Even before their upcoming game against Missouri was cancelled due to the lack of available scholarship players, things were not pretty on the West End. After another lackluster performance (this time against a very beatable South Carolina team), it is clear that there are larger changes that need to happen to the Commodore football team if they are ever going to compete at the levels they did under former coach James Franklin. Many fans are calling for Derek Mason’s head at this juncture; so let’s take a look at some of the numbers and how they stack up. 

Through 3 games of the 2020 season, the Commodores rank dead last in all of major college football in scoring offense (8.7 points per game), red zone offense (scoring only 37.5% of the time they make it inside their opponent’s 20), yards per play (3.8), and points per play (.128). Vandy is second to last in yards per completion (8.9 yards/catch) and total offense (256.7 yards per game). 

Furthermore, they are in the bottom 10 in the nation of the following categories – 

  • First downs per game 
  • Interceptions thrown 
  • Passing offense
  • Passing yards per attempt
  • Passing efficiency
  • Rushing offense
  • Rushing yards per attempt
  • Tackles for loss allowed
  • Yards per play allowed
  • Sacks 
  • Tackles for loss
  • Field goal percentage
  • Punts attempted per game

The only meaningful statistic that Vanderbilt going in Vanderbilt’s favor at this point is that they are #1 in the SEC in fewest penalties and penalty yards. So at least they have that going for them. (All statistics courtesy of stats.ncaa.org and teamrankings.com)

These numbers are part of a larger trend that shows just how far this program has fallen under Derek Mason’s tenure. Per Chris Lee of VandySports.com, the offense and defense have both had growth in the wrong direction. So let’s take a look to see just how bad things have gotten, using yards per play as a measuring stick.

There has only been one season under coach Mason where the offense has gained more yards per play than the defense has given up (2018), and so far in this season, the defense is giving up nearly twice as many yards per play as the offense is gaining. When Mason gutted the staff last year and brought in Todd Fitch and Ted Roof to run the offense and defense respectively, he could not have imagined that things would look this bad this early. But the fact of the matter is that they do. Coach Mason has done some good things for the program – he’s made it to two bowl games (albeit with a good deal of players brought in by Franklin and his staff), kept the program (relatively) out of trouble, and has put some quality players in to the NFL. That being said, in this day and age, that is simply not enough of a reason to keep a head coach around in the SEC when he has 27-49 career record and zero winning seasons. So while I’m not usually one to call for a coach’s firing, especially during this unique season, the writing has to be on the wall. In this case, the numbers simply don’t lie.

Matt Perkins is the producer and host of the Bleav in Vanderbilt Football Podcast and the Illegal Motion College Football Podcast. He is an audio engineer and filmmaking instructor based in Nashville, TN. You can find the shows here:

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