NASHVILLE, Tennessee — The Vanderbilt Commodores hope they worked out some of the kinks of their offense in their first win this season. Now with their first road trip looming — at No. 3 Mississippi no less — they need get off to a faster start.
The Commodores (1-2, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) have yet to score a point in the first quarter through three games, and only nine points in the second quarter combined. They are coming off a 47-7 rout of Austin Peay of the Football Championship Subdivision, and coach Derek Mason called that a confidence builder.
"We needed to have some success, we had some success," Mason said Tuesday. "Now what we get a chance to do is go on the road and play against one of the best teams in the country in a place where there's probably going to be tough for us to have instant success."
Mason said the focus will be on having a clean quarter to start and make adjustments as needed.
"Let's see where the chips fall," Mason said.
The Commodores will have to find a way to score points, the earlier the better. Mason noted Ole Miss has outscored opponents 58-0 in the first quarter of the Rebels' first three games with an offense that has scored 43 or more points in each of those games.
Senior center Spencer Pulley said the Commodores know the little things they can do to help themselves start a bit faster.
"It is really about the players going out there with the right mentality and just executing the offense from the first play," Pulley said.
A year ago, Ole Miss routed the Commodores 41-3 when these teams played in Nashville at the home of the NFL's Tennessee Titans, and Vanderbilt's field goal didn't come until the fourth quarter.
The Commodores are producing better this season, averaging 442 yards of total offense per game good for seventh in the SEC. That ties for 50th nationally and puts Vandy on pace to easily top the program's modern best set in 1974 when the Commodores averaged 412.8 yards per game that season.
Vandy also ranks fourth in the SEC both with 302 yards passing per game and 33 minutes, 18 seconds in time of possession.
Johnny McCrary, who was intercepted five times combined in losses to Western Kentucky and Georgia, had his best game yet last week. McCrary threw for 368 yards, and his 84.8 completion percentage set a single-game school record.
The Commodores will be without sophomore tight end DeAndre Woods for the rest of the season with a torn ACL. Woods currently ranks fourth on the roster with seven catches for 129 yards. Mason said tight end Steven Scheu will be back, and the senior will have to pick up the slack with Nathan Marcus and Sean Dowling.
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said he can see that Vanderbilt's offense is different under new coordinator Andy Ludwig, whom Mason hired after a stint at Wisconsin. Freeze said Ludwig has brought a lot of shifts and motions to Vanderbilt.
"With all the shifts and motions, you can be a bit gap unsound," Freeze said. "So they present an issue. It is a little different. Some similarities, but some differences also. Passing game is definitely different."
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