CFN Take: Vandy Awful In Loss To Miss State
Posted Nov 22, 2014

Vanderbilt Commodores 2014 ... Head Coach: Derek Mason

2014 Vanderbilt Commodores 
2014 Schedule
Record: 3-8

Aug. 28 Temple L 37-7
Sep. 6 Ole Miss L 41-3
Sep. 13 UMass W 34-31
Sep. 20 South Carolina L 48-14
Sep. 27 at Kentucky L 17-7
Oct. 4 at Georgia L 44-17
Oct. 11 Charl Southern W 21-20
Oct. 25 at Missouri L 24-14
Nov. 1 Old Dominion W 42-28
Nov. 8 Florida L 34-10
Nov. 22 at Miss State L 51-0
Nov. 29 Tennessee

Nov. 22 at Mississippi State 51, Vanderbilt 0
And You Care Because … Mississippi State roared out of the gate with 34 straight points with a Christian Holmes fumble recovery for a score, two Dak Prescott touchdown passes and a four-yard run. Vanderbilt managed just 228 yards of total offense, and despite a slew of penalties, MSU was never threatened. Ashton Shumpert ran for a three-yard score and Joe Morrow caught touchdown passes from 27 and nine yards out.
What Else? Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott completed 16-of-21 passes for 193 yards and three scores, and ran for 30 yards and a touchdown
- Vanderbilt QB Johnny McCrary completed 15-of-31 passes for 161 yards and a pick, and ran eight times for a team-high 21 yards
- Penalties: Mississippi State 11 for 87 yards – Vanderbilt 5 for 57 yards
- Third down conversions: Mississippi State 11-of-15 – Vanderbilt 4-of-15
Game Rating: D-

Nov. 8 Florida 34, at Vanderbilt 10
And You Care Because … Vanderbilt scored first on a 33-yard Steven Scheu touchdown catch, but helped by four takeaways, it was all Florida from then on with 24 straight points on touchdown runs from Kelvin Taylor, Jeff Driskel and Treon Harris. Harris tore off a 33-yard touchdown dash to put the game out of reach, and the defense did the rest. The Gators only allowed a field goal after the Scheu touchdown in the first.
What Else? Turnovers: Vanderbilt 4 – Florida 0
- Florida QB Treon Harris completed 13-of-21 passes for 215 yards and ran ten times for 49 yards and two scores
- Vanderbilt QB Johnny McCrary completed 14-of-35 passes for 160 yards and a score with two interceptions
- Florida RB Matt Jones ran 17 times for 82 yards
Game Rating: C-

Nov. 1 at Vanderbilt 42, Old Dominion 28
And You Care Because … The Commodores got up 21-7 on two Johnny McCrary touchdown passes and a seven-yard Ralph Webb run, but Old Dominion kept battling with two Taylor Heinicke scoring throws. But Vandy rallied late in the first half and finished it off with a third McCary touchdown pass, finding Latevius Rayford for a 20-yard score with two seconds left. ODU came up with a fumble recovery for a score, but Vandy was able to pull away as McCrary connected with David Dudchock for a 50-yard touchdown and C.J. Duncan for a 30-yars score.
What Else? Vanderbilt QB Johnny McCrary completed 20-of-29 passes for 281 yards and five touchdowns
- ODU QB Taylor Heinicke completed 21-of-36 passes for 291 yards and two touchdowns with a pick, and led the team with 25 rushing yards on two carries
- Vanderbilt RB Ralph Webb ran 31 times for 166 yards and a score
- Time of possession: Vanderbilt 45:17 – Old Dominion 14:43
Game Rating: C

Oct. 25 at Missouri 24, Vanderbilt 14
And You Care Because … Missouri had to overcome a penalty-filled day and a sluggish passing game with a 25-yard Bud Sasser touchdown catch with just over two minutes to go to finally put Vandy away. The Tigers had a 10-0 after Russell Hansbrough’s ten-yard touchdown dash, and Sasser came up with a 13-yard scoring catch in the third, but Vanderbilt wouldn’t go away with a nine-yard Nathan Marcus scoring grab and a 29-yard C.J. Duncan catch late. When needed, Mizzou came up with a 70-yard drive in ten plays.
What Else? Penalties: Missouri 14 for 100 yards – Vanderbilt 5 for 41 yards
- Missouri QB Maty Mauk completed 11-of-23 passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns, and ran seven times for 58 yards
- Vanderbilt QB Johnny McCrary completed 17-of-31 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns with an interception
- Missouri WR Bud Sasser caught five passes for 74 yards and two touchdowns
Game Rating: C+

Oct. 11 at Vanderbilt 21, Charleston Southern 20
And You Care Because … Vanderbilt got up 18-3 helped by a 65-yard C.J. Duncan touchdown catch and an eight-yard run from Dallas Rivers. Charleston Southern wouldn’t go away, with a blocked punt for a score and ten unanswered points in the second half on a ten-yard Zachary Frazier run and a 30-yard David Kennedy field goal to pull within one. The Commodores held on late, even though the offense couldn’t score in the second half.
What Else? Vanderbilt QB Johnny Duncan completed 10-of-16 passes for 169 yards and a score with a pick
- Vanderbilt WR C.J. Duncan caught seven passes for 119 yards and a touchdown
- Charleston Southern RB Mike Holloway ran 18 times for 105 yards, and led the team with 79 receiving yards on three catches
- Total yards: Charleston Southern 389 – Vanderbilt 295
Game Rating: C

Oct. 4 at Georgia 44, Vanderbilt 17
And You Care Because … Georgia scored 21 points in the first quarter as Todd Gurley ran for touchdowns from five and 14 yards out, and Chris Conley caught a 44-yard touchdown pass. Conley came up with a second scoring grab with seven seconds to play in the second half, but the Bulldogs didn’t put the game away until late in the third when Devin Bowman returned an interception 63 yards for a touchdown. Vandy got short touchdown runs from Ralph Webb in the second and Dallas Rivers in the fourth.
What Else? Georgia RB Todd Gurley ran 25 times for 163 yards and two touchdowns, and caught two passes for 24 yards, and completed a 50 yard pass.
- Vanderbilt quarterbacks combined to completed 16-of-31 passes for 188 yards with a pick
- Georgia QB Hutson Mason completed 11-of-17 passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns with an interception
- The two teams combined to convert just 6-of-23 third down chances
Game Rating: C

Sept. 27 at Kentucky 17, Vanderbilt 7
And You Care Because … Kentucky had few problems with Patrick Towles hitting Ryan Timmons for a 20-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter and running for a one-yard score in the second. Vandy’s points came on defense, tying it at seven with Darrius Sims returning a Towles pass 13 yards for a score, but the offense went absolutely nowhere in the second half. Each team turned it over three times, with UK shutting down any Vandy chances in the second half with big plays. The Commodores finished with just 139 yards of total offense
What Else? Kentucky QB Patrick Towles completed 23-of-30 passes for 201 yards and a score with a pick
- Vanderbilt QB Wade Freeback completed 8-of-25 passes for 85 yards and three scores
- 11 different Wildcat receivers caught passes with Stanley Williams leading the way with just 39 yards on three grabs.
- Time of possession: Kentucky 38:22 – Vanderbilt 21:38
Game Rating: C

Sept. 20 South Carolina 48, Vanderbilt 34
And You Care Because … South Carolina won ugly, scoring 24 straight points after spotting Vanderbilt 14 with Darrius Sims returning the opening kickoff for 91-yard score an C.J. Duncan catching an eight-yard touchdown pass for the Commodores. USC turned it around with Dylan Thompson throwing two touchdown passes and Brison Williams returning an interception 53 yards for a score. Vandy wouldn’t go away, pulling within seven late on Tommy Openshaw’s second field goal of the game, but Thompson put it away on a one-yard run.
What Else? South Carolina QB Dylan Thompson completed 22-of-34 passes for 237 yards and three touchdowns, and he ran for a score.
- Vanderbilt QB Wade Freebeck completed 11-of-20 passes for 168 yards and a score with a pick
- Total Yards: South Carolina 449 – Vanderbilt 379
- South Carolina WR Pharoh Cooper caught ten passes for 114 yards, and he ran twice for 74 yards
Game Rating: C+

Sept. 13 at Vanderbilt 34, Massachusetts 31
And You Care Because … Vanderbilt avoided total disaster with 14 unanswered points getting a three-play drive helped by two C.J. Duncan catches, leading four-yard touchdown run from Ralph Webb with just over a minute to play for the win. UMass had a shot, marching back quickly into field goal range, but Blake Lucas missed a 22-yard field goal in the final seconds. In the comeback, the Vandy special teams got into the act with a blocked punt for a score to pull within five with under nine minutes to play, but the two-point conversion failed to force the late touchdown drive. UMass got out to a 14-0 lead on Rodney Mills touchdown catches from 13 and 53 yards away, and got two Lorenzo Woodley touchdown runs.
What Else? UMass came really, really close to getting two program-changing wins, barely losing to Colorado last week and losing a heartbreaker to Vandy this week. Mark Whipple is doing a brilliant job of making the team more than just competitive.
- Vanderbilt gave ANOTHER quarterback a shot. Wade Freebeck completed one of two passes for three yards with a pick. He was the fourth quarterback the team tried this year.
- Vanderbilt QB Patton Robinette completed 15-of-21 passes for 147 yards and a score, and ran six times for 35 yards and a touchdown.
- UMass outgained Vanderbilt 346 yards to 310.
Game Rating: A-

Sept. 6 Ole Miss 41, at Vanderbilt 3
And You Care Because … The Rebels had no problems whatsoever with the punchless Commodores, getting two-yard touchdown runs from I’Tavius Mathers and DeVante Kincade, and a 39-yard Cliff Coleman interception return for a score on the way to a 41-0 lead. Vanderbilt managed just nine first downs and didn’t get on the board until the fourth quarter on a 26-yard Tommy Openshaw field goal.
What Else? Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace didn’t make any mistakes. He completed 22-of-30 passes for 320 yards and a score. The Rebels outgained Vandy 547 yards to 167.
- Vanderbilt’s quarterback situation didn’t improve. Stephen Rivers completed just 6-of-25 passes for 60 yards with a pick.
- Ole Miss didn’t have to extend itself too much defensively. Robert Nkemdiche came up with the team’s only sack – the Rebels didn’t have to generate any pressure to produce.
- Ole Miss didn’t punt and held on to the ball for 37:26,
Game Rating: D

Aug. 28 Temple 37, at Vanderbilt 7
And You Care Because … After a weather delay, Temple shocked Vanderbilt with seven takeaways and 30 unanswered points highlighted by a 55-yard Averee Robinson fumble recovery for a score and two touchdown passes from P.J. Jones and a three-yard scoring run. Vanderbilt only scored on a fumble recovery in the end zone in the second quarter.
What Else? If there was ever a team that looked like it needed a preseason tune-up, it was Vanderbilt. The QB situation is a mess – Stephen Rivers, Patton Robinette and Johnny McCrary all played, all had problems – and the seven turnovers were embarrassing. It’s impossible to have a worse debut than Derek Mason’s.
- Give Temple credit for being sharp from the start, even though it only converted 2-of-17 third down chances. P.J. Walker was terrific, completing 23-of-34 passes for 207 yards and two scores, with a rushing touchdown, and spreading the ball around well. The running game didn’t really work, but the defense picked up the slack.
- Everyone seemed to get in on the act. Temple got production from just about everywhere defensively. Ellis Avery came up with two sacks, Tyler Matakevich tied for the team lead with six tackles, Tavon Young made two picks, and overall, the energy was terrific.
- The Commodore offensive line looked like it was two steps too slow. Vanderbilt seemed confused and indecisive. The quarterback issues had a lot to do with that.
Game Rating: D+

2014 Vanderbilt Preview

Did Vanderbilt miss its window?

This isn’t Duke worming its way through the ACC Coastal, and it’s not Northwestern winning one or two key games and fighting for a big season. This is the SEC, and great seasons can still add up to a fat load of jack squat when it comes to actually competing for a championship.

Derek Mason could be Bill Belichick, Nick Saban and Vince Lombardi all wrapped up in one, but Vanderbilt is still in the SEC, it still has several disadvantages it has to overcome – even if James Franklin didn’t ever want to hear any excuses about academic requirements or small school issues – and it still has to hope for the right breaks at the right time.

One problem: those breaks came last season.

Florida was a hot mess after suffering so many injuries, and Georgia was a shadow of its former self after getting banged up through the season. The Commodores let the Ole Miss game slip through its fingers late, had South Carolina and Missouri at home, and it didn’t have to deal with Alabama, Auburn or LSU out of the West. A 9-4 season is impressive for a program not used to much consistent success, but that might have been the ceiling.

Franklin was a fire-breathing, no-nonsense, no-whining coach who came in demanding that Vanderbilt become a player in the SEC race, and while finishing fourth in a down SEC East might not have been what he was shooting for, it’s still a hard act for Mason to follow.

Vanderbilt always rolls with the tide, and not the Alabama version. When the SEC is fantastic, the record usually reflects that going 4-20 in 2009 and 2010. When the Commodores can pull of a few upsets, and when the schedule isn’t all that horrible, they go 18-8 in 2012 and 1013 with two midrange bowl wins. And that’s okay.

Mason’s main job will be to continually find the right parts to fit a system that works for his coaching staff and his team, and while Franklin-like energy might be a plus, it still comes down to execution. How can Vanderbilt compete with some of college football’s elite teams in the best conference in America? It as to do everything right, and it needs a few magnetic players in key spots.

That could be a problem this year with star receiver Jordan Matthews gone and with an unsettled quarterback situation, but the offensive line should be a strength and there’s good depth in the backfield to get the running game going early on. The passing attack might need a little while to come around.

The defense that was terrific against everyone except for the top offenses should be strong again up front in the new 3-4 alignment, but the secondary needs an overhaul. Franklin didn’t leave the cupboard bare, but Mason and his staff have some work to do.

It might be tough to come up with a third straight nine-win season, but coming from Stanford, Mason knows what it takes to succeed at a smart school that has to work a little harder to succeed. Considering that just one of the last 13 Vanderbilt head coaches since 1953 come up with a winning season in his first campaign – Fred Pancoast in 1975, but you knew that – Mason might have to fight to open up that window again.

What to watch for on offense:
Offensive coordinator Karl Dorrell has to make the running game roll right away. The quarterback situation is a question mark, Jordan Matthews and Jonathan Krause are gone after catching 154 of the team’s 243 catches, and the ground attack has to come up with a wee bit of consistency in a league full of loaded run defenses. The Commodores are 11-1 over the last three years when running for 200 yards or more, and last year they were able to get into the end zone with 34 rushing scores. Dorrell’s top options are in the backfield with the 1-2 punch of Jerron Seymour and Brian Kimbrow, and Ralph Webb is starting to look like a nice option. With four starters returning up front, it’s going to be ground and pound for a while.

What to watch for on defense: Welcome to the 3-4, and with it, some key moves. Kyle Woestmann was the team’s top pass rusher last season, and now he’ll move into more of a hybrid outside linebacker. The idea will be to generate even more pressure from several spots, and to rely on the linebackers to make lots and lots of plays. Derek Mason made stars out of the Stanford linebackers, and he turned Trent Murphy loose as a devastating force into the backfield from his spot on the outside. Woestmann will play a slightly different role, but the potential is there to be a statistical superstar for a defense that has a lot to live up to after finishing 23rd in the nation.

The team will be far better if… the offense starts coming up with third down conversions. The Commodores were positively dominant on fourth downs, going for it a whopping 28 times and converting on 22 of them, but they were put in the position time and again because the offense couldn’t convert on third. Oddly enough, the Commodores got by Houston in the bowl win after converting just 2-of-17 third down chances, but for the most part, the offense struggled and sputtered converting just 33% of the time on the year. Time of possession wasn’t a problem, but consistency was.

The Schedule: It's not a bad schedule, but here's the problem - where are the SEC wins going to come from? Non-conference play shouldn't be a fight with Temple, UMass, Charleston Southern and Old Dominion bringing in an almost-certain four wins, and then it's going to take a few upsets to get bowl eligible.

The 50/50 game against Kentucky is on the road, and while getting Ole Miss and Mississippi State from the West isn't getting Alabama and Auburn, they’ll still be battles. The Commodores will have to get by South Carolina and/or Florida at home, and they can't slip against Tennessee. Can they win two of those three and also get by Georgia or Missouri on the road? It's not going to be easy.

Best offensive player: Junior RB Jerron Seymour. He’s not going to have to carry the entire workload by himself with Brian Kimbrow and Ralph Webb talented and able to rotate in to keep everyone fresh, but he’s going to be the main man with good speed and scooting ability through the hole. He’s not big at just 5-6, but he’s compact and can bring a little bit of power – he’s terrific in short-yardage situations and around the goal line. Considering it might take a little while before the passing game comes around, he’ll be relied on early and often.

Best defensive player: Junior LB Darreon Herring. There might not be any superstars on the Commodore defense, but if Derek Mason and defensive coordinator David Kotuski are going to make this a Stanford-like D, the linebackers are going to be great. Herring is outstanding in the open field and grew into the job on the outside last season, but he’ll get help with Kyle Woestmann moving from end to outside linebacker and Caleb Azubike growing into a potential terror. Herring has the size to hold up inside and be the team’s leading tackler. He needs to be the leader and steady force.

Key players to a successful season: Sophomore QB Patton Robinette. Or redshirt freshman Johnny McCrary or junior Stephen Rivers. The passing game was inconsistent and shaky when Jordan Matthews wasn’t making lots and lots of plays, and now it’ll be up to the quarterback to make the receivers better, and not the other way around. Robinette was a top recruit a few years ago with an Elite 11 Camp resume, and with great skills, athleticism and winning ability, winning two North Carolina state titles, but he didn’t grab the job by the horns this offseason after throwing for 642 yards with four touchdowns and five picks, and running for seven touchdowns, in the mix last year with Austyn Carta-Samuels. McCrary is a dual-threat playmaker with good accuracy and upside, and Rivers – Phil Rivers’ brother – comes in from LSU to compete for the job this summer.

The season will be a success if ... the Commodores come up with a winning season. The SEC is going to be better and Vandy is in transition. As long as there aren’t any big mistakes against Temple, UMass, Charleston Southern and Old Dominion, it shouldn’t be too hard to get two more wins to get bowl eligible, even if there aren’t any layups in SEC play. Getting those two and a bowl victory would make it an impressive debut for Mason.

Key game: Sept. 6 vs. Ole Miss. It was one of the most fun games of the first half of the season with Ole Miss hanging on late to pull out a 39-35 win in Nashville to open up 2013. This year, after the Commodores start out against Temple, they get the Rebels back in their house to open up the SEC campaign, and it could be a tone-setter for the rest of the season. With South Carolina up next in conference play, followed up by three road games against Kentucky, Georgia and Missouri, this could be a must win to avoid a tough SEC start.

2013 Fun Stats:
- Third Quarter Scoring: Opponents 107 – Vanderbilt 35
- Fumbles: Opponents 33 (lost 12) – Vanderbilt 16 (lost 7)
- Penalties: Opponents 83 for 651 yards – Vanderbilt 63 for 518 yards

- 2014 Vanderbilt Preview - What You Need To Know & Top Players

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