Thursday, September 07, 2006

Hope springs eternal

They have always said that for Vanderbilt fans, "hope springs eternal."

Well, this year, the sailors-in-charge over at Commodore HQ have institutionalized that little bit of conventional wisdom in the form of a weekly (during football season) article entitled, "Ten Reasons to Be Optimistic in _________" (where the blank is the location of our opponent-du-jour's school, e.g., Tuscaloosa or Ann Arbor).

Seeing as how I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Vanderbilt fan and alumnus, and therefore an infectee of the Black and Gold Virus known as "Vanderhope," I thought I would propogate the optimism and publish the "Ten Reasons to Be Optimistic in Tuscaloosa."
TEN REASONS TO BE OPTIMISTIC IN TUSCALOOSA

by Skip Anderson
Editor-in-Chief,
Commodore Nation
Thursday, September 7, 2006

NASHVILLE -- I have always been an optimist looking to qualify my hope for the best before each game. It is with this in mind that I unapologetically offer 10 reasons The ’Dores just might break out a win old school. And by “old school,” I mean, really, really old school -- Vanderbilt won the first five meetings against Alabama (the first three by shutout!), and in 1906 they handed the Tide their most lopsided loss in school history, 76-0.

1. Mr. Football

No, I’m not talking about the Tide’s Andre Smith, who is the first offensive lineman ever to take the honor of being named Alabama’s Mr. Football. Commodore quarterback Chris Nickson also holds this prestigious title, and they certainly don’t bestow this title upon just anyone. Nickson is a gamer, and through the process of making a couple of mental mistakes, two fumbles, and managing tangible success in Michigan, Nickson traded some of his varnish of inexperience for lessons that can only come from facing foes greater than yourself. Humbling? You bet. Valuable? Absolutely. Remember, it was only four short years ago when redshirt freshman Jay Cutler went 10 for 23 for 73 yards with two interceptions (remember our ramblin’ wreck in Georgia Tech?) in his collegiate debut. Nickson’s inaugural numbers were considerably better, going 11 for 25 for 99 yards and no interceptions against Michigan.

2. First-Time Starters

Sure, Bama’s quarterback John Parker Wilson put up more impressive numbers in his first start last week than did Nickson. But Wilson’s debut came at home against a jetlagged, unranked team from the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Nickson faced the No. 15-ranked Michigan Wolverines before a sell-out crowd in the country’s largest stadium.

3. Passing Fancy

With or without a running game, Alabama is vulnerable to air attacks. The Crimson Tide gave up 350 yards passing to the Hawaii Warriors last week (a team that eked out 22 yards rushing). Combine that with Vanderbilt’s potential for passing, and the Tide has a defensive problem on their hands.

4. Cassen Point

Don’t let last week’s numbers fool you: Running back Cassen Jackson-Garrison has explosive talent. And he also had an appendectomy just a few weeks ago. Given that his surgical wounds have had another week to heal, he is likely to be much more effective in Tuscaloosa than he was in the Big House. Besides, surely he wants to impress his wife of nine weeks by helping the ’Dores to their first win against Alabama since 1984.

5. O, Captain!

As a junior offensive lineman protecting Jay Cutler’s blind side, Brian Stamper went the entire 2005 season without giving up a sack. Chris Nickson wasn’t so lucky, having been sacked six times. Of course, Stamper wasn’t the only lineman to have an off day, but he’s the one who will make sure it doesn’t happen again. Stamper is fiercely competitive, and he’s very effective as a team leader. The 6-5, 305-pound captain is not going allow the offensive line to have another game like that again on his watch. Period.

6. The Goff Factor

This redshirt junior linebacker lived up to his reputation in Michigan, recording 12 solo tackles and 14 total. He blocked a field goal. He’s the real deal, cut from the same cloth as Shelton Quarles (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Matt Stewart (Cleveland Browns), Jamie Winborn (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), and Hunter Hillenmeyer (Chicago Bears).

7. Receivers Believer

Our receiving corps, led by sophomore Earl Bennett, will rack up some serious yardage before this season is over. Here’s hoping he skyrockets in Tuscaloosa!

8. Three-Pointers

Though he didn’t get a chance to show off his three-point toe against Michigan, sophomore Bryant Hahnfeldt is healthy and reliable. Just get the man inside the 35!

9. The Hawk

Redshirt freshman Jared Hawkins totaled 18 yards on is first two collegiate carries, and he looked good doing it. Hawkins is sure to get more touches Saturday.

10. The Shula Hula

Bama Coach Mike Shula and his young Tide didn’t look so great last week against Hawaii. The Warriors were one possession away from tying the game before the Tuscaloosa’s hometown heroes danced out Bryant-Denny Stadium with a 25-17 win.

FEELING: What else: optimistic
LISTENING TO: Bobby Johnson's Monday press conference

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