Are we having fun yet???
For a not-insignificant portion of Saturday it felt like the Irish might not run, but at least walk, away with this game. Tony Jones Jr. looked the best he has in blue and gold, Brandon Wimbush was largely mistake free, and the defense didn’t let Vandy make a dent in the scoreboard for a full half-hour of gameplay. But the Irish need to be a much better second half team, and we don’t have it quite that easy.
There was and will continue to be plenty of hand-wringing throughout the fanbase about letting another lesser opponent hang around for no good reason. And I get the frustration. But Vanderbilt is #35 in the S&P+ right now! They’re pretty good! They did what they needed to do to hang around, but the Irish outplayed them and led from start to finish. This team and coaching staff are very imperfect, but that tends to be the case when you try to corral a large group of 18-22 year olds into getting their collective shit together. These kids have had three chances to achieve a very specific objective this year (not counting the bowl win on January 1) and have achieved it every time so far.
As others have noted, I think we’re learning around where the team’s ceiling is. A quarter of the way through the season, we aren’t an Alabama or a Clemson or an Ohio State. Duh. Playing to the level of your opponents is a very real annoyance, but I would suggest saving your anger for when the team doesn’t have a zero in the loss column. That day could come soon! It could come next week or the next week or the next week. There’s a decent chance it will. But people trying to hold a referendum on the state of a 3-0 program come across as more than a little goofy (not that you would do such a thing, dear reader. You’re smart and have all the correct sports opinions).
In case a W isn’t enough to soothe your restless soul, here are some selective positive notes:
- Brandon Wimbush took 0 sacks. Brandon Wimbush committed 0 turnovers.
- He also remembered he has legs, which was super helpful. Write that down in permanent marker, Chip.
- Tony easily broke the 100 yard rushing mark. Vanderbilt did not.
- Michael Young returned a kickoff for FORTY-EIGHT yards! More field position wins like this one, please.
- We had to punt five times, but at least Tyler Newsome was absolutely booming them. Icing the game on a 63-yarder was a nice way to maximize the amount of fun anyone can wring out of a punt.
- All that preseason hype about Troy Pride? Seems about right.
- We got a little bit lucky! Vandy receivers couldn’t hold on to a few super important passes, and one Commodore wasn’t competent enough to fall on the ball in the endzone for a fluky, easy touchdown. Don’t let anyone tell you that luck is a bad thing.
And we’re on to Wake Forest. The first road game of the season won’t be a cakewalk by any means, and a 9 am PST kickoff brings with it the potential to ruin pretty much my entire day, not to mention the rest of the week. But this is a game we should win, and we’ve won every game so far this year. Gotta think that continues to be the case in a few days.