It was the last thing anyone expected.
Yet Derek Mason hardly is the first Vanderbilt coach to experience a debacle of a debut, as was the case with Thursday’s 37-7 loss to Temple at Vanderbilt Stadium.
Mason, in fact, is the sixth of eight Commodores coaches in the past 30 years to lose his first game and the fifth to allow more than 30 points the first time out.
“I know Coach Mason probably came in here and said that that was on him and the coaches,” linebacker and defensive captain Kyle Woestmann said. “That is not the case. It was on us as players. They prepared us. The game plan was good. … We’re definitely going to take a different approach next week.”
The rundown of openers for the last eight Vanderbilt football coaches:
Watson Brown (1986): Alabama 42, Vanderbilt 10
Gerry DiNardo (1991): Syracuse 37, Vanderbilt 10
Rod Dowhower (1995): Alabama 33, Vanderbilt 25
Woody Widenhofer (1997): Vanderbilt 29, North Texas 12
Bobby Johnson (2002): Georgia Tech 45, Vanderbilt 3
Robbie Caldwell (2010): Northwestern 23, Vanderbilt 21
James Franklin (2011): Vanderbilt 45, Elon 24
Derek Mason (2014): Temple 37, Vanderbilt 7
The difference, of course, is that Mason is the only one on that list who inherited a team that had been to three straight bowl games, had nine wins each of the previous two years and finished last season among the top 25.
He was, in fact, quick to accept blame for the defeat.
“I’m always that guy who’s going to be the first one to look in the mirror,” Mason said. “I’ll see what I could have done better as a coach just in terms of preparation.
“… At the end of the day you don’t excuse bad football. You just have to make sure you clean it up.”
The truth is there was more than enough blame to go around.
Vanderbilt used three different quarterbacks and failed to score an offensive touchdown. The defense allowed just two third-down conversions but gave up the game’s first points — a 35-yard touchdown pass — on fourth down and later allowed another fourth-down conversion that set up the touchdown that put Temple ahead to stay. The Commodores committed seven turnovers (four fumbles, three interceptions) that led to 27 points and were outscored 30-0 over the final 40:18 of the contest.
There was more, but you get the picture.
Every team has to start somewhere and this was … well, a start.
“I don’t feel dejected because this is our first game,” Mason said. “You make mistakes in first games and — you know what — we had way too many. You look at seven turnovers and it’s costly. I don’t know what team can win with seven turnovers.
“So you count up all the little things — the turnovers, the penalties — and sometimes it becomes a recipe for disaster. That was on me. We’ll get it right.”
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