, which is among the four worst in the nation, was flat against one of the best defenses in the nation. But our defense, the strength of our team, was not flat against one of the five worst offenses in the nation.

Again, was our offense ineffective because it was flat, or was it flat because it is ineffective and the Tennessee defense is highly effective? Was our defense so effective because it wasn't flat, or was our defense not flat because it's a good defense facing an ineffective offense?

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