Special thanks here to Mitch Light of Athlon Sports who is also the sideline reporter for the Vanderbilt radio network. …
PA: The Temple loss was shocking to see from a team that’s won 18 games the last two years. Is there a Cliff Notes version to answer the “what happened” question?
Mitch: Basically, nothing went well. You can point to the seven turnovers, which were obviously key, but the biggest issue was the lack of offense. Vanderbilt didn’t really show the ability to sustain any drives, even when it wasn’t turning the ball over. The one positive was the play of Ralph Webb at running back. He’s a redshirt freshman who had a strong preseason camp, and he looks like he can be a very good running back in the SEC.
PA: What led to Vanderbilt’s inability to run the ball?
Mitch: The running game really wasn’t a huge problem. The team averaged 1.9 yards per carry, but there was a lot of lost yardage due to sacks. Webb ran for 70 yards on 14 carries and true freshman Dallas Rivers had 16 on five. Those aren’t great numbers, but the bigger problem was the offensive line’s struggles in pass protection.
PA: Did Mason get away from his starting quarterback too soon?
Mitch: It seemed a bit premature to make a change, but the coaches obviously weren’t pleased with the flow of the offense. I think the reason most people were surprised that they made a move was because the staff had given the impression that Patton Robinette would not have a short leash. Most of us expected Patton to play the entire game.
PA: What was the vibe for this team coming out of camp?
Mitch: The vibe seemed to be upbeat. There was no indication that Vanderbilt would lose by 30 points at home in the opener.
PA: What did you think of the 3-4 defense?
Mitch: The defense was fine – played well for most of the game until things got out of hand. They were just put in really bad positions because of the turnovers. They didn’t get any pressure on the quarterback or make plays in the backfield, but some of that had to do with Temple’s style of offense – a lot of quick throws.
PA: What are the primary concerns to address for this team?
Mitch: The easy answer would be morale. It’s tough on a team to lose so badly in its first game. But from a football standpoint, the offensive line has to play better and give the quarterback more time to throw the ball.
PA: Of course the new coaching staff plays into this too, but do you think the success of the last three seasons laid a foundation that will keep this team’s confidence from being shaken?
Mitch: These guys are confident in their abilities. The core group has won a lot of games that past two years. They expect to win. But obviously you can’t just expect to win; you have to play well, and they will have to play a ton better this week because the level of competition is much greater.