The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Vanderbilt Football seeking better preparation ahead of do-or-die battle with Ole Miss

The+Commodores+play+football+at+Ole+Miss+on+Saturday%2C+October+14%2C+2017.++Photo+by+Claire+Barnett
Claire Barnett
The Commodores play football at Ole Miss on Saturday, October 14, 2017. Photo by Claire Barnett

After the Vanderbilt Commodores started the season 3-0, there was reason for optimism that perhaps this season would be different.

Instead, the Commodores are in a familiar spot, facing must-win situations in order to qualify for a bowl game. Vanderbilt’s first elimination game is Saturday night at 6:30 PM against Ole Miss.

There is not one central flaw with this team, but rather a collection of problems—whether it is not featuring Ke’Shawn Vaughn enough as the lead tailback, poor clock management down the stretch of games, and being unable to adjust to fast-paced offenses—that have led to Vanderbilt going 2-6 in their last eight games.

With wins needed over Ole Miss and Tennessee in the next two weeks, their backs are certainly against the wall, but junior wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb said the team remains confident.

“We feel like we have it. We feel like we’re capable of doing so,” Lipscomb said. “These are two teams we feel like we can compete with, and we feel like we can win these games.”

At Tuesday’s press conference, Mason seemed to be encouraged by his team’s talent but disappointed by the lack of consistency. In regard to the starters, Mason said he believes they are as talented as anyone in the nation.

“I look at this ball team and it’s not like we’re devoid of talent,” he said. “We have similar talent when you talk about our ones to everyone else. It’s just been the consistency.”

With an offense with weapons around senior quarterback Kyle Shurmur like Lipscomb, Jared Pinkney, and Vaughn, the 4-6 record is disappointing. Mason attributed it to a pattern of inconsistency.

“Mistakes are common in football,” he said. “The inconsistency part is the part we have to leave home. What I see [on the tape] are just lapses.”

Mason also repeatedly referenced practice performance without being prompted by questions on Tuesday, seeming to indicate it has taken awhile for this team to grasp the carryover effect from practices into games. However, he did say that players are starting to hear his message.

“I tell our guys, practices and games are really one in the same,” he said. “People act like they are totally different but they’re really not. Everything that you do in practice will really spill over into the games; finally, as I’m talking to guys, guys are starting to understand exactly what I’m talking about.”

In this week’s matchup against Ole Miss, the Commodores will face another high-flying attack, as Ole Miss’s quarterback Jordan Ta’amu has the second most passing yards in the nation this season. Mason expects Ole Miss to try and use a faster tempo to test the Vanderbilt defense.

When detailing the thought process regarding the debacle at the goal line against Missouri on Saturday, Mason did refer to Ke’Shawn Vaughn as the team’s “best player offensively.”

Vaughn may be the most underrated player in college football this season, partially because of how limited his workload has been. Vaughn is 10th in the nation in yards per carry but is 114th in total carries.

With only two games left in do-or-die scenarios, offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig should be able to force feed Vaughn carries as much as possible and see if the team’s most productive player can carry the Commodores to a bowl game.

Within a season of narrow defeats, the tough loss at Missouri does not stand out, but instead fits within the narrative of the season. The Commodores control their own bowl destiny with two games at home, and they also may decide the fate of their coach’s future in Nashville in these last two games.

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About the Contributors
Henry Hunter
Henry Hunter, Former Staff Writer
Henry Hunter ('22) was a staff writer for The Hustler. Outside of writing of The Hustler and co-hosting Heat Check on VandyRadio, he is a research assistant for Vanderbilt’s ROCCA Lab. On Sundays, he can be found convincing himself of the Giants' chances to win the NFC East. He can be reached at [email protected].
Claire Barnett, Former Multimedia Director
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