BrentVU: Ten observations on Vandy’s 35-28 WIN over Hawaii

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BrentVU: Ten observations on Vandy’s 35-28 WIN over Hawaii

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Ten observations on Vandy’s 35-28 WIN over Hawaii
Post by BrentVU » Sun Aug 27, 2023 8:29 pm

1. The season started with a bit of Déjà VU… (sigh) a lightning delay. Star Walk got canceled. Fans, who had already arrived early due to all the construction chaos, were forced to take refuge before the game and huddle together, before being allowed to find their seats, in the rain. (Sigh) Let’s face it… sometimes being a college football fan is hard work! But the temperature at game time was mercifully about 8-10 degrees cooler than it otherwise would have been. Hawaii had numerous cramp issues, but Vandy didn’t.
2. Vandy’s kickoff man, walk-on Will Faris, left a number of kickoffs well short of the goal line; four of his six kickoffs were returned… something that rarely happens anymore… and Hawaii was able to start all four of those drives past its own 25.
3. A.J. Swann, though now a sophomore, played a lot like a freshman. In the first half he completed ten straight passes, but after those sacks occurred, his accuracy went down. He failed to see the open man a few times; he had one pass in particular that for all the world should have been a pick-six; and other times he threw bullets that the receivers couldn’t field. So much of this offense is built around Swann and the RPO; the play-call depends on what Swann sees at the line of scrimmage. The slant to Sheppard and McGowan can be a deadly weapon, but Swann still has a lot of growing up to do. Last year as a starter he was 1-5. The potential for growth is definitely there, though. You saw the potential on that “throwaway” touchdown to London Humphreys.
4. “The game will be won or lost on the perimeter,” said Lea at halftime; and indeed, the game was almost lost there. As I pointed out last week, in his three recruiting classes to date Lea has been successful in recruiting SEC-level players at almost every position except cornerback. Hawaii sensed its best chance to beat Vandy was to let their QB take “shots”, and it was painful to see so many of them succeed.
5. The offensive line, thought to be a strength of the team, allowed three sacks, all in the second quarter (and Swann, who has struggled with concussions, was looking a little woozy at halftime). The line buckled down a bit after that, but as many have noted, the running game was just about non-existent. When it needed to chew up clock in the fourth quarter, the offense could not. Ray Davis will be missed; it now seems assured. It looks like Chase Gillespie will be the go-to guy when they need to run between the tackles, but the ‘Bows snuffed that out big-time.
6. Clark Lea let holder Matt Hayball go for two after the first touchdown of the season… I like it! We’re taking no quarter. But the try failed because of defensive penetration. Later Lea would go for it on fourth downs three times and only make one of them. I don’t know which is more worrisome… that the offense doesn’t seem capable of converting a fourth-and-short… or that Lea may not be confident enough in either kicker yet to try a field goal. (?) Knowing Lea, however, maybe it’s nothing more than a data-driven decision.
7. The throwaway TD to Humphreys put Vandy up 35-14, and fans immediately convinced themselves that the game was over. (The players, who had beaten the ‘Bows 63-10 last season, may have thought the same thing.) But Hawaii had made significant improvement and came roaring back. In retrospect, UH was inches away in two reviewed plays from possibly winning the game… a fumble recovery for TD (that review showed was a half-yard short)… and an onsides kick that went to VU ONLY because the UH player had the tip of his elbow out of bounds. Shudder!
8. Things that Vandy can improve on: procedure penalties when trying to run the hurry-up; unsportsmanlike conduct penalties; Swann’s decision-making; etc. Things they may NOT be able to improve too much on: cornerback play; run-blocking; placekicking.
9. Seven players from the 2023 recruiting class saw action, as did transfers Aeneas DiCosmo and Jason Borcila. Only surprise in the starting lineup: Yilanan Ouattara on the DL. Player whose performance most surprised me: TE Logan Kyle. Injured player we most hope will return soon: Darren Agu.
10. The complaint of most fans I’ve seen boils down to the fact that Vandy didn’t put it completely away until very late. OK, I get it. Me, I’d much rather be discussing a disappointing win than a loss where the team looked good.