SEC Media Days: Last year’s loss to Rebels still stings at Vandy

Vanderbilt defensive lineman Adam Butler talks to reporters Monday. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Vanderbilt defensive lineman Adam Butler talks to reporters Monday. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

By Parrish Alford

Daily Journal

HOOVER, Ala. – Adam Butler couldn’t unwind, couldn’t sleep and couldn’t enjoy a late-night dessert that often makes all things better.

He and his Vanderbilt teammates had just watched a possible opening-night win disappear in the blink of an eye.

Ole Miss running back Jeff Scott dashed to the corner and instead of running out of bounds to save clock, turned back inside and ran 75 yards for the winning touchdown in the Rebels’ 39-35 victory last season at Vanderbilt Stadium.

With a little more than a minute to play, it’s possible the Rebels would have driven for a game-tying field goal or perhaps a touchdown on another play.

Vanderbilt got the ball back and mounted a drive but couldn’t undo what Scott had done.

“Every time you think about Ole Miss you think about that play. I lost sleep. The game came back on at 2 o’clock, and I was sitting up watching it eating ice cream,” said Butler, who started on the defensive line that night.

Vanderbilt rebounded from that loss to finish 9-4.

The Commodores take on Ole Miss in Nashville on Sept. 13 – this time at downtown at L.P. Field, home of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans and site of the Rebels’ 25-17 Music City Bowl win over Georgia Tech in December.

Vanderbilt and Ole Miss are permanent SEC division cross-over opponents. The Commodores will visit Mississippi State on Nov. 22.

For Vanderbilt’s players, the video session that followed was almost as painful as the game itself.

“It was tough. Nobody was saying anything,” said tight end Stephen Scheu, whose 35-yard TD catch put the Commodores ahead with 1:30 remaining. “The coaches were trying to be as upbeat as possible, and that was tough to do. Guys were crushed … crushed.”

Over and over

Replays of the run showed at least one defender giving less than full effort to catch Scott.

“It was disappointing to sit there and watch that again, because they played it about 10 times. They kept re-winding it, going through each player and telling them what they could have done differently,” Butler said.

Trying to make sense of what had just happened players offered their own analysis.

“I heard many excuses like, ‘I thought he was going to go out of bounds,’ and stuff like that,” Butler said.

So it is with a little extra motivation that the Commodores – sporting a spread offense and 3-4 defense under new head coach Derek Mason – will approach the Ole Miss game.

Vanderbilt had taken three straight and five of the last six in the series before Scott’s run lifted the Rebels.

While a lot will be new for the Commodores, some of the emphasis will be the same, but they’ll hope to execute better.

“I was disappointed in the fact that we didn’t pursue to the football and finish which is what we had been practicing all week,” Butler said. “All week all we did was run to the football. We did pursuit drills twice a day at practice for plays like that. I couldn’t believe it when we gave up that long touchdown run.”

parrish.alford@journaliinc.com