VU shutout was something of a rarity

Wednesday, September 9, 2009 at 1:01am
09WEBgooseegg.jpg
 As the offense stayed on the field, a rested Vanderbilt defense kept the '0' on the scoreboard. / Mike Strasinger for The City Paper

There was a time when season-opening shutouts were the norm for Vanderbilt.

From the earliest days of college football (the 1890s) through much of the 1940s, the Commodores routinely did not allow a point until their second game – or much later. From 1890 through 1950, they accomplished the feat 48 times – the majority of them under legendary coach Dan McGugin.

In recent years, though, the feat has become much more rare.

Saturday’s 45-0 victory over Western Carolina was just the fourth time in 54 seasons VU did not allow a point in its opener. Yet for the players who made it happen, the goose egg was expected.

“We were talking about it before the game and all week,” senior safety Ryan Hamilton said. “We were saying we wanted to have a zero on the board at the end of the day. As the game went on we were just saying, ‘No first downs,’ ‘Don’t let them cross the 50 and then they won’t score.’ We just stuck to the plan.”

Western Carolina did not have a single possession of more than five plays and crossed midfield just once. The Commodores forced turnovers on back-to-back possessions in both the first and fourth quarters, and did not allow a completion of 15 yards or more.

The Catamounts managed just four first downs and punted 10 times.

It was Vanderbilt’s first shutout overall since Oct. 9, 1999, when it blanked The Citadel (also a Southern Conference team) 58-0 under Woody Widenhofer.

In the 110 games in between the Commodores held just six opponents to fewer than 10 points. They also were held without a point four times, including three straight by the University of Tennessee from 2001-03.

“It’s just tough nowadays with the rules and the pace that people play now – it’s hard to get shutouts,” coach Bobby Johnson said. “…We played really well on defense. The offense kept the ball a long time – 95 plays, that helps you a whole bunch.”

As difficult as they have been to produce, however, the Commodores’ most recent season-opening shutouts have not helped much.

The last time Vanderbilt held an opponent scoreless in a season-opener was 1985, a 7-0 victory over Tennessee-Chattanooga. The following week Kansas rolled up 42 points, and VU finished the season with a 3-7-1 record and coach George MacIntyre was replaced by Watson Brown.

In 1966, a 24-0 victory over The Citadel in the opener was the only victory in a 1-9 campaign under Jack Green.

Ten years earlier, in 1956, a 14-0 victory over Georgia was followed by back-to-back romps over nationally ranked opponents – 46-7 over No. 15 UT-Chattanooga and 32-7 over No. 18 Alabama. Even so, the Commodores finished that season 5-5.

Vanderbilt’s follow up to this one is LSU, which is ranked No. 11 in the current Associated Press poll.

“You’re always feeling good coming off a win,” Hamilton said. “Our goal was to pitch a shutout. We met our goal, which we were happy about.

“We know we’re going to have a much tougher task, and we’re going to build on it and we’re going to keep practicing hard.”

 

STARTING WITH A SHUTOUT

A year-by-year look (with final record) of the 52 times Vanderbilt has started a football season with a shutout:

 YEAR            OPPONENT            SCORE            RECORD

1890            Nashville            40-0            1-0

1891            Sewanee            22-0            3-1

1893            Memphis            68-0            6-1

1894            Memphis            64-0            7-1

1896            Kentucky            6-0            3-2-2

1897            Kentucky St.            24-0            6-0-1

1899            Cumberland            32-0            7-2

1900            Mississippi            6-0            4-4-1

1901            Kentucky            22-0            6-1-1

1902            Cumberland            45-0            8-1

 

1904            Mississippi St.            61-0            9-0

1905            Maryville            97-0            7-1

1906            Kentucky            28-0            8-1

1907            Kentucky            40-0            5-1-1

1909            Southwestern            52-0            7-3

1910            Mooney            34-0            8-0-1

1911            B’ham South.            40-0            8-1

1912            Bethel                        105-0            8-1-1

1913            Maryville            59-0            5-3

1915            MTSU                        51-0            9-1

 

1916            Southwestern            86-0            7-1-1

1917            Transylvania            41-0            5-3

1919            Union (Tenn.)            41-0            5-1-2

1920            B’ham South.            54-0            5-3-1

1921            MTSU                        34-0            7-0-1

1922            MTSU                        38-0            8-0-1

1923            Howard            27-0            5-2-1

1924            Henderson            13-0            5-3-2

1925            MTSU                        27-0            6-3-0

1926            MTSU                        69-0            8-1

 

1928            Chattanooga            20-0            8-2

1930            Chattanooga            39-0            8-2

1931            W. Kentucky            52-0            5-4

1933            Cumberland            50-0            4-3-3

1934            Mississippi St.            7-0            4-3

1935            Union (Tenn.)            34-0            7-3

1936            MTSU                        45-0            3-5-1

1937            Kentucky            12-0            7-2

1938            Wash. (Mo.)            20-0            6-3

1940            Wash. & Lee            19-0            3-6-1

 

1941            Purdue                        3-0            8-2

1942            Tenn. Tech            52-0            6-4

1943            Tenn. Tech            30-0            5-0

1944            Sewanee            0-0            3-0-1

1945            Tenn. Tech            12-0            3-6

1946            Tenn. Tech            35-0            5-4

1947            Northwestern            3-0            6-4

1950            MTSU                        47-0            7-4

1956            Georgia            14-0            5-5

1966            The Citadel            24-0            1-9

 

1985            Chattanooga            7-0            3-7-1

2009            W. Carolina            45-0            TBD