Vanderbilt may have lost their season opener to Western Kentucky, but a two-point home defeat hasn't affected head coach Derek Mason's belief in this team.
An upbeat Mason fielded questions and praised his players in a 14-minute press conference Tuesday afternoon. He showed off an eager confidence in his team despite their loss to the Hilltoppers last week. The second-year coach made it clear that he sees an 0-1 record as a temporary setback and that this team will grow as the season progresses:
From game one to game two, what you need to see is 7-10% of growth. This football team is more than capable of grabbing that 7-10%, but for us, we can't talk about it, we've just got to continue to do the work. Right now, these guys are all about the work. They understand that Georgia is coming in here. They want to play against them.
Our football team is not going to bow down to anybody. We may be young, but this team has got fight. This team is willing to compete. And right now, they're in a great spot.
While Mason made a brief mention of the WKU loss, he put last week's result in the rearview and moved on to this Saturday's showdown with #9 Georgia with his opening statement.
I feel like our football team played a good Western Kentucky team. And now what we have to do is turn our focus towards Georgia and let's get ready to play a great game.
Mason was quick to shoot down media questions about individual player grades from the Western Kentucky game. Instead, he emphasized that winning was the only metric that matters.
We didn't play well enough to win, so I'm not looking at grades all across the board. I just look at wins and losses...They understand, we don't play for stats, we don't play for game grades, we play to win.
When you look at our offense, our offense moved the ball. Other than putting it in the end zone, scoring in the red zone, they played well. They [the offensive line] kept Johnny upright...so for us, let's keep this thing about Georgia. Let's move it on.
He also touched on whether Thursday's extended touches for Darrius Sims (two carries, two receptions) were indicative of his new role in the offense.
Darrius has done a good job, I believe, with the opportunities that are there for him. We're going to give him touches whenever we can.
And on Johnny McCrary's ability to find several different targets in the Vanderbilt offense:
We had 9 different guys touch the ball, and that's what you're looking for. You're looking for his ability to make sure that he gets the ball to the open guy. We just have to continue to allow Johnny to be accurate, to be consistent, and to get him in the flow of the game. I thought towards the end of the game you saw some nice things from him.
Mason had plenty of praise for Georgia's All-American tailback Nick Chubb:
[Chubb] is a good running back...He's got great size, he's powerful, he runs with great vision, and more than anything else, he breaks tackles. He's a true tailback. He can do it all.
But he had a simple gameplan for stopping the Bulldogs explosive runner.
It's easier said than done, but it's going to come down to tackling. If we don't tackle him, then we're just like everybody else...So, at the end of the day, our emphasis is that we focus on tackling the running back, getting this quarterback into long yardage situations, and having the chance to get [the defense] off the field.
Chubb won't be the only weapon that Vanderbilt is planning for:
We definitely expect to see a lot of motions. A lot of shifts - creating matchups, trying to catch us in man coverage. We're gonna have to be good in our ability to transition from run to pass and, really, just making sure that we get them behind the chains when the opportunity presents itself.
Mason's calm, positive demeanor showcased another step forward in his ability to deal with the media. After coming across flustered in 2014, he's clearly developed a greater confidence when it comes to addressing questions about his team after setbacks. You can watch Mason's full press conference below, courtesy of VUCommodores.com: