GAME # 17
Thursday, August 30, 2012

South Carolina Gamecocks: 0-0
@ Vanderbilt Commodores: 0-0

Vanderbilt Stadium
Nashville, Tennessee

Trip Dates 8/30/2012 – 8/31/2012
School Vanderbilt University
Visiting Team South Carolina Gamecocks
Pre-game Record: 0-0
Home Team South Carolina Gamecocks
Pre-game Record: 0-0
Game Time (ET) 7:00 PM
Weather 86, Partly Cloudy w/ heavy bursts of rain
Attendees Jarrett & Al
Jarrett’s Pick South Carolina Gamecocks
(8 and 8 record)
Al’s Pick South Carolina Gamecocks
(5 and 11 record)
Attendance 38,393
Capacity 40,550
Length of Game 3:15
Seat Location 5 yard line, 58th row
Miles Traveled 1,571
Photo Album Click here for the Vanderbilt Photo Album

The Off-season
It was a relatively quiet off-season for the Quest.  The first bit of business that needed taking care of was annual selection day, where Al and I get together and select the games for the year. This year’s twist came while I was on vacation in Florida and Al called with a proposal of an 8 day road trip covering 5 games and a ridiculous amount of miles (not really as it was quite doable).  After some very serious consideration, it was ultimately voted down.  Strangely, the vote was 2-0.  And no, we do not have a tiebreak procedure although we should probably get ourselves one of those.  I am not sure either one of us would have recovered from such a trip both at home and away.  Ultimately, a “normal” schedule was approved with us opening the Quest season on opening night at Vanderbilt as the Commodores would take on the visiting South Carolina Gamecocks.

Web Site
The other bit of off-season news was our decision to hire a website designer to redesign and enhance our website.  We thank our good friend Alex for all his work on the old site, but the time had come for us to implement some of the things we had on the drawing board for a number of years and we just could not impose on the cost free talents of Alex any longer.  So, we decided to use elance.com to hire a freelancer to redesign our site.  This ended up being quite a disaster.  The end result is a site that has more functionality but as of the writing of this note, still a work in progress.  We are hopeful we will eventually build in all the things that we wanted, but it was not a smooth process and we clearly made a poor hiring decision.

We now interupt the regular Trip Report for our new feature, Al’s daily rant…..The unfortunate selection and hiring of a design prima donna required us to make constant concessions to the project plan and overall goal of the website. Having no experience in WordPress, the limitations (and I say that politely), were not explained to us at all. Quite frankly, not only does WordPress have limitations (you need to know html code to have any success), but also the limitations of the actual programmer, who only wanted to sell us on one of his templated designs that he felt was “closest” to our actual vision. His answer was always the same; “yes, we can do that” followed by what always was the most condescending laugh imaginable. I always got the impression he was in a rush to get off the phone or go somewhere. I can’t imagine who wouldn’t want to talk with us longer? Oh that’s right, he only cared about his vision. I guess we didn’t fit the clientele that his business model was looking for. Whatever, I felt bad for Jarrett because the reason to build this site was to allieviate the manual work, and all this site did was create manual work. But anyway, I’ll be more than happy to add my comments about the site after each write up for the rest of the year. Now back to regular programming.

The 8:15am fight from LaGuardia to Nashville allowed for a very reasonable 6:00am pickup in Al’s nanny’s “vroom vroom” car, as compared to many of our previous trips at ungodly hours.  Short haul direct flights are a very good thing.  I was very disappointed that the TSA did not have a  PreCheck lane setup as I was anxious to zoom ahead of Al and keep my shoes on, but it was not to be, maybe next time.  Instead, we had to wait behind someone who if they were not a first time flier should have been taken out back and shot.  She left both a large bottle of water and her laptop in her bag and put it through the x-ray machine.  Needless to say, this held up the line for some time.  Thanks!  But I blame myself as I always choose the wrong line.

After security, it was onto our favorite LaGuardia airport breakfast destination; McDonald’s.  At this point in the trip, my Atkins diet officially ended.  And by the way, when did Delta move into the US Airways shuttle terminal at LaGuardia.  Delta is now in two different terminals.  I am sure at some point we will go to the wrong one.  While eating our Golden Arches breakfast, Al presented me with the first  gift of the season, a College Football Quest car magnet for us to attach to the rental cars at each destination.  This is something I had been talking about but never got around to doing.  Well done Al! This puts you on a streak of three approved items in a row; the logo, the umbrella, and the car magnet. However, this puts you over your personal budget by {redacted} (I was told that I can not print what Al spends on marketing junk for fear of his life).

At the gate, we had to find a seat near a power outlet as Al is on a constant quest to charge his iPhone.  This would be a common theme on this trip (and Al’s life), Al needing to find power for his iPhone.   I think the battery life is 5 minutes.  Plus you tend to run down an iPhone battery even faster when you argue with Alex on the trash talk.

We boarded the plane and there were less than 20 people on the flight to Nashville. I think it was us, an old smelly man, and a wife and husband with an infant. Of course, the airline sat us all in the same three rows because there wasn’t enough room on the rest of the plane, and of course, having 5 kids amongst the two of us, we absolutely needed to hear this baby cry most of the flight.  If I was ever going to talk myself into getting to sit in the cockpit, this would be the flight, but it did not happen.  We did have plenty of room to stretch out. But both the coffee machine and WiFi were not functioning.  Nice job, Delta! The WiFi sign should be changed from “WiFi On-Board” to “WiFi On-Board Some Other Airline”

We arrived in Nashville, the 7th most dangerous city in the US (per Forbes.com based on violent crime data compile in 2009 by the FBI). Al wonders what the top 6 are and states unequivocally that Memphis must be #1.  Well, we are headed to the Memphis airport later in the year for our trip to Oxford, MS, so we may get to find out.  We picked up the rental car from a very friendly Gator girl who went to UCF, the school that Al matriculated at for 5 minutes.  We did the short drive to the hotel.  Our room was not ready so we left the car and walked to the Vanderbilt campus. I would be remiss if I did not stop and discuss the transmission on the flex fuel Ford piece of crap that we were driving. Al stands behind the fact that to cut costs, they do not have an automatic transmission instead there actually are special hamsters that are not only powering the car, but manually shifting for you. Drive the car, I dare you.

Vanderbilt University
The first stop in the walking tour of Vanderbilt University was Vanderbilt Stadium.  Security was on high alert 8 hours before game time as when we got within 500 feet of the entrance, security stood up and was ready to pounce. Al wants you to know that he felt he could outrun the 60 year old, large woman who stood up. He may have been able to outrun her, but if she ever caught him, he was dead. Getting into Vanderbilt Stadium before the game was not going to happen. We took note that the Star Walk, where Vanderbilt would walk from the locker room into the stadium, would be downhill on cement.  Is this a good idea?  I have visions of one slip taking out an entire team, but it must be just me. Al had the same exact thought, but kept walking.

We proceeded to wander around what we thought was the rest of campus.  The next day we would find out we were only in one small part of it.  That would also play into the fact that at 11:30am, we wondered where all the students were.  This must be one of those schools where the kids actually go to classes.  I had heard of these kinds of Universities but never knew that they existed.  My first impression was that the campus was not as nice as I expected it would be.  I am not sure why this was the case.  The next day we would learn that we were not in the central section of the school.  Our mistake!

After the food coma of the McDonald’s breakfast wore off, we found the student union for some lunch.  It was cafeteria style, to the extent that Al compared it to a Google cafeteria.  Maybe in looks, but definitely not in quality.  Maybe Al is angling for another invite to Google.  I guess flattery got him nowhere so now Al is in attack mode.  I was looking for the food court. In any event we grabbed some lunch and sat down to listen in on some heavy conversations going on around us.  My favorite quote from lunch…“My brother called to say he learned how to shoot a gun”.  My response, either you or your brother were a mistake as you are a college freshman and he must be only 2 years old!

Other lunchtime tidbits:
>Look for the new course at Vanderbilt titled “What art history should be” taught by Al Botta
>The first Seinfeld reference comes at 11:40 CET, way too long into the trip
>Lots of boots in the student union although Al did not always approve of what they were being worn with
>In other iPhone news, Al’s iPhone is still on Eastern time
>We did not hear one mention of the upcoming game during all of lunch
>This is clearly not a Google cafeteria

We headed back to the car to do a driving tour of other areas around campus. The first thing we noticed is that Vanderbilt has a ton of bars right near the campus.  Vanderbilt may have the most bars per student population of any school thus far.  Is VU a dry campus?  We found a nice area to park and walk around and at 1:00pm central time Al had his first drink and no it was not Starbucks.  We found some time to do a radio interview with Dan Harrelson at http://insidecollegefootball.us/, which you can hear in the publicity section of the website.  We also  learned that Vanderbilt does not have an off campus bookstore, only the official Barnes & Noble bookstore near our hotel.  So it was back to the hotel to check in and get ready for tailgating.

We get to the room and Al’s first act is….plug in the iPhone.  Al made it 90 minutes on that charge.  After a brief R&R in the room, it was time to head out for the game.

Pre Game
There has been a lot of off season hype and excitement around the Vanderbilt program since Coach James Franklin took over in 2011 and took Vanderbilt to a bowl game last year.  I must admit that I have bought in and expect that the Commodores will have a very successful 2012. As of the writing of this note, they are 1-3, so while I can still be proven correct, early indications are this seems like another great call by me. Their only victory has been against the Orville Redenbacher School of Growing Better Popcorn (actually Presbyterian).

The first stop in our tailgating tour of Vanderbilt University is their main tailgating section called Vandyville. In walking through Vandyville, we were impacted by the absence of RV’s.  Maybe it was the fact that the game was on a Thursday night or the RV’s were somewhere else, but the lack of RV’s in the central tailgate area was striking.   Vandyville reminded us of the tailgating scene at Army, both in formation and activity level.  This is not a criticism, as we really liked Army, but merely an observation.  It did seem sparse for an opening night with a very hopeful fan base.  There were a lot of South Carolina fans in attendance.  After walking through Vandyville, we got to the end.  That is a sentence that should never be written.  There should not be an end to the tailgate section, as it should go on forever, with a sea of people.  But while it may not have been a large tailgate or crowded with many RV’s, the Commodores did have a rowdy crowd eager with anticipation of a good year ahead.  Although not many thought they had a good chance of beating South Carolina.

My Vanderbilt t-shirt and Florida Gator hat got a lot of looks and comments.  We occupied ourselves for about 30 minutes with a group of fans explaining the Quest and how I really can support the local team and wear a Gator hat. Seriously, are Vanderbilt and Florida rivals? Doesn’t one of the teams have to win once per decade for it to be a rivalry (yes, its a low blow and I don’t expect an invite back, but I could not resist)?  And in the midst of a 30 minute conversation about your team, its prospects for the upcoming year, and your Coach’s bright future, can we at least get an offer of a beer please. Where is that southern hospitality?

We also looked for Clay Travis, author of the best selling “Dixieland Delight”, but he wasn’t anywhere to be found. We did get his cell number from an anonymous donor, but opted to not call. His story is one that takes him through a full season of games within SEC stadiums, up until and including the SEC Championship. It is a very good read.  I’m sure someday our paths will cross, likely next year in Gainesville.

We wandered around Vandyville a little while longer, saw the team walk through Vandyville, and headed off to find other tailgate areas.  We were not successful in finding other large tailgate areas, so we stopped into PF Chang’s for a quick beer before heading out for the Star Walk.    Our stop was incredibly well timed as we missed a sudden downpour of rain.  We would not be so lucky later.  After the quick beer, it was onto the Star Walk, Vanderbilt’s entrance into Vanderbilt Stadium.  I can confirm that Nashville is in the South, because after this brief downpour, the temperature went up 20 degrees and the humidity now sat at a rock solid 100%.  In other words, it was hot as hell and thus began our quest for shade. We met with Mark, a life long Vandy fan whom we met via our Twitter pages, got the full run down on the game, the players, the environment, etc.

As Mark states, “Vanderbilt football fans have been waiting for a day where we could be proud and relevant, a day where we could see progress and the potential to be great. All signs are pointing to that day. What CJF, staff and this team have accomplished within his short time here is to give us a reason to believe. We can see the change, it’s just a matter of time. Rome was not built in a day but the foundation for greatness was conceived in an idea then acted upon with a vengeance over time. We see that foundation for greatness being laid plus the enthusiasm and effort required to take this program farther than it has ever been. There may be a couple more near misses along the way but we know that a legacy always ends much differently than it begins. We have a future and the future is now. It is time to Anchor Down!”

We saw the Star Walk, from a slight distance as we were not willing to give up our spot under a tree.  After the Star Walk, we did an interview with the Fish ‘n Stats show on WHBQAM560 Memphis.  They are following our progress towards the Quest trip to Oxford, Mississippi in November.  We truly enjoy doing radio interviews so the more the merrier. You can listen to the audio on our site on the Publicity page. We then headed inside Vanderbilt Stadium for game time.

Pre Game – Inside Vanderbilt Stadium

We took our seats on the 5 yard line in the 58th row. A special thank you to the Vanderbilt University Athletic Department for their hospitality.  Interesting note, seats 1 & 2 are not on the aisle as you would expect.  We have noticed that in a few stadiums, odd.  Additionally, we noticed that our seats were in the section next to the Little League World Series runner up team from Goodlettsville, Tennessee.  Nice job, boys! As we got closer to game time we witnessed what is in my opinion one of the best school traditions thus far, at the first home game of the year, the entire freshman class leads the team onto the field.  This is not the football freshman class, this is every freshman at the school that leads the team onto the field.  This is only possible at a small school as I could not picture this at say Ohio State, and even at a small school like Vanderbilt it took forever, but it is a great tradition.

The Game
South Carolina won the toss and deferred, so the Vanderbilt Commodores, dressed in all black, would start the season receiving the ball.   VU’s first possession went 10 plays and ended with a failed fourth down conversion on the SC 44 yard line.  But on SC’s first play, VU would strip the ball and recover the fumble, so VU was back in business.  Unfortunately for VU, they would go backwards on this possession and have to punt the ball back to SC.  But on the second SC play of this possession, Connor Shaw would be intercepted and VU had the ball back again.  VU would drive down to have a first and goal, but Jordan Rodgers was intercepted. Two plays later, SC goes up 7-0.  Four plays later VU was punting back to SC.    In a first quarter that seemed to be dominated by VU, they had nothing to show for it and were in fact down 7-0.  Upon SC’s touchdown, I declared game over as SC was playing dreadful, while VU was dominating, yet the score was 7-0 SC.  Not a good sign for VU.

The stands, while not full at kickoff, were certainly almost full midway through the first quarter.  The announced attendance was 38,393, approximately 2,000 shy of capacity.  Oddly, this seemed like an accurate attendance figure.  This was the largest Vanderbilt home crowd since Oct. 3, 2009 versus Ole Miss (39,625) and the largest for a home opener since Aug. 30, 2001 versus Middle Tennessee State (39,885).  The energy level and overall excitement was high due to optimism around the VU program.  As an aside, this has been the only stadium we have been in with solid cellular reception during the game.

I would also be remiss if I did not mention the multiple heavy downpours that lasted for only a few minutes each time as these downpours were the outer bands of Hurricane Isaac.  Regardless, we were soaked, as usual.  Why couldn’t this game have been a whiteout as opposed to a blackout, if you catch my meaning (Beth got it so everyone else should as well)?

And now, back to the game.  The second quarter began in the middle of an SC 14 play drive for a field goal to make the score 10-0.  Two plays later, a 78 yard TD pass from Jordan Rodgers to Jordan Mathews and we have got ourselves a game again at 10-7.  SC had to punt on its next possession and five plays later after a VU field goal we are tied at 10 and that is how the half would end.  My game over call…a little premature. Al would like to interject that he made the comment during halftime warm-ups that the Vandy back up had a much better arm than Rodgers, and as of today, is the starter. His point (and he rarely has one so pay attention), he was paying attention to the football field for once being it wasn’t a whiteout.

The only scoring in the third quarter would be a VU field goal after a 10 play drive.  At this point midway through the third quarter with VU up 13-10, the people in front of us decide now is the time to go home.  Why bother coming?  Are you overconfident that VU will  hold this lead or do you know they will blow it and don’t want to see that happen?  In either case, I am amazed.  As the third quarter ended, we wondered what the beginning of the fourth quarter tradition at VU would be.  We had high hopes given the wonderful opening tradition.  Alas, there was nothing except for some commercials broadcast on the video board.  I would humbly suggest hiring a consulting firm to come up with a brandable (my own word creation) end of 3Q “thing”.

The fourth quarter began with an SC 9 play drive for a go ahead td, as SC took a 17-13 lead.  VU only touched the ball two more times and never got closer than the SC 43 yard line as SC possessed the ball for over 10 minutes in the 4th quarter. A tough loss for the home team 17-13.

VU played with SC all game and for large parts of the game were the better team.  The first quarter was dominated by VU, but they were unable to capitalize on their opportunities.  VU actually outgained SC 276-272 in this game.    This was a winnable game for VU and they will lament the missed opportunity.

Our biggest Quest related disappointment was the fact that they turned the scoreboard off so fast after the game, I was unable to get into good position for the final scoreboard photograph. However we did start a new tradition of making sure we take the same exact picture of the two of us together in a stadium, so we can track the beauty of our aging over the years. This sounds like a fun idea today, probably not so much later on. We’ll see

Post Game
After the game we had dinner at Rotier’s Restaurant. Pre-trip research indicated this was a place to get a good cheeseburger burger on French bread.  It was a nice solid burger, not exactly rave worthy but definately a good burger.  I cannot wait for Al’s next BBQ where I hear he is serving burgers on French bread instead of rolls.  As an aside, after charging his iPhone all day at every opportunity, Al’s iPhone is at 7% at 10:30pm. Per Al, “My iPhone kicks ass because it has the 4th coolest  marketing item of the year, a “CollegeFootballQuest” phone protector.

The Next Day
Pretrip research also indicated that the Pancake Pantry was a must stop.  Alas, we were not the only ones with this idea as the line was ridiculous, even by New York Cheesecake Factory standards.  We found an iHop 6 miles away instead of waiting 5 hours at the Pancake Pantry.  What “Around Me” did not tell us was that the 6 miles to iHop would be through some of the worst neighborhoods that Nashville had to offer. We know this because not only was there a TitleMax, but a TitleBucks location.  Fortunately we came out of the other side of hell and the brand new iHop was in a very nice mall. This afforded Al the opportunity to do his “peace at home” Zappos shopping for his wife.  We traveled back to Vanderbilt via a different route as plotted by TomTom.  This was mostly highway and not via hell.

We did some more sightseeing around the VU campus, including seeing the Parthenon.  At least Nashville’s re-creation of the Parthenon.  We also saw an old railroad steam locomotive.  Wow, the excitement never ends on the quest!  This was all at Centennial Park.

Travel Back
As there was nothing left that we wanted to see in Nashville and the Jack Daniels plant was too far outside Nashville, it was then back to the airport.  Unlike the flight to Nashville, the flights back to NY were full but we were able to get onto an earlier flight because “Al is awesome”.  And it was a good thing that we did, because if we didn’t we would have missed the wonderful show on the flight back.

We sat in front of two larger sized women who provided us with non-stop entertainment the entire ride back to NY.  First, one of them stated that she forgot to eat this morning.  I think what she meant is that she missed “third breakfast” and not that she forgot to eat at all.  Of course she asked for a bag of peanuts (containing five whole nuts) from the flight attendant.  Other wonderful lines from the comedy show behind us:

>Really, you are going to Turks & Quesos
>Is New York Northeast of Nashville?
>Is Orlando in the Eastern time zone?

And it went on from there.

We had a very quick exit from Delta upon landing and the Nanny’s car was still in the parking lot.  So we were both home in very short order, in time for a full weekend with the families.

Potential Sponsors
>Barnes & Noble
>PF Chang’s

The South Carolina Gamecocks would go on to a successful although slightly disappointing season for Gamecock fans. They would finish 3rd in the SEC East with a 6-2 conference record with losses to LSU and Florida. This led to a come from behind Outback Bowl win over Michigan to finish the year 11-2 and #8 in the AP poll.

The Vanderbilt Commodores went on to a fantastic season, finishing 4th in the SEC East with a 5-3 conference record. The Commodores would get an invite to the Music City Bowl, where they would beat N.C. State to finish 9-4, #23 in the final AP Poll. This would be Vandy’s best record since 1915.


Photo Gallery
For our Vanderbilt photo album, Please click here. You can view as a collage or run as a slideshow. There are comments to explain what is in the photo but most are self explanatory. Thanks to Google, I can no longer embed the slide show with comments.