Vanderbilt tries three quarterbacks, creates renewed confusion in loss to Temple

Johnny McCrary looked every bit like a third-string quarterback. Which made sense, given that he was the third one Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason tried on Thursday.

The problem was that neither of the first two, Patton Robinette and Stephen Rivers, looked anything like a starter in the Commodores' 37-7 loss at Vanderbilt Stadium.

When first-year coach Derek Mason put Robinette atop the depth chart late last week he said he planned to allow the third-year sophomore to make mistakes without fear of getting pulled. He was true to his word – for a little more than a quarter.

Rivers replaced Robinette with 9:35 to play in the second quarter, shortly after the Commodores tied it 7-7 with a special teams touchdown, and that’s when things got silly.

“At that point in time we just felt like we needed to establish a different type of rhythm,” Mason said. “We needed to … jumpstart or cardiac our offense a little bit. I thought Patton missed a couple throws early, was under duress a little bit and they pulled his eyes down a couple times.”

All three quarterbacks had at least on possession end with a turnover.

In fairness to Robinette, who didn’t play after the first series of the second quarter, his turnover came in the first quarter and was the result of a fumble by running back Brian Kimbrow. The other two were involved much more directly in giveaways.

Rivers was sacked and fumbled (Temple recovered and returned it 55 yards for a touchdown) late in the first half and threw a fourth-quarter interception. In between McCrary threw an interception on the first snap of his college career. He got one more series, which lasted five plays and ended with another interception.

The stats for Vanderbilt’s quarterbacks in the loss to Temple:

• Patton Robinette: 4-6, 38 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT

• Stephen Rivers: 12-25, 186 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

• Johnny McCrary: 0-3, 0 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT

“We told you going in that we felt like we had three capable guys,” Mason said. “We just wanted to see what the other guys had in store. There were times when Stephen Rivers did a solid job leading us down the field but then we get the turnover that goes for a touchdown. That’s football.”

Mason was not clear about who would be the starter in the next game against Ole Miss. He also, however, was unsuccessful in his attempt to clear up the difference between what he said his approach would be with his quarterbacks and what it actually was.

“I don’t think Patton got the hook,” Mason said. “I think I told you guys all along that we have three good quarterbacks. Now, if the media wants to make it any more than that, then it is what it is.

“Patton Robinette could be the guy trotting out there next week. We’re not trying to divide this team and we’re not trying to make stories out of things that aren’t stories. Bottom line is he didn’t get off to a very good start, we didn’t get off to a very good start. You know what? We didn’t get it done.”