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Vanderbilt Football Taking The Next Step


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Photo Credit-Ricky Thrash III via Twitter

The date is December 14, 2020. Your beloved Vanderbilt Football team is coming off the first-ever winless season in program history, dating back to 1902. The program is as low as it has ever been Clark Lea is taking over arguably the most difficult rebuild project in American college football. Often referred to as a "doormat" of the Southeastern Conference, hope springs eternal as the former fullback sets lofty goals for the once proud program.


In the first full season as the director of the black and gold, the Commodores made very limited progress. Opening the season with a gut-wrenching loss to a middling FCS opponent, the Nashville footballers ended what at the time was the nation's longest winless streak with a win at Colorado State. While winning just two games against ten losses doesn't seem like much, given the state of the program that Coach Lea took over, it was a breath of fresh air. One could sense that he had the wheels turned in the right direction.


Year two under the direction of the former assistant at such schools as UCLA, Wake Forest, and Notre Dame brought more positivity to West End. Winning two SEC games was a remarkable accomplishment made even bigger when one of those wins came in Lexington, Kentucky. It marked the first SEC road win since 2018. Still, the Commodores fell short of the ultimate goal of postseason play with a record of 5-7. Despite the disappointment, progress was being made. As Clark Lea stated, "We can celebrate the progress of 5-7 but we will never be satisfied in falling short of postseason play." He has made it clear that he intends to build sustainable success with the ultimate goal of winning championships.


This week brings a massive opportunity for the black and gold. Coach Lea's troops have an opportunity to reach 3-0 for the first time since 2017 when they opened the season with victories over MTSU, Alabama A&M, and Elon. This week the foe is the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. The Winston-Salem, North Carolina, based program has faced Vanderbilt seventeen times previously with Vanderbilt winning ten of those contests. In their last meeting, the Dave Clawson led Wake Forest walked away with a 45-25 victory in Nashville, Tennessee.


A win in this contest for Vanderbilt would be an indication of further progress in the rebuilding efforts of Clark Lea. Make no mistake, this is what many would describe as a "winnable game" for the Commodores. If they are to reach their goal of postseason play, this game provides a massive step. A loss would make attaining that desire very difficult. Wake Forest has been the standard bearer for a long time for academic institutions in regard to achieving success on the football field. Under the leadership of Dave Clawson, the Demon Deacons have been to seven consecutive bowl games, winning five of those.


Being led into battle by fan favorites Will Sheppard (WR), AJ Swann (QB), and CJ Taylor (LB), the Commodores are a confident group. These players believe that they can compete at the highest level and there has never been a bigger opportunity for them to make a statement that "they belong". In doing that, Clark Lea can take solace in making measurable progress to beating a team you have previously lost to. It would certainly be considered taking the next step in a rebuild project that just two seasons ago looked very bleak and was going to take a significant amount of time.




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