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Coach Derek Mason looking at options to boost Vanderbilt's offense before hosting Kentucky


NASHVILLE, Tennessee — The Vanderbilt Commodores have an obvious problem with their stagnant offense. Finding a solution is proving much elusive.

The Commodores are averaging only 6.8 points in their last four games and have scored just three touchdowns in the last four games. Coach Derek Mason hinted Tuesday he might try a new approach Saturday against the Kentucky Wildcats (4-5, 2-5 Southeastern Conference).

"We're trying a lot of things differently right now," Mason said. "We've focused on a couple of different things. I'm not going to talk about those, you'll see them on Saturday."

One bright spot was no turnovers for Vanderbilt (3-6, 1-4) in last week's 9-7 loss at No. 11 Florida. That was a vast improvement from 10 turnovers in the Commodores' previous three games.

"I think we made a step in the right direction when you talk about taking care of the football," Mason said. "So it all starts with taking care of the football and then I think what you can do from there is figure out exactly what you need to do and make sure that you get guys touches and get guys into the game."

Mason brought in Andy Ludwig as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from Wisconsin where Ludwig helped Wisconsin set a Big Ten record with 4,482 rushing yards last year. He hasn't been able to get the Commodores going.

Instead, Vanderbilt is going in reverse, producing a season low in total yards in each of the past three games with 175 at Florida after 185 at Houston and 304 against Missouri. Mason said this is probably the first time Ludwig has gone through such struggles.

"We both have had to make sure we keep each other up because that's what you do .," Mason said. "You try not to get frustrated by the things that are going on around you, but what you have to do is understand that every week has got to be rebuilt. You've got to push the reboot button."

Vanderbilt is scoring 14.8 points a game, 13th out of 14 SEC teams, while the Commodores rank fifth defensively giving up only 17.4 points a game. The disparity hasn't led to any finger-pointing.

"Sometimes it gets frustrating, but at the end of the day we can't do anything about it," Commodores linebacker Darreon Herring said. "We can't look at the offense or the offense can't look at the defense to try to figure out what's wrong. We've all got to go out together and just see what the problem is and we've got to fix it every day at practice."

The Commodores' passing game sputtered against Florida with Johnny McCrary completing only 3 of 14 passes for 30 yards. Quarterback Kyle Shurmur was only available on emergency basis at Florida due to an undisclosed injury, but Mason said the freshman will be fully available against Kentucky.

That has left Ralph Webb to carry a bigger load, and he ran for 118 yards against Florida. Webb ran for 99 in a loss at Houston and 99 in a win over Missouri. Mason said Webb has added nine pounds.

"What you've been able to see is he's gotten stronger as games went on with his ability to run," Mason said. "His last three games have been a nice stretch for him."

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