Vanderbilt's Vierling The Voice of Reason

David RutzCorrespondent ISeptember 21, 2009

LEXINGTON, KY - NOVEMBER 15:  Chris Nickson #3 and Bradley Vierling #60 of the Vanderbilt Commodores celebrate a touchdown pass by Nickson during the game against the Kentucky Wildcats on November 15, 2008 at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Vanderbilt's Brad Vierling is who you want as a team captain.

The fifth-year senior and starting center doesn't make excuses. He's a crisp, asserted speaker who speaks his mind, and for that reason, his teammates listen.

His assessment of Vanderbilt's performance in its dismal 15-3 loss to Mississippi State Saturday night was typically blunt.

"We weren't seeing things well, we weren't seeing blitzes well," Vierling said. "The offensive line didn't do their part. We were terrible, to say the least, on offense."

It had to have woken the Commodores up.

They can't waltz into any game, whether it's a conference opponent or not, and put on an effort like they did Saturday and expect a victory.

Vierling's the kind of person who can vocalize that.

So it was no surprise Saturday night while meeting with members of the media that he looked, not unconvincingly upbeat or cheery, but grimly resolved.

The loss had to stay right there, on a wet Saturday night at Vanderbilt Stadium.

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Over and done with, like a bad day at the office.

"You wash it off," he said. "If you stay back and pout about a game you just lost, you're going to lose the next one and the next one. So you can't do that. You've go to stay optimistic."

"We're a team that can do good things."

Vierling knows this better than anyone, having been with the program since it began its resurrection in 2005.

I know, as well as everyone in Commodore Nation knows, Vanderbilt is not a bad team.

They did their best to defeat that notion Saturday night, but these players have too much pride and ability to let the hangover of this loss carry over against the Rice Owls this weekend.

After the Commodores lost their fourth straight in 2008 following their 5-0 start, a drubbing at home at the hands of Florida, and two weeks after an even more depressing loss to lowly Duke, Vierling said then too that the team had to stay upbeat and believe in themselves, even when all signs pointed to yet another monumental collapse.

Being there and speaking with him, you could tell he truly believed it. That's what makes him such a good captain.

His team backed his confidence up.

One week later, Vanderbilt went on the road, beat Kentucky and had its first bowl eligibility in 26 years.

So there needs to be a stop to this reactionary, knee-jerk "Oh my God, the season is over" talk.

The season's got a long way to go.

There are nine games left, four of them against currently ranked teams. Plenty of opportunities for big wins by the Commodores, who have a tendency to get them when least expected.

And Vanderbilt's performance, given how pitiful it was, can only serve as motivation going forward.

"All it's going to do is fire us up to do better next week," Vierling said.

That can't be good for Rice or anyone else on the schedule of the angry Commodores.