Vanderbilt football

Vanderbilt football should be humiliated, but not deterred over 59-0 loss to Alabama

This is what it takes to beat Alabama. It takes early aggression and a perfect pass to your wide-open tight end in their territory on the first drive of the game.

It takes a well-timed screen pass deep in your own territory, catching the Crimson Tide off guard and setting up a big gain. It takes a textbook defensive play on a quick pass, blasting the receiver and sending the ball into the air.

And this is why so few actually do it. Because those three plays were Vanderbilt’s highlights in the first half of a big Saturday gone way wrong, and they all ended in demoralizing fashion.

More: Vanderbilt falls 59-0 to Alabama: 5 things we learned

Tight end Jared Pinkney let Kyle Shurmur’s pass pop off his hands and it was intercepted. Khari Blasingame dropped the screen pass. The blown-up Alabama pass landed in the mitts of Bama’s Cam Sims — an 11-yard immaculate reception leading to the first of eight Crimson Tide touchdowns in a 59-0 obliteration of Derek Mason’s team.

“I thought it snowballed on us,” Mason said, and the snowball was an avalanche by the second quarter.

The No. 1 Crimson Tide (4-0, 1-0 SEC) don’t need help and they don’t need luck. They got some of both early and put foot to neck swiftly in front of a crowd of 40,350 — about 75 percent of it cheering for Alabama — at Vanderbilt Stadium. Before long the Commodores (3-1, 0-1) looked like they didn’t want to be out there anymore, and it was time to start counting bodies.

That’s one of the problems with having Alabama on your schedule, other than the fact that you’ll probably lose the game. You’ll also probably come away with physical ailments.

Playing Alabama is more like three hours of slam dancing with garbage trucks. Dangerous stunts such as tackling Bo Scarbrough and trying to block Shaun Dion Hamilton really shouldn’t be attempted by anyone.

Key Vandy defenders Oren Burks and Charles Wright went down and left gingerly but returned. Shurmur hobbled off in the third quarter and did not return, but the game was over and Mason said he is fine. All three are crucial for the SEC East race ahead.

Yes, that’s right. The SEC East race ahead. Don’t overreact to this one. Vanderbilt got served like a country star at Nick Saban’s Mercedes-Benz dealership in Nashville, but Alabama can do this to anyone on any day.

Bama will probably win the SEC for the fourth straight year, then compete in the College Football Playoff again and hunt its fifth national title under Saban. No other program in this sport can aspire to Alabama’s level of consistent dominance.

But Vanderbilt can aspire to win the SEC East, even if it means having to take another beating from Alabama in Atlanta. Next up is a trip to Florida, then Georgia at home. If Vandy wins one or both, the second half of its schedule will involve a race.

Lose both and it will be a grind to six wins and a bowl game. This team is better than that, but SEC schedules like this one can humble most teams.

The Commodores got a season’s worth of humbling Saturday, listening in their own stadium to the lusty, frequent roars of Alabama fans. This could have been something resembling a game, but you have to execute early and you can’t feed the Tide’s roll.

“I thought I was outcoached today, I thought we were outclassed,” Mason said. “I thought we looked like a tired team. You really can’t let one (loss) become two. … I’m not going to fall into the abyss on one game.”

The Commodores could have done less talking before the game, too, the most notable piece of bravado being Nifae Lealao’s proclamation to WSMV-TV: “Alabama, you’re next.”

Not wise. But it was said in high emotion, right after Vandy’s 14-7 win over then-No. 18 Kansas State that had some in the overreacting media (ahem) calling for a competitive game in the West End. Now the Commodores can get right out of the foreign business of “handling success” and back to the norm of being widely ridiculed and doubted.

“People are going to say, ‘Back to same old Vandy,” Vanderbilt senior receiver Trent Sherfield said. “Whatever they say, we have to block that out.”

I still think when this season is over we will be talking about a different Vanderbilt. I know we’ll be talking about Alabama, where the names change and the pain stays the same.

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