NASHVILLE — It wasn’t pretty. And from Section U, the most red-drenched section at Vanderbilt Stadium, cheering for the visitors from Bowling Green featured disappointment after disappointment. But Vandy proved equally inept, blowing scoring chances with two end zone interceptions.
Jeff Brohm’s vaunted Hilltopper offense, which operated at the end of 2014 with pinball precision, was on tilt throughout a scoreless first half and most of the third quarter. Five dropped passes, all in situations in which the play call was perfect for a big gain, kept WKU off the scoreboard.
Fans in my section were clearly complaining about the quality of play — neither team seemed capable of executing the simplest of plays. But, then again, this is Vanderbilt, which has a reputation for losing in the SEC. This team won’t tarnish that image. Fans here seem to have come to expect mediocrity, and failed to fill the stands for their home opener. Those who were here, we joked, must have had to study as many left early, despite the fact the game nearly went to overtime.
Brohm said after the game that his team did not play well. Someone in my section had tipped me off to a trick play planned for WKU’s first series, a flea flicker multi-pass play, that worked to perfection. Except that the wide open receiver dropped the ball.
Oh, yes, the end. After WKU put up what seemed a safe 14-6 lead in the fourth quarter, Vandy got the ball with just over two minutes to play needing a TD and extra point to tie it up and send it into overtime. So the first time all night, Vandy’s offense began to execute. It marched down the field, scoring a TD with less than a minute to go.
So there was a two-point conversion that would either seal the victory for WKU and send it into overtime. The Vandy QB hit his receiver at the two, but a WKU defender made a bone-crushing hit and dropped the receiver at the one.
WKU came into the contest a 2 1/2 point favorite on the road at an SEC school. It failed to cover the spread, nor did it impress anyone watching on the SEC Network. But the Hilltoppers remain undefeated. There is potential for this offense – most of the players, including QB Brandon Doughty, set scoreboards spinning a year ago. They have a touch schedule, one that includes Indiana and LSU on the road, but it’s nice to be 1-0.