Coaching Key to Win in Columbia

Coaching in any sport is tough. I mean, it takes a mentally strong person to be able to handle the ups and downs that come with the coaching profession. When your team wins, the players get the credit. When your team loses, the coaches take the blame. It's just the way the business works.

There's no problem with that assessment, since in many fans eyes, that is the way it works. After all, the players are the ones who go out and make the plays in order for their team to win. The coaches can put them in the right positions, but it's up to the players to execute the gameplan.

But in some cases, the coach must get some of the credit for the victory. Sure, the players still get their share of the credit, but you have to give the coaches some credit as well. Never has that statement been more true than this past weekend's game at South Carolina.

It all goes back to last weekend's heartbreaking loss to the Georgia Bulldogs here in Nashville. A game like that can cause an entire team to fold the rest of the way, it's just human nature. When you get the air sucked out of you the way the Commodores did in that game, it's very hard to rebound, both physically and emotionally. Had the game gone the other way, things could have been different. But, that's where coaching comes in. It's a coaching staff's job to get the players moving beyond a loss such as the one suffered by Vandy last weekend. It's their job to get the players ready for the next opponent, and make sure there will be no lingering effect from the previous game.

And folks, the job done by Coach Bobby Johnson and his staff was nothing short of remarkable. This team could have just as easily shut it down for the rest of the season given the circumstances. As Vanderbilt fans, we've seen it happen many times before. They come close in a big game, and lose a heartbreaker, then come out in the following weeks and give the "deer-in-headlights" type of look. But that is not the case with this team. And personally, I give tons of credit to Coach Johnson for this. It's obvious that the coaching staff focused on getting the players moving past the Georgia loss, and then focused primarily on South Carolina. For all the doubters out there, I don't want to scare you with these words, but that's what good teams do. They move on, and get ready for the next opponent, which is exactly what this Vanderbilt team did.

For the Dores to come out and play as well as they did in all aspects of the game on Saturday was incredible. And again, you must realize the effects coaching has on these types of games. Sure, you can claim we were still conservative on offense in the second half against South Carolina, and perhaps we were. But honestly, we could have ran the ball on every offensive play in the second half, and had we won, it really wouldn't bother me all that much. It all goes back to preparation, and not just any team can prepare and execute the gameplan as marvelously as the Commodores did in Columbia. Especially not against the number six ranked team in the entire country.

You also have to give the coaching staff credit for the improvement made from week one to now. We can clearly see the difference between the team that played against Richmond, and the team that played against South Carolina. Although there was a rough outing at Auburn, the team has looked progressively better in the past two weeks. But as we've seen in college football this season, some weeks it just isn't going to go your way. Players such as D.J. Moore and Mackenzi Adams have made major improvement throughout the season, and I would be willing to bet that they would give their coaches some of the credit for that. The defense absolutely rattled the Gamecocks senseless, and the offense did what they had to do to win the game.

For those who were ready to jump off the wagon after the Georgia game, I'm hoping that this win convinced you otherwise. There have been many teams that have come and gone in Vanderbilt history, but there just seems to be something different about this team. These guys came out and took it to the number six team in the nation at their own house. It takes something special to be able to do that. It takes good players, and it takes a good coach to be able to pull that off. You can criticize the coach when things are going bad, but I can see the difference that Bobby Johnson had made in this program. Not just anybody can come into a school like Vanderbilt and be able to compete week in and week out against the best teams in all of college football.

In a conference filled with outstanding coaches, we Vandy fans must realize that we have a pretty good coach ourselves. No, he may not have the national championships that Urban Meyer, Nick Saban, Phil Fulmer or Steve Spurrier have. He may not have the SEC Championship that Mark Richt has. But the guy has done something that not many other coaches in SEC history have done. And that's make the Vanderbilt football program matter. These days, people are starting to take notice of the Commodores. With wins at Tennessee, at Georgia, at South Carolina, and a near win at Florida (sorry, I still hold a grudge after that phantom excessive celebration penalty), Coach Bobby Johnson and his players have proved that Vanderbilt belongs in the Southeastern Conference.

And Coach Johnson has proved that he belongs in the discussion of best coaches in the SEC. No, the Dores have yet to get to a bowl game under his reign. But, the man will always have my support for his ability to take a once meaningless program and turn it into a program that now matters in college football.

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