Mason confident Vandy can fix offensive issues before Purdue
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By TERESA M. WALKER
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason knows a handful of areas where his Commodores can improve quickly on offense.
Start faster, snap the ball better to the quarterback, have Riley Neal move up in the pocket rather than scramble sideways and throw the ball downfield - those are among the things Vanderbilt could work on.
Not playing the nation's No. 3 team also could help.
"We'll be fine," Mason said Tuesday. "There's no panic here. You just learn a lot about yourself in game ones that you can transfer."
The Commodores (0-1) certainly have plenty of room for improvement. They managed only 225 total yards in their opening 30-6 loss to Georgia. Ke'Shawn Vaughn, the top returning rusher in the Southeastern Conference, was held to 74 yards rushing and 24 yards receiving.
Their new starting quarterback was 14 of 25 for just 83 yards passing, and Neal didn't complete a pass longer than 12 yards. Neal connected with wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb only three times for eight yards, while tight end Jared Pinkney had two catches for 11 yards.
The graduate transfer from Ball State beat out Deuce Wallace for the starting job. It didn't help that Vanderbilt played without the left half of its offensive line because of injuries, something Mason said kept Neal from taking shots downfield.
Left tackle Devin Cochran and left guard Saige Young remain day to day with unspecified injuries. Mason said backup running back and kick returner Jamauri Wakefield will miss some time after being injured late against Georgia and being carted off the field.
Now the Commodores visit Purdue (0-1) on Saturday still looking for their first touchdown after settling for a pair of field goals in the opener. That's not the start they expected even after having to replace departed quarterback Kyle Shurmur from an offense that averaged 28.5 points and 411.2 yards per game last season.
Mason remains confident Vanderbilt picked the right quarterback as the starter.
"That dude's a good football player," Mason said. "I like his temperament. I like his demeanor. I mean he never seemed rattled, OK man, or out of sorts in terms of frustration, and that's what you want from a quarterback. The reality was we've got to do a better job all the way around. He's going to do his job. Everybody's got a job to do, and so we'll be better this week."
Purdue coach Jeff Brohm knows how much experience Mason has back on offense.
"They have some good players and first game of the year when you play Georgia, that's a tough task," Brohm said.
Getting Vaughn room to run could help, and he has some experience at Purdue, running for 180 yards in a big win Nov. 7, 2015, playing for Illinois before transferring to Vanderbilt. Mason said he didn't know about that performance, with Vaughn not mentioning it.
"It's all tied together," Mason said. "We need a great offensive performance on Saturday."
This story has been corrected to show Vaughn played for Illinois, not Purdue, in 2015.
Follow Teresa M. Walker at https://twitter.com/TeresaMWalker
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Updated September 3, 2019