NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Inconsistency. Bad technique. Lack of effort and discipline.
Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason saw all that and more out of his Commodores in their first road trip, and he knows exactly what he wants next: To forget the 38-7 loss at Georgia Tech.
Simply focus on their first trip ever to Western Kentucky because nobody else will be running the same offense the Yellow Jackets did to embarrass the Commodores.
“We go back and we can fix the effort,” Mason said Tuesday. “We can fix the composure, the discipline a little bit. In terms of structure, that’s gone, so you go back and you look at the things we can do better like tackle. WE need to tackle better, we need to execute better in the pass game.”
Last season, defense was Vanderbilt’s strength with the Commodores ranking in the top 30 in several categories. In the past two games, the Commodores have given up a combined 1,006 yards topped by 511 yards in the loss to Georgia Tech .
Linebacker and safety Oren Burks blamed consistency and perhaps the Commodores’ first road game of the season contributing to the issues at Georgia Tech.
“We didn’t stick to our technique, we were getting off discipline, things like that,” Burks said “I think moving forward that focus has to be even more centered.”
Mason said he challenged his Commodores on a number of areas, including demanding that they be more physical. The coach believes he saw just that at Tuesday’s practice with the defense picking off eight passes and a couple of scraps with the Commodores much more intense.
“We’re still growing, and it’s still early in the college football season for us,” Mason said. “We’ve got to get what’s there to be had and there’s some things to clean up. I think those guys did a good job taking the first step.”
Right now, the Commodores (1-2) are giving up 438 yards per game — 101st in the nation. They ranked 28th in that category last season. They also are 104th in giving up 269.3 yards passing per game after being 41st in that category in 2015. They’ve only managed two sacks over the first three games.
“Those opportunities have been there,” Mason said. “We just have to take advantage of them.”
The Commodores should get more opportunities Saturday when they visit Western Kentucky (2-1). Mike White has replaced Brandon Doughty and kept the Hilltoppers rolling up 345.3 yards passing per game. Western Kentucky beat Vanderbilt 14-12 in Nashville to open last season, and coach Jeff Brohm said the Commodores’ defense is big and athletic.
“It’s tough to create a lot of big plays, you have to do some unorthodox things, you have to create some confusion,” Brohm said. “But they’re very sound and they play against good opponents every year, so they understand their scheme and how to be productive. It’s going to be a very tough challenge for us.”
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