Saturday, October 3, 2009

Vanderbilt vs. Ole Miss: Keys to the game

Ah, isn't that a beautiful picture?

When you look at that, don't you believe we can win?

Here are some keys to the game for Vanderbilt:

GET AN EARLY BREAK: For a year, folks in Oxford have been talking about how lucky we were to beat them last season. If we get a crazy bounce or a lucky break or a shaky call early in the game, they'll start thinking, "Here we go again." I don't think they're genuinely worried about us, just like South Carolina wasn't worried about us last season even though we'd spanked them in Columbia the year before. We beat the Gamecocks last season because we got some breaks and started believing we could win and then they started getting frustrated and before you know it they'd had a full-blown meltdown.

CONVERT ON THIRD DOWN: The Commodores are last in the SEC in time of possession. They've got to convert on third down and keep the defense off the field. And, you know, maybe score some points too.

COMPLETE PASSES: Ole Miss will do what everybody's done against us: Load up the box and rely on Larry to misfire or the receivers to drop the ball. But if we start completing passes and moving the chains, and we'll certainly have opportunities to do that, then the running game will open up for us. I think eventually our passing game is going to start clicking.

PLAY CALLING: If we go with Run-Run-Pass-Punt, we don't have a prayer because the Rebel D-Line is massive. But I'm actually optimistic about play calling in this game. For starters, we're a 10-point dog. That means we've got to make something happen to win. That means we're going to throw deep every now and then. Know how we thought we could run Kennard three straight times on first-and-goal from the 5 against Miss State? We were about a 10-point favorite in that one and we were playing not to lose, something we're never successful doing. I believe we're playing to win in this one.

STOP THE RUN: Sure, Snead is supposedly a first-round NFL prospect and all that, and he's got the added motivation of clearing his name after his 4-interception debacle against Vandy last year. But he's not participating in unopposed passing drills here. The Commodores lead the nation in fewest passing yards per game, and even with all the injuries our secondary is the strength of the team. If we can stop the run and force the Rebels into obvious passing situations, then we've got a great shot at shutting down this offense. But if those big backs and that one little back with the dredlocks starts ripping off 7-yard runs on first and second down, then it's gonna be a long, long night.

A win here would be huge. This summer, we said we'd be feeling great if the Commodores were 4-2 at midseason. If we upset Ole Miss, we'll be 3-2 with the trip to West Point next weekend, and likely 4-2 at midseason.

Then we're in good shape. But we'll not start counting those chickens. Games on the U tonight at 6 p.m. CST. Go Dores.

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