The college football world got a glimpse of Vanderbilt’s potential in the first test of the season, overmatching MTSU convincingly 28-6 on Saturday in Murfreesboro.
But many teams around the country, including those on Vanderbilt’s 2017 schedule, doubt it can show improvement on the field, and often seem to overlook the Commodores from year-to-year.
However, the Commodores seem vastly improved in all phases from a year ago, but head coach Derek Mason pointed out in his weekly press conference that his team is capable of more. Vanderbilt seemed to be less than impressive in stretches of the contest against the Blue Raiders.
Vanderbilt started out fast and never relinquished a lead, but looked stagnant during stretches of both the third and fourth quarter on offense, as coordinator Andy Ludwig seemed to be content with the lead.
The Commodores got off to a hot start, scoring touchdowns on their first three possessions in the opening half, paired by a missed field goal opportunity. Ralph Webb scored quickly in the third quarter on a 73-yard reception to make the score 28-0, the ‘Dores last points of the contest.
Ludwig seemed to sit on the lead for much of the second half, as a heavy dose of Webb elapsed much of the remainder of the ball game.
Compared to the hot start, some would say it was a lack of execution as time passed, others may lean towards a conservative Ludwig. But in Ludwig’s defense, the Blue Raiders were not going to consistently move the ball on Vanderbilt, finally cracking the scoreboard in the late stages of the ball game.
Vanderbilt needs as many effective offensive repetitions as possible, and as long as the score is a reasonable margin, when facing a loaded box, why not continue to try and move the ball both through the air and on the ground? Webb did not need to be in the game in the middle of the third quarter, as Vanderbilt can not afford to lose him to injury.
Mason wants to see better consistency from his offense, it’s what Mason has preached all offseason, and with as many as nine Commodores recording a reception, why not continue the positive momentum?
Use these first two games against MTSU and Alabama A&M to build consistency and confidence. While the offense looked vastly improved, the ‘Dores are going to need to show these same strides on a more consistent basis against better quality competition in order to be the type of team they expect. And the ‘Dores expect to be more than 6-6, as Mason as expressed on multiple occasions.
Given the Commodores overall history of success as a football program, Mason’s group started on the right foot, and look to go to back-to-back bowl games for the first time under Mason as he enters his fourth season.
The ‘Dores believe they belong. But the rest of the SEC, a small portion of the Commodore fanbase, as well as the city of Nashville, have a wait and see approach when it comes to being all-in on the Commodores each Saturday of the season. Yet, Vandy looks to change that narrative this season for the long haul.