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Vanderbilt commits 7 turnovers, falls 37-7 to Temple in Derek Mason's coaching debut

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NASHVILLE, Tennessee — Vanderbilt's Derek Mason made his head coaching debut a little later than he anticipated.

Mason will have to wait even longer to get his first win.

P.J. Walker threw two touchdown passes and ran for a third score as Temple forced seven turnovers to upset Vanderbilt 37-7 in a lightning-delayed game that ended Friday at 1:14 a.m. Central time.

Temple earned its first victory over a Southeastern Conference team since beating Florida in 1938. The Owls also spoiled the head coaching debut of Mason, the former Stanford defensive coordinator hired after James Franklin left for Penn State.

"It was a rough night at the office," Mason said.

Vanderbilt's turnovers made the difference.

Temple had 13 takeaways all of last year while going 2-10, but the Owls continually managed to force Vanderbilt into mistakes. The Owls picked off three passes to match the Temple defense's 2013 interception total. All but 10 of Temple's 37 points came off turnovers.

"Our main thing coming into the game was to get turnovers," said Temple cornerback Tavon Young, who had two interceptions. "We knew they were an SEC team, they were smart, so we knew we'd have to make plays to win the game."

The most critical turnover came in the final minute of the first half. Vanderbilt trailed 14-7 and was seeking a game-tying score when Avery Ellis sacked Stephen Rivers and forced a fumble that Averee Robinson returned 55 yards for a Temple touchdown.

"You count up all the little things — the turnovers, the (seven) penalties, and sometimes it becomes a recipe for disaster," Mason said.

Nothing went right for Vanderbilt, which was trying to maintain the momentum it established during Franklin's three-year tenure. Franklin went 9-4 and led Vanderbilt to a Top 25 finish each of his last two seasons and also brought a new attitude with his brash personality.

PHOTO: Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason looks down his sideline in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Temple on Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brian Powers)
Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason looks down his sideline in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Temple on Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brian Powers)

That spark was missing against Temple as the Commodores made mistake after mistake.

"I put this on my shoulders," Mason said.

Vanderbilt's players said they deserved the blame instead.

"I know coach Mason probably came in here and said it's on him and the coaches," Vanderbilt linebacker Kyle Woestmann said. "It was on us as players. They prepared us. The game plans were good. We did not execute on the field."

The oddities in this game started long before the opening kickoff.

Repeated lightning strikes prevented the game from starting until 9:52 p.m. Central time. Fans couldn't enter the stadium and the teams didn't start warming up until 35 minutes before the opening kickoff. The long wait occurred while an NFL game between the Tennessee Titans and Minnesota Vikings just 2 ½ miles away went on without delays.

"We were running to the store, buying food, coming back and feeding the guys," Temple coach Matt Rhule said. "I thought our team had a tremendous, tremendous attitude about it. They were like, 'Let's play whenever.' "

Vanderbilt introduced new uniforms that almost resulted in a loss of timeouts. The Commodores had their team slogan, "Anchor Down" written on the back of their jerseys, where a player's name usually appears. Early in the second quarter, officials said the presence of the slogan made the jerseys impermissible and that Vanderbilt would be charged a timeout each quarter they were worn. Later that quarter, the officials said Vanderbilt wouldn't be penalized at all. Vanderbilt athletic department spokesman Larry Leathers said the jerseys were approved by the Southeastern Conference.

The Commodores were doing themselves enough damage no matter what they wore.

Mason used three different quarterbacks — starter Patton Robinette, Rivers and Johnny McCrary — in an attempt to spark his struggling offense. Nothing worked. Vanderbilt's offense didn't produce any points all night long.

The Commodores' only touchdown came in the second quarter when Temple punter Alex Starzyk couldn't handle a snap and Oren Burks pounced on the loose ball in the end zone.

That leaves the Commodores with plenty of work ahead before they open SEC play Sept. 6 against Ole Miss.

"We just didn't play well all the way around," Mason said. "We'll find a way to be better."

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