Commodores preparing for “street fight” against South Carolina


Hunter Long

Vanderbilt plays Notre Dame on Saturday. September 15, 2018. (Photo by Hunter Long)

Tyger Quarles

“This is a street fight. This is the SEC.”

With the countdown to the SEC opener rapidly expiring, head coach Derek Mason made it very clear at Tuesday’s press conference what the team’s mindset is: to fight.

With references to Kimbo Slice and backyard brawls, Mason made it evident that the team is entering into SEC play on Saturday with a chip on their shoulder.

After a slow 16-3 start to begin the first half in South Bend, Mason stressed the importance of starting the game fast on Saturday.

“That’s the thing about a street fight. You can’t start slow, or you’ll get knocked out,” he said. “With that being said, we’re going to have to start from the jump. As soon as the ball is kicked, we’re going to have to play good football.”

Many fans were excited by the close game against Notre Dame and the potential it promises for the season ahead. However, Coach Mason and company are refusing to accept the moral victory. 

“They[the fans] may feel good about it,”  he said “We don’t. We play the game to win.”

Although the program is not accepting moral victories, the team appears to be trending in a direction that could indicate success in conference play and against South Carolina this weekend. 

Tight end Jared Pinkney and wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb both had career highs in receptions and yards, respectively. Additionally, quarterback Kyle Shurmur is leading the offense with statistics that threaten the all-time passing records of Vanderbilt greats like Jay Cutler.

Regardless of the teams promising statistics, Coach Mason is keeping a very realistic approach. 

“We have to strain to get ahead,” he said.

It is no secret that the SEC is the dominant force within college football for the upcoming year. Heavyweights like Alabama and Georgia have captured national headlines, but the dominance of the conference becomes more uniform everyday as eastern teams such as South Carolina and Florida become more relevant.

The rise of talent is not lost on Coach Mason. He gave fellow teams praise.

“A lot of teams in the conference are gaining ground and getting better.”

Mason commented on his players progress and ability to maintain a high-level of play entering conference play.

On receiver Jared Pinkney he said, “ He should fall into the place where he’s starting to play some of his best football.”

Even with peaking players and incredible performances, Mason made it very clear that talent is not enough to have success this weekend or throughout conference play.

His mantra was very clear: “It’s a street fight.”

While this doesn’t differ greatly from Coach Mason’s typical rhetoric, it seems to hold a particular weight this year as the players have completely bought in. Lipscomb echoed his coach’s sentiments, and when asked about the team’s commitment to the mindset.

“That’s our leader,” he said. “We buy into everything.”

This was evident as other players at the podium reassured the commitment to their coach and the atmosphere he promotes with eager head nods and short chimes of agreement. 

Although questions still remain about the Commodores preparation for SEC play even after a resounding effort at Notre Dame, one thing is certain for Mason’s boys.

“It’s time to get the lunch pail and go to work.”