The good news? Vanderbilt’s football team is still alive after playing three of the SEC heavyweights.
The bad news? Against top-ranked Alabama, No. 5 Georgia and No. 21 Florida, the Commodores have been outscored 142-38.
The Commodores hosted Georgia to its Homecoming following Saturday at Vanderbilt Stadium.
The Dawgs left Music City with a 45-14 win for the SEC East powerhouse.
Georgia just lined up and rammed it down the Commodores throats with an old school running game. The one-two combination of running backs Sony Michel and Nick Chubb was more than the Commodores defense could withstand.
Michel gained 150 yards on 12 carries, a 12.5 per carry average that included a touchdown. Nick Chubb gained 138 on 16 trips. It was a 8.6 per carry average. Chubb scored two touchdowns and had a long run of 33 yards.
It all added up to 54 plays for 423 yards, a 7.8 per play average.
“They broke tackles. For us, we had too many missed tackles. We gave up too many yards after the catch,’’ Vanderbilt Coach Derek Mason said. “We couldn’t get off the field on third down. That didn’t happen. … Teams like Georgia will expose who you really are if you’re not coming up with tackles.’’
The Dawgs punished Vanderbilt’s defense all day, wearing it down in the second half.
The Commodores’ schedule gets lighter from here on. They have road trips to Ole Miss and South Carolina. They return home for Western Kentucky, Kentucky, Missouri and a struggling Tennessee team they beat last year.
Vanderbilt had no answer for Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm. He was 7-for-11 in the air for 102 yards, two touchdowns and was only sacked once.
On the other end, Vandy quarterback Kyle Shurmur was 17 of 31 for 172 yards and a touchdown.
It wasn’t enough. Georgia had 549 total yards compared to Vandy’s 236.
It was a manageable 21-7 at halftime, but the Dawgs never took their paws off the gas. It was 38-7 after three quarters and Vandy’s defense was no match physically.
This is Mason’s fourth year and his team is still making the same mistakes: missed tackles, lack of offensive production, beating SEC East teams, special teams.
On missed tackles Saturday Mason said: “It’s dead legs. When you have backs who are running with low pad levels, it’s about force encountering force. These guys need to work on tackling fundamentals. … The idea of tackling is still just tackling.’’
Those things obviously are coaching, teaching fundamentals.
“I’ve got to fix it,’’ Mason said. “I keep looking for things to point out. We need to make guys understand the importance of it. Some of it is an issue of physicality. Some of it is an issue of depth. We don’t have the depth we need to have.’’
Again, those issues are coaching, recruiting and elevating the players to another level.
If Vanderbilt’s goal in football is to win six games and go to a lower level bowl game, then admit it. If being competitive with SEC teams and winning significant games against them, then they need to be coached up.
Kirby Smart is in his second year as a SEC head coach. He followed Mark Richt after Georgia fired him. Richt is now at Miami and has been successful.
Joe Biddle is a WKRN.com sports columnist. He is a member of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.