Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason is hitting the reset button for his Commodores halfway through the season.
The Commodores are 1-5 and have lost three straight. Quarterback Patton Robinette still is recovering from a concussion suffered Sept. 20, keeping the Commodores on a signal-caller carousel that resulted in the wrong play being called in the 44-17 loss at Georgia. Nobody corrected Stephen Rivers before the snap, and his pass was picked off and returned for a touchdown.
Mason called that miscommunication a "one-time, goofy thing" Tuesday.
"It's done. I mean it happened. We have to move forward. I've talked about that thing enough," Mason said. "You start talking about those things too much and all you do is raise ghosts. Right now I mean we just have to continue to move forward, with the understanding of man the structure's in place. Let's go have fun."
Vanderbilt hosts Charleston Southern (5-0) of the Football Championship Subdivision on Saturday night for homecoming after three tough games in the Southeastern Conference. The Commodores then will have an open date and a chance to regroup for the stretch run.
That's why Mason is pitching this chance to start fresh.
"It's a new season," the coach said. "Our mindset's in the process of a new season. The only thing you can do is look at the first half of the season, look at your mistakes and understand there's a lot of good football to be played. You break it in half right now 1-5 trying to get to 1-0. That's where we're going to go."
Vanderbilt is 16-1 all-time against FCS programs, usually meaning this would be a game the Commodores easily could expect to win.
Nothing has been easy for Vanderbilt in Mason's first season as he plays a nation-high 31 combined freshmen and redshirt freshmen. Not being able to start the same quarterback more than consecutive games hasn't helped either. Freshman Wade Freebeck has the most starts this season with three, and he is listed as the starter against Charleston Southern.
That will change once Robinette is cleared to return. He now has missed two full games since suffering a concussion, but Mason made it clear Robinette is his quarterback once doctors allow him to play again. Mason said Robinette brings leadership and a confidence the Commodores need.
Without Robinette, Freebeck started his second straight game, but Mason pulled him to give the freshman quarterback a chance to watch the game. Vanderbilt trailed 27-10 in the third quarter and had fourth-and-2 at the Georgia 29 when Rivers misheard the play call and threw a pass picked off for a touchdown. Freebeck went back in.
Vanderbilt currently is 120th in total offense averaging 266.3 yards per game and averaging only 17 points a game, 116th in the country.
"It's made us somewhat of a roller coaster just in terms of what we're doing, and what we're dealing with ...," Mason said. "We have to continue to know that we're on the right track. Hopefully pretty soon we get Patton back and that alleviates the roller coaster. There's still going to be a time and place for Wade to get some time as a young guy."
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