Three Keys Revisited Vanderbilt vs Temple

Well, that was a pretty depressing way to start the year and the Derek Mason era in Nashville. I think most expected that there would be some growing pains with the ‘Dores breaking in a new offense, new defense, and a new coaching staff. None of that though accounts for the sloppy, mangled, turnoverfest which we bore witness to late on Thursday night.

It is fair to say that Temple are much improved from a year ago, but Vandy allowed them to look good. Here is a look back at the three keys to see what went wrong.

1) Domination from the offensive line - Fail

This was a weird game for the offensive line. Though they certainly weren’t bad as a group, there were enough breakdowns and bad plays to make the whole offense stutter. Part of the issue is that even though Ralph Webb rushed at 5 yards per carry it just didn’t feel like the running game was effective enough early to keep Temple on the back foot.

The same is true of the passing game. Though the linemen were not being used as turnstiles, there was still no domination. There was always the threat of the pocket breaking down, a fact not at all helped by the fact the linemen had to try to pass protect three different quarterbacks, with three different skills sets, during the game. If Vandy is to bounce back from this the line HAS to get better. Webb looks like he could be a legitimate star and until someone beds themselves in as a passer the run is going to need to step up.

2) Keeping it simple on defense – Pass

At the risk of sounding overly optimistic the defense actually looked pretty good against the Owls. This may be the first and only time this is ever said about a defense for a team which gave up 37 points, but there are high level mitigating circumstances here. The ‘Dores gave Temple the ball seven times on Thursday night (into Friday morning) and there is no way that even the vaunted ’85 Bears defense could stand up against that. There was short field after short field, rest periods of less than a minute between drives, and whole bunch of offensive (and special teams) mistakes which just killed the defense.

For the most part though it seemed that the 3-4 scheme can stand up with this personnel. If you look purely at the game before the Rivers fumble was returned for a score and the lead grew to 21-7, the Owls really hadn’t done anything on offense. If you give any team starting positions on your own 40, 31, 37, 14, and 20 during a game then the defense cannot be blamed for what happened.

3) Derek Mason as a head coach – Fail

As a Vandy fan this is the most worrying aspect of the defeat by far. I don’t think the rain delay helped in the slightest. It killed the crowd and took all the energy out of the players before a ball was even kicked. I even think this game ends up completely differently if the Rivers fumble is reversed (as it should have been, his knee was clearly down) but the capitulation from that point onward can only be leveled at the feet of the head coach.

The ‘Dores looked both underprepared and completely overwhelmed by the task in front of them, traits which were mirrored by Mason. During both the half time and post-game interviews he had an almost deer in the headlights look which has to worry all involved with the program. James Franklin, for all his eventual issues, never exuded anything other than confidence, even when his team was undermanned and out gunned.

The biggest coaching issue here though was with the quarterbacks. Patton Robinette certainly wasn’t playing well, but there was no reason to pull him which Mason did. His confidence has to be crushed now after the head coach spent the summer telling whoever won the job that they would not have to look over their shoulder. Putting Johnathan McCrary in the game made even less sense, and after a two picks in three passes performance it showed the super recruit that he was in no way ready for primetime. Now you have to wonder about his mental state too.

I hate doing this, but Mason gets an F for his first game as a head coach. On the plus side you would assume things can only move up from here.