It's safe to say that Derek Mason had high hopes for his first game as the head coach of an SEC program. What he got was a stomping at the hands of a Temple team coming off of a 2-10 season.
Vanderbilt looked sloppy, disjointed, and was straight-up outplayed by a Temple team that looked superior in every aspect of the game on Thursday evening. Matt Rhule's Owls weren't intimidated by their big league competition and P.J. Walker showed that his freshman stats were no fluke in a 37-7 curb stomping of the Commodores in Nashville.
Vanderbilt committed seven turnovers and gained just 278 yards on the evening. Their only points came thanks to a botched punt that safety Oren Burks fell on in the end zone in the second quarter. While the Owls were able to recover from a shaky start, Mason's team never found its footing en route to an embarrassing loss.
Temple took an early lead when P.J. Walker converted a fourth-and-five that turned into a 35-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Shippen with just under four minutes to play in the first quarter. However, that quickly fell to the background when a more ridiculous talking point presented itself moments later. Vice Chancellor David Williams got Vandy's only win of the evening - and it came against the referees.
Vanderbilt nearly lost four timeouts when referees determined that the "Anchor Down" catchphrase on their nameplates violated league rules. However, Athletic Director David Williams strapped on his finest track suit and trudged down to the sideline to show the refs that the team had already earned approval for the uniforms from the league's head office. Just minutes later, Temple fumbled a snap in their own end zone and failed to recover, tying the game at 7-7 and showcasing the awesome power of Williams's legal documentation.
The Owls were rattled for a few minutes, but they came back to reclaim the lead on a 13-yard bubble screen touchdown from Walker to Jalen FitzPatrick. The Commodores had a chance to snuff out that drive when TU faced fourth-and-eight from the VU 35 yard line, but failed to stop Walker's 11-yard completion to Nate Hairston.
Vandy threatened to tie things back up when Stephen Rivers found his rhythm behind center, completing three straight passes out of the hurry-up offense to lead the 'Dores into Owl territory. Two plays later, he was blindsided by a Temple blitz, fumbled, and then had to watch TU defensive lineman Averee Robinson run the ball 57 yards to the endzone to make this 21-7 and put Vanderbilt on the ropes heading into the half.
A field goal and a Walker touchdown run made it 31-7 with 6 minutes left in the third quarter and sent many members of an already sparse crowd looking for the exits. The Owls would extend that lead to 37-7 behind a pair of late field goals as the 'Dores seemed more interested in heading back to their dorms than playing football.
The Commodores cycled through three different quarterbacks in hopes of sparking this team's offense, but only new arrival Rivers was effective - and only in spurts. Patton Robinette only threw six passes before getting pulled, and then Rivers was replaced by Johnny McCrary, who threw an interception in his first pass in the NCAA and played an entire quarter where his only complete passes came at the hands of Temple defensive backs. It may be safe to say that the team's starting QB spot against Mississippi is still very much up in the air.
On the bright side, Ralph Webb had 14 carries for 70 yards in his first game as a Commodore.
Vanderbilt will return to action next Saturday against Ole Miss at LP Field. The Rebels are 1-0 after beating Boise State on Thursday. That game kicks off at 3:30 CST.