The Other Huddle: Vanderbilt

Mississippi State will host Vanderbilt this weekend in the final home game of the 2014 football season. It's senior day for the Bulldogs and a chance to be the first Bulldog team to win ten regular season games in school history. The Commodores are looking to gain some momentum heading into the off season and would benefit from a strong showing in Starkville. publisher Don Yates agreed to share some insight into the Vanderbilt football program in this week's edition of The Other Huddle.

The Commodores had four different starters under center this season, which has hurt the team's offensive production. As the final stretch approaches, it appears the coaching staff has settled on their guy.

"Patton Robinette was the lone returner with any extensive experience," shared Yates. "He started for the opener against Temple and was pulled very early in the second quarter with the score tied 7-7. Since then Vandy's had a musical chairs quarterback rotation policy. Injuries have contributed to some of that but it all started when the coaches pulled the plug on the team's most experienced QB, Robinette. Right now Johnny McCrary's the guy. He was able to throw five TD passes against Old Dominion a few week ago. Old Dominion has one of the worst defenses in the country. McCrary did have a solid outing at Missouri before the ODU game. However, he couldn't throw it in the ocean in the last three quarters against Florida."

Under James Franklin, Vanderbilt went to their first bowl games since 1982. Commodore fans enjoyed holiday football and grew accustomed to seeing their team have a spot in the post season.

The coaching change and disappointing season this year has Vandy fans a little concerned about the future.

"They've had a taste of success and don't want to go back to losing," Yates shared. "It's kind of like Cinderella and the clock has hit 1 am. Some fans believe (Derek) Mason should be given time but others would like to see him gone after the season."

One bright spot on the Commodore offense has been the play of the tight ends. A change in offensive scheme has allowed for more passes to be thrown over the middle.

"James Franklin was reluctant to throw to TEs but Derek Mason wants to get the ball in their hands," Yates explained. "He had little choice though. Vandy lost Jordan Matthews and Jonathan Krause to graduation after the 2013 season. That left them with little returning experience at wide receiver. They did have big tight end Steven Scheu back and he's led the team with 33 catches for 442 yards three touchdowns. He's got great hands and a rangy 6-foot-5 frame. Davis Dudchock, an Alabama native, came to Vandy from Stanford. He's got 13 catches including five in the 'Dores most recent game (Florida). Nathan Marcus and Dillon van der Wal also have catches at tight end."

Mississippi State enters the game as a four touchdown favorite. The Commodores have shown some signs of life down the stretch, but have struggled to be consistent.

"It's important that Commodore defenders are in the right place when the ball is snapped," Yates said. "Derek Mason was supposed to be an expert at stopping the spread, however, I haven't really seen that yet. The defense does seem to be slowly improving. Against Florida the defense was victimized by an offense that fumbled on back to back possessions deep in Vandy territory. These fumbles came right after Vandy's D had mounted a terrific goal line stop of the Gators, so the defense was gassed for the rest of the game while allowing Florida to get up by two scores. It was downhill from there. The VU offense has to sustain drives to keep the Commodore defenders off the field and give them a chance."

Vandy fans are hopeful that the growing pains under first year head coach Derek Mason will be short lived, but there remains some concern about next season.

"There's a lot of uncertainty in the program right now," Yates explained. "Next year's schedule will have a tougher out-of-conference lineup. The team will return a lot of players which should help the situation. I think if the staff adopts an offense more suited for its personnel it'll have a chance at least to be successful. If they continue using the West Coast offense it will probably have disastrous effects."

Gene's Page Top Stories