It's usually best to leave other programs alone when it comes to whether they should fire their schools for performance issues. (Safety issues are another matter.) And it's too soon for even Vanderbilt fans to call for Derek Mason's job at this point. But the crushing loss to Georgia provided more evidence that Mason might be in over his head, and needs to improve sooner rather than later if he wants to remain in Nashville.
To be sure, Mason didn't exactly walk into an ideal situation at Vanderbilt. But a sequence of plays that began around the middle of the third quarter, with Vanderbilt trailing 27-10, showed the kind of bad coaching that Mason and his staff have been guilty of this year.
Vanderbilt drove to the Georgia 29 with an opportunity to get the Commodores back in the game. On 4th-and-2, Vanderbilt called a play where Stephen Rivers rolled to his left, turned around and threw back across the field -- to Devin Bowman, a Georgia player who promptly returned it for a touchdown.
It was a throw Rivers never should have made. But it was a puzzling call given the situation. And the coaches responded to the disaster by sticking Wade Freebeck in at quarterback. And on the ensuing drive, with the ball at the Georgia 48 on 3rd-and-1, Vanderbilt appeared to take the field with 10 men. The run came up short and the Commodores were forced to punt; with Georgia leading 34-10, any threat of making the game interesting quickly passed.
The play call on fourth down was not talent, but coaching. The QB merry-go-round, something that has become a fixture of Vanderbilt's offense this year, is coaching. Not having enough men on the field, and not doing anything about it when it occurs, is coaching. This is Derek Mason's first head coaching job, and a learning curve is to be expected, but the basics should not still be a problem for Vanderbilt halfway into the season.
For Georgia, there was nothing truly surprising about this game. Well, except that Todd Gurley -- who ran the ball 25 times for 163 yards and two touchdowns -- add a 50-yard pass out of the wildcat to his resume. Hutson Mason was solid but not spectacular (11-of-17, 121 yards, two touchdowns and an interception), the defense played relatively well even if it allowed 320 yards to the worst offense in the league, marking the second-most yards the Commodores have gained in a game this year.
Georgia did what it needed to in order to keep pace in the race for the SEC East. If Vanderbilt ever hopes to join that race, the Commodores need to improve -- with or without Derek Mason.