Last updated on November 21st, 2014 at 01:32 pm
The 2014 Vanderbilt football season’s midseason headline is ‘Back to the Bottom,’ because they are. The Commodores stand a disastrous 1-5, 0-4 in the SEC. Never in our worst nightmare could we have expected it to be this awful, for things to be back to the early Bobby Johnson days, back to the lost season with everyone’s favorite former turkey inseminator Robbie Caldwell. In fact, it is worse than that.
Please allow me to share with you the closing section from my preseason preview entitled ‘Still New or Back to Old’ published in the August 22nd edition:
“Derek Mason is a defensive-minded coach in an offensive-minded league who does not sound as sure as the rest of us that the proven methods of James Franklin are the best to succeed at Vanderbilt long term. Still, enough talent remains to go to a fourth straight bowl, clearly.”
“If Mason is the right guy, Vandy could win at least the nine won each of the last two years. Even if he is not, they should win six or seven. The future depends on him being the right guy. Something we still need to see to be sure of.”
Vanderbilt has so quickly returned to the days of the past, where being competitive is about all fans can hope for. But the way in which this defensive-minded coach has ruined the offensive talent on this team is the clearest sign Mason is in hopelessly over his head.
Patton Robinette got the start at quarterback for the opener against Temple and was pulled after two non-productive, but certainly not inept possessions. Stephen Rivers came in and was inept, fumbling late in the first half that was returned for a backbreaking touchdown. In came Johnny McCrary who threw three passes, completing none to Vandy and two to Temple. He was pulled. Rivers was brought back in, the disaster spiraled—and Vandy lost 37-7.
Next came Ole Miss (regrettably held at LP Field). Rivers started and Vanderbilt lost 41-3, allowing a pick-six. In game three against Massachusetts, Mason took the redshirt from Wade Freebeck, bailing on him after just a quarter, putting Robinette back in. Vanderbilt rallied to win 34-31 helped by a defensive and a special teams score. Mason then stated Robinette was only pulled due to injury—an injury no one can seem to figure what it was at all.
Then came real optimism in a 48-34 defeat to South Carolina highlighted by a pair of kickoff return touchdowns by Darrius Sims. But Robinette suffered a concussion and has yet to return, likely out another couple weeks.
Freebeck finished that game and looked better, but the following week he was terrible in a 17-7 loss at Kentucky where the offense failed to score a point. Based on that, he still started the Georgia game but was quickly pulled for Rivers, who tossed another embarrassing pick-six as VU fell 44-17. None of this even addresses what has happened to running backs Jerron Seymour and Brian Kimbrow.
So where does Vanderbilt go from here? Freebeck will start on Homecoming this week against Charleston Southern, a team 5-0 and #23 in FCS. After a week off comes a trip to Missouri, followed by home games with Old Dominion and Florida, before a trip to Mississippi State, and then the battle with Tennessee on November 29.
All hope for a good season is gone. The only hope is maybe this coaching staff can learn and improve, because so far they have not shown to be SEC caliber at all.