The Derek Mason Era at Vanderbilt is not off to a good start. After losing 37-7 a week ago to Temple, Vanderbilt was beaten by No. 15 Ole Miss 41-3 on Saturday at LP Field in Nashville. Coming in as 20-point underdogs, few expected the Commodores to win in a series they had won six of the last nine. Mason and Commodore fans likely would have been content with signs of improvement (or even life) after last week's seven turnover performance. Instead, Ole Miss dominated throughout.
Through the end of the third quarter, by which time Ole Miss had emptied its bench, Vanderbilt had less than 150 offensive yards and only three completions on 13 attempts. Quarterback Stephen Rivers started, but did little to show that the job will be his to keep.
Ole Miss opened the game with an 11-play touchdown drive, and out of their drives through the first two-plus quarters with the starters, were held scoreless only on the drive ending the first half.
Bo Wallace looked like a different quarterback from the start of last week's win over Boise State as he appeared calm and avoided the mistakes that led to three first-half interceptions against the Broncos. Wallace finished his day with eight minutes left in the third quarter. In his 37 minutes of play, Wallace went 23-of-30 for 320 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. Tight end Evan Engram finished with seven receptions for 112 yards for his first 100-yard game, while receiver Cody Core continued to emerge as a reliable target for Wallace with four catches, 85 yards and a touchdown, his third in two games.
If there was a negative for Ole Miss, it was their continued struggles running the ball. Top running backs Jaylen Walton and I'Tavius Mathers finished with a touchdown apiece, but only 55 combined yards on 14 carries. The Rebels shuffled the offensive line around early, with freshman Rod Taylor drawing his first action at guard in an effort to find a group of linemen that can open a hole for the backs. UCLA transfer Christian Morris was cleared by the NCAA yesterday and figures to fit into the offensive line rotation in the next two games against Louisiana-Lafayette and Memphis.
Running back Ralph Webb was one of the few bright spots on the afternoon for the Commodores. He finished with 95 yards on 18 carries to account for over half of Vanderbilt's total offensive output. Punter Colby Cooke was busy, with seven punts for an average of 47.6 and a long of 55.
The encapsulation of Vanderbilt's night took place with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter. After a Devante Kincade fumble gave the Commodores the ball back inside the 10 yard line, Rivers was positioned with second-and-goal at the 4-yard line to try to break the shutout. Rivers appeared to be confused when under center and backed off to call time out. Vanderbilt, however, had already used it's three second-half timeouts and took a delay of game. The drive did end up with Vanderbilt scoring its only points of the night through a 26-yard Tommy Openshaw field goal.
Ole Miss opens its home schedule next week with Louisiana-Lafayette at 4 p.m., while Vanderbilt travels to UMass at noon next Saturday.