Three games into his third season as Vanderbilt coach might be too soon to start calling for Derek Mason’s job. But boy, it’s difficult to find anything at which the Commodores excel after watching a 38-7 bludgeoning at the hands of Georgia Tech on Saturday.
Vanderbilt (1-2) gave up an 81-yard touchdown pass on the game’s first offensive play, then proceeded to surrender 289 rushing yards and 511 total yards for the day. That after giving up 399 passing yards against Middle Tennessee last week. And after choking away a 10-point lead against South Carolina by surrendering 200-plus second-half yards.
Defense is supposed to be Mason’s thing. He was a Broyles Award finalist as Stanford’s coordinator in 2012 and last year jumped back into that role, taking over play-calling for the Commodores. To be fair, they made significant defensive strides in 2015 — but it’s been all backpedaling so far this season.
And the offense? Can we even call it that?
Mercer and Boston College (the worst Power 5 offense in America last year) both managed 320 yards against Georgia Tech the previous two weeks, but Vanderbilt mustered a measly 275 on Saturday. The Commodores have averaged just 125.3 passing yards through three games.
Ralph Webb is a terrific running back — one of the best in school history, in fact — who has rumbled for 377 yards already this fall, but he’s being wasted without any help. And the next two weeks aren’t likely to improve the picture.
Mason’s team must travel to Western Kentucky, which beat Vandy in Nashville last year, and then face No. 23 Florida and its heat-seeking defense. That smells a lot like a 1-4 start for the Commodores, who went 7-17 in Mason’s first two seasons.
Remember when Vanderbilt had consecutive 9-4 seasons and three consecutive bowl berths under James Franklin? The last of those was just in 2013, but all that unprecedented progress has evaporated.
There is a sliver of good news: Week 6 brings equally ugly Kentucky. Perhaps the Wildcats and Commodores could agree to settle that one with something other than football.