Vanderbilt vs. UGA: A day to be reckoned with

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As promised, we were in Athens last Saturday for Vanderbilt-Georgia, a game in which the homecoming Dawgs were favored by more than two touchdowns. Instead, the Commodores eked out a one-point victory on the road. Although it probably wasn’t too exciting on television, this was an entertainingly tense game to attend in person.

Two game notes, and then I’ll turn it over to the Vandy football video crew:

  1. The Vanderbilt defense is excellent against the run, which happens to be Georgia’s offensive strength, but they were helpless against the pass. UGA should’ve called nothing but pass plays until VU forced them to do something else.
  2. This was Vandy head coach Derek Mason’s first conference win, which is nice, but it probably should have come sooner. Like, maybe the week before in Lexington? Neither Georgia nor Vanderbilt are making much football sense in 2016.

ALDLAND goes live to the Battle of Athens

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We will be in Sanford Stadium tomorrow when Vanderbilt, based in Nashville (i.e., the Athens of the South), faces Georgia, based in Athens, in a game that will decide which city will retain its Southern Athenian identity and, maybe, third place in the SEC East.

Thus far, this season has been a disappointment for both schools, but tomorrow’s game should at least allow fans a nice look at each team’s stars. For Georgia, that means the return of the combined running attack of Nick Chubb and Sony Michele. For Vanderbilt, it means the return of the SEC rushing leader, Ralph Webb, who, I am told, will play tomorrow after suffering an injury during last week’s loss at Kentucky.

The star power of Webb distracts from the Black & Gold’s numerous deficiencies and, in some sense, Webb reminds me of Earl Bennett, a Vandy wide receiver who, ten years ago, became the SEC all-time reception leader. Following the exciting and brief James Franklin era, the Commodores have regressed under Derek Mason to a team reminiscent of those overseen by Bobby Johnson: above-average defense that worked hard to keep the team in games while the offense, with its lone leader (then Bennett, now Webb) tried to keep pace on the scoreboard until the overworked defense eventually gave out and the opposing team ran away with the game. Mason and his assistants have better resumes than Johnson and his assistants did, but the results have been the same.

During the last ten years, though, Vanderbilt has played Georgia close and even stolen a few wins. Those have tended to come in home games for the Commodores, though; the Dawgs typically have routed them in Athens. Vanderbilt nevertheless goes on the road tomorrow in search of its first conference win of 2016. Kickoff is at noon on SEC Network, and we’ll be there. Follow along here for live updates.

Wattage and Brass: Drive By Truckers, live at the 40 Watt

Bgj18n7IEAA7yMX.jpg largeSadness is the defining element of Southern rock in 2014. Checking in on its leading modern purveyors in one of their main clubhouses reveals a melancholy running deeper than the double-deep cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon that liquidate the room. Theirs is a blues without the form, which sometimes seems to be all that’s left of the aging blues. This is palpable, consistent emotion driven through late rock conventions. The bluesmen say they’re glad or proud about their affliction. While the Southern rock folks don’t despair, they are resolved: this is the situation, and the stories must be told. Listen for yourself.

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That Saturday was my first visit to Athens’ famous 40 Watt Club, the third night of Drive-By Truckers’ “Homecoming” stand at the downtown venue. I saw the Truckers for the first time last summer, in Atlanta, and I was struck then by the degree to which a) they weren’t what I expected and b) their performance reoriented me to what they were doing. By the end of their short festival set I understood why people like them so much, and I jumped at the chance to hear them again last month in Athens when Magalan suggested the idea.   Continue reading

In the Dawghouse: Vandy no-shows again on the road, loses 48-3 in Athens

Perched high atop Sanford Stadium, I had the view of Saturday night’s game football nerds have called the Holy Grail: the all-22 perspective. Fans prize this view because it allows them to see the game in its entirety and understand how plays develop, schemes function, and all of the other things blocked out by television’s narrow lens.

What I saw likely could have been apprehended from any vantage point in any of the nearly 93,000 seats, almost all of which were filled, and filled by fans of the home team: an unabated UGA run game set up laughably easy passing opportunities. The visitors were like ghosts on defense and ineffective football players on offense. After Vandy missed a field goal in the third quarter, my hospitable hosts, including Commodawg, took me outside the stadium and, mercifully, out of my misery.

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In reality, I had a great time throughout. While the game itself made all the jostling over who would start at quarterback for Vanderbilt beyond moot, and made it difficult to believe how close this game was a year ago, Athens on a football Saturday is a fun scene, and Sanford Stadium is an impressive place to see a game. Looking ahead, Georgia’s championship aspirations continue to progress, while Vanderbilt has a bye week during which it can reevaluate its approach. As for the series between these two teams, I only see Vandy being competitive in North Georgia when it comes to recruiting, and after performances like Saturday night’s, even that may be in question.

ALDLAND takes you live to the start* of SEC conference play

Although conference play technically began when South Carolina survived against SEC East foe Vanderbilt in the first game of the college football season, conference play ramps up in earnest this week, when the Commodores, and yours truly, head to Athens for a night game between the hedges against #5 Georgia.

As indicated in the photograph, these divisional opponents have some history. When they played in the above-depicted game, nearly fifty-six years to the day prior to Saturday night’s meeting, Vanderbilt scored a 14-0 victory at home. Unsurprisingly, that outcome does not predominate; in a series that began in 1893 (with a 35-10 Commodore win, incidentally), the Dawgs have a 53-18-2 record. The series was far more competitive through the early 1960s, but Vanderbilt has only four wins (and one tie) against UGA since the 1961 season.

These two teams have some recent notable history, too. ALDLAND was there, in duplicate, for their last meeting, in which Georgia survived a late special teams error to escape Nashville with a win. It was what happened after the game that most people will remember, though Continue reading

Some things never change.

In a great blog post from the Athens-Clarke County Library Heritage Room, we get an article from this day in 1901, optimistically discussing Georgia’s (its unclear if it was the Goats or the Bulldogs at that point) chances in the upcoming season:

Coach Reynolds is one of the best coaches in the south, and he tolerates no foolishness on the gridiron.

Also worth noting, Coach Reynolds was already fighting a losing battle:

He has written urging that athletics be kept pure from politics.

Sorry, Coach, ain’t happening.

Losing My R.E.M.

They may have made their best music before I ever made it to Athens, but they were a constant presence during my college years, whether it was running into Michael Stipe at Blue Sky, the random secret shows at the Georgia Theater, grabbing lunch at Weaver D’s, or just walking by the door on the corner of College and Clayton; and it’s a melancholy day today.

Not much more to add to this, except, thanks, and a quick look back.