Vanderbilt football can’t let blowout loss to Alabama be anchor that ruins season


Vanderbilt hosted, and fell to No. 1 Alabama on Saturday, Sept. 23. Autumn Allison / USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee

Remember Vanderbilt’s 3-0 start … the convincing wins over Middle Tennessee State and Alabama A&M; the thrilling 14-7 win over Kansas State?

Here’s a big dose of reality for the black-and-gold faithful: Alabama’s 59-0 thumping of the Commodores on Saturday does nothing to tarnish those three wins. 

Before the Crimson Tide invaded Vanderbilt Stadium, the Commodores earned national attention for their unexpected perfect start. And now the Commodores will gain national attention for sustaining their most lopsided loss since falling 65-0 loss to Tennessee in 1994. 

More: Vanderbilt football should be humiliated, but not deterred

Praise Alabama simply for what it is: The nation’s top-ranked team that possesses a dominating offense and suffocating defense. There is no reason not to believe that the Crimson Tide is on target for another trip to the national title game. 

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The Alabama offense gained 677 yards and collected a school-record 38 first downs. The defense allowed Vandy only 78 yards and gained just three first downs (one on a penalty). And while the Tide scored on nine of their 12 possessions, the Commodores never reached Alabama territory. Their longest drive was their first, a four-play, 24-yard drive that ended on quarterback Kyle Shurmur’s first interception of the season. 

Enough of the stats. It’s time to move on.

And that’s exactly what Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason preached to his team and the media after the loss. 

After spending his first two seasons digging the Commodores’ program out of a dreadful hole, Mason’s biggest challenge may lie ahead of him the next two weeks. 

We “can’t let one (loss) become two,” Mason said. “I’m more concerned about our response.”

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

And he’s right. 

He must prove that Saturday was a bump — and yes, a mighty big bump — and return to the goal of earning the Commodores respect on the field against their opponents and in the stands for their fans. 


Vanderbilt fell hard to No. 1 Alabama. Adam Sparks

He chose the right words afterward, first complimenting Alabama coach Nick Saban and then immediately saying it was time to put the game in the rear-view mirror. 

“Bad day at the office … we ran into a buzzsaw today,” he said. “It’s all about response … It’s only one game.”

The conference season is still young, but there is no clear-cut front runner in the East. A case can be made for why each of the SEC’s seven East teams could win the division. Yes, even Vandy. 

Does anyone really think the eventual SEC East winner will go unbeaten? 

That’s not going to happen. With Florida and Georgia on the Commodores’ schedule the next two weeks, it’s imperative that Mason lean on his veteran leaders and not allow the season to snowball downhill.

Playing well in Gainesville next week is critical. The Gators are one of two SEC East teams that Mason-coached teams have not beaten (South Carolina is the other, but that’s a different story for another day). 

Mason’s teams have played well the past two seasons against the Gators — falling 13-6 in Nashville in 2016 and 9-7 in Gainesville in 2015. It’s easy to point to one play in both games that could have meant the difference. 

Mason clearly understands the message that he must deliver to his team: Forget this one and move on. 

Will the Commodores respond? We’ll find out on Saturday in The Swamp. 

Reach Dave Ammenheuser at 615-259-8352 and @NashSportsEd. 

Worst Vanderbilt losses

Georgia Tech 83, Vanderbilt 0, Nov. 3, 1917

Alabama 71, Vanderbilt 0, Nov. 17, 1945

Tennessee 65, Vanderbilt 0, Nov. 26, 1994

Alabama 63, Vanderbilt 3, Sept. 29, 1979

Alabama 59, Vanderbilt 0, Sept. 23, 2017

Florida 71, Vanderbilt 13, Nov. 3, 2001





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