Commodores trying to avoid hype as trip to Notre Dame looms

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Commodores trying to avoid hype as trip to Notre Dame looms

Justin Hershey

Just another game.  

As Vanderbilt prepares to travel to South Bend, Indiana to take on eighth-ranked Notre Dame, head coach Derek Mason and his veteran leaders stressed those three words to the media on Tuesday afternoon: just another game.  

Notre Dame is one of the most storied and successful programs in the country. However, Coach Mason does not want the team to be concerned or intimidated by their pedigree.

“For me, when you get between the white lines, it’s just a football field,” Mason said. “It’s 53 and a third [yards wide], 100 yards long and what you get a chance to do is play ball.”

Echoing his coach’s sentiment, Senior linebacker Charles Wright said, “To be honest, I just love to ball. I just want to go and play I don’t care who the opponent is really I just want to play ball. It could be Stanford or an FCS team, I just want to play.”

Last year around this time, the Commodores found themselves in a similar situation: undefeated, ready to take on SEC powerhouse Alabama.  This year, it’s a different powerhouse opponent and a different attitude from the team.

“Last year was a totally different team with a totally different set of circumstances,” running back Khari Blasingame said.  

Coach Mason and his staff want to learn from their experience facing Alabama last year, but they do not want to dwell on the past as they have a new challenge ahead of them. With this challenge, the Commodores find themselves as 14.5 point underdogs. But Mason affirmed to the media that his team is not worried about that.

“We are playing a top ten opponent so to be double digit underdogs, it is what it is. We don’t worry about that. The game will be settled between the white lines”

With the talent that Notre Dame will throw at Vanderbilt this Saturday, the Commodores will be pushed to play even better than they have in their first two games.  And Coach Mason hopes and expects his guys to embrace the challenge and rise to the occasion.

“Teams are going to scratch where it itches,” he said. “When we line up on Saturday, Notre Dame is going to try to run the ball down our throat.  So with that being said, I’m issuing the challenge to our own guys: stand up, let’s play good football, everybody has to take their turn and we all have to make plays.”

Mason praised Notre Dame’s quarterback, Brandon Wimbush, on his ability to throw the ball down field and make plays by running the ball himself.

“We are going to have our hands full on Saturday, stopping the run, defending the pass. It’s going to have to be a neat ballgame by the Commodores.”

In addition, Mason identified the fact that when matching up against a top ten opponent, the margin for error is razor thin.

“We know when you go to a place like Notre Dame, you can’t make mistakes.  Can’t have penalties, you have to tackle, you have to play well on special teams, and you have to score points.”

But when it comes down to it, it’s just a game of football.  

What would a win mean? Khari Blasingame kept it simple,

“It would be another win.  It would be going 1-0 this week. We’re not putting anybody over anybody.”

Week Three is another chance to play football for the 2-0 Commodores and Coach Mason is surely ready for what should be a hard fought battle with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

“In Week Three we get a chance to play Notre Dame, they’re a great team, so lets ride.”

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