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The Commodore Review: How Vanderbilt Really Looked in Their 37-7 Loss to Temple

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Either Temple is really good, or Derek Mason has a lot of changes to make. Vanderbilt spun through three quarterbacks and turned the ball over seven times in a 37-7 loss to the Owls, but a few bright spots persisted for the Commodores.

Hey, Vince, what nearly cost this team four timeouts in their season opener?
Hey, Vince, what nearly cost this team four timeouts in their season opener?
Frederick Breedon

Have you ever wanted to see a Tennessee booster's fan-fiction come true? Short of an actual dumpster fire breaking out and burning Vanderbilt Stadium to cinders, that's what Commodore fans got last night.

Temple ruined Derek Mason's debut as Vanderbilt head coach with a 37-7 mollywopping on Thursday. The loss ended Vandy's five-game winning streak and cast major doubts about this team's ability to make a fourth-straight bowl game this winter. The Owls are the toughest opponent on the team's non-conference schedule, but Matt Rhule's program is also coming off of a 2-10 season in which they lost to Idaho and FCS foe Fordham. While Temple was a better team than anyone expected on both sides of the ball, it was clear that the 'Dores were unprepared for their week one challenge.

The end result was a miserable experience for anyone who was cheering on the black and gold. Weather pushed kickoff back two hours, and that meant that Vandy fans got the chance to watch Temple force Commodore turnovers on two different days. The team swapped quarterbacks every quarter and failed to earn a consistent contribution from any of the three players who had been vying for the starting spot behind center. The Owls racked up points in front of an empty stadium where a small contingent of TU fans - seemingly fewer than 100 - were the dominant noisemakers in the second half. Vandy got pushed around on their home turf. In the end, it seemed as though the players were as disinterested in the conclusion of the game as the fans were.

Yes, it was ugly. About as ugly as a season opener can get. But it's only one week, and Vanderbilt has been in worse shape than this. While this may not have been the start Derek Mason had been hoping for, he can restore Nashville's confidence with a big turnaround against Ole Miss. Until then, he'll have to endure eight days of speculation and hand-wringing as his team tries to recover from a worst-case scenario style beating at the hands of the Owls.

The Good:

  • Ralph Webb, Adam Butler, Oren Burks, and Steven Scheu all lived up to the hype. The four candidates for breakout seasons provided some bright spots in an otherwise dreary night. Webb looked like he had all the tools to be a #1 back, gaining 70 yards on 14 carries despite an off night from his offensive line. Butler was a constant presence in the Temple backfield and notched 1.5 tackles for loss. Burks proved that he has the speed to reconcile his hitting skills as a linebacker to the coverage aspect of being a safety. Scheu (three receptions) emerged as a viable target from the tight end spot. Other players had solid evenings, but these four showed that the preseason talk surrounding them was more than just idle chatter.

  • End of list.

The Bad:

  • Everything. Everything about this game. The weather, the attendance, the offense, the defense, the special teams, the stupid, stupid turnovers, the refs, the fact that Vandy's biggest moments came on a botched punt and a triumphant argument against the officials that wagered Commodore time outs against the opportunity to wear a slogan on our nameplates, Temple's small contingent of fans getting an audible "I believe that we will win" chant going in the final minute (you stole that from the US Soccer team [apologies, Temple only stole this from Navy], who in turn stole that from Navy, who play in Philadelphia basically every year. This is inexcusable.) the game ending at 1:30 on a Friday morning, EVERYTHING.

  • The quarterback carousel. Derek Mason had a three-headed quarterback race coming into the season thanks to the solid play of Patton Robinette, Stephen Rivers, and Johnny McCrary. Vandy fans got to see all three of them behind center on Thursday because Mason and offensive coordinator Karl Dorrell don't seem to count patience as a virtue.

    Robinette, the starter, didn't look good in his limited time out there. He still appeared to be a step behind his windows of opportunity downfield and he failed to recognize and avoid pressure in the pocket. Despite those issues, Vandy's lead quarterback deserved more than six pass attempts in the season opener. Rivers had his moments in relief and was the most effective passer the 'Dores ran out on Thursday, but he still completed less than half of his throws. McCrary looked the part behind center, but made rookie mistakes in staring down his receivers and showed that he wasn't yet ready to play against an FBS defense.

    Ultimately, those live auditions may prove more harmful than helpful for the 'Dores. Each of these quarterbacks now knows that they could be facing the hook if their drives stall out at any point during a game. That's a lot of pressure for a cadre of young passers who lack extensive NCAA experience. In the long run, that's the kind of mental distraction that can keep a QB from diverting all of his attention to the field. In the short term, it made Mason and his staff look indecisive and confused. All in all, it was a bad look for the Commodores.

    At least Temple also spun through three quarterbacks on Thursday night. In their case, it was because they were up by 30 points in the fourth quarter.

  • Brian Kimbrow. Kimbrow made it all of 9:30 into the season before ending up in Derek Mason's doghouse. He fumbled on his first touch of the season and then was never heard from again.

  • Tavon Young. Young, a player who a Temple fan generously described as "awful" earlier this week, doubled his 2013 interception total by picking off Johnny McCrary twice on Thursday night. Those were the only two passes McCrary completed on the evening.

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The PiBB Ice Player of the Week: No one.

We're really into this piece of string instead.