NASHVILLE, Tennessee — The Vanderbilt Commodores not only are looking for their first win under new coach Derek Mason, but also their first offensive touchdown.
A third different starting quarterback in as many games may the next move as the Commodores try to find someone who can pick up first downs and touchdowns.
"We have quarterbacks on this roster that are capable of getting us through our woes," Mason said. "I think what we have to do is continue to be diligent about what we do well, work at the things we can continue to grow at and grow on, and I believe right now this group of guys just want some consistency and leadership on the field."
Mason isn't saying who his starter is Saturday when the Commodores (0-2) host Massachusetts (0-2), but redshirt freshman Johnny McCrary is at the top of the four quarterbacks on the depth chart putting him in line for his first career start. Freshman Wade Freebeck also now is on the depth chart.
Vanderbilt has played three different quarterbacks with Patton Robinette starting the opening loss to Temple and Stephen Rivers playing all of a 41-3 loss to then-No. 15 Mississippi. The Commodores have been outscored 78-10 as Mason juggles a learning curve having played 28 combined freshmen — most in the nation so far this season.
This will be the third straight season these teams have played with Vanderbilt taking the first two games under coach James Franklin, now at Penn State.
UMass coach Mark Whipple points out that Vanderbilt changed systems on both offense and defense and lost plenty of key starters, including wide receiver Jordan Matthews now with the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles.
"I'd take all their guys I know that," Whipple said.
He's just happy his Minutemen showed strong progress from the opener grabbing an 11-point lead in the third quarter before losing 41-38 to Colorado last week. But Whipple says UMass, which went 1-11 last season, is not Mississippi.
"They are recruited to the SEC for a reason," Whipple said. "It's a big challenge for us and another step. We proved we can't play in the ACC or the Pac-12, but maybe we can make a dent in the SEC this weekend."
Here are some things to watch:
OFFENSIVE PROGRESS: No matter who starts at quarterback for Vanderbilt, can the Commodores score a touchdown offensively? They finally got their first offensive points on a field goal off a turnover in the fourth quarter of their second game. So far, Vanderbilt is averaging only 222.5 yards total offense.
GOT A QB: Mason could have some quarterback envy of the Minutemen. Whipple has Blake Frohnapfel, a transfer from Marshall, who threw for 267 yards and three touchdowns against Colorado. The Minutemen finished with 371 yards total offense.
BACKFIELD: Vanderbilt should have a full backfield available. Mason held Jerron Seymour, who ran for 14 TDs last season, out against Ole Miss to make sure he's back to top speed after an undisclosed injury. Brian Kimbrow also is expected to be available to work with redshirt freshman Ralph Webb, who is averaging 5.2 yards a carry.
AT LEAST VANDY HAS A PUNTER: Colby Cooke is one bright spot for the Commodores. He is averaging 44.4 yards on 14 punts and has had a long of 55 yards already this season.
DON'T I KNOW YOU?: Both Whipple and Mason went to Camelback High School in Phoenix, Arizona, but they were separated by a few years. Whipple says he finally met Mason during a visit to the Steelers. "He is a lot younger than I am, so that was the only time we have spent together ..." Whipple said. "I know of him from his work in the NFL and the great job he did at Stanford. He has his guy splaying hard right now."
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