The most telling sequence came early in the fourth quarter, with the game well out of reach. Having mounted its first scoring threat of the entire young season, Vanderbilt had a first-and-goal at the Ole Miss six-yard line. Ralph Webb rushed for no gain on first down. Stephen Rivers connected with Kellen Williams for five on second down, but Webb lost one of those yards on third down. Knowing a 41-3 deficit made no difference than 41-0, Derek Mason went for it on fourth down. Rivers threw incomplete to C.J. Duncan.
On the next play, wildcat ball carrier DeVante Kincaid fumbled the ball, and Vanderbilt again had first-and-goal, this time at the five.
Webb rushed for one on first down and, facing second-and-goal from the four, Rivers had his own personal Chris Webber moment. He attempted to call timeout when Vanderbilt had none remaining, and the Commodores suffered a delay of game penalty. Rivers threw incomplete on second and third down, and Mason elected for a Tommy Openshaw 26-yard field goal on fourth down.
No. 15 Ole Miss 41, Vanderbilt 3. It was Vanderbilt’s first offensive score of the season.
Following a 37-7 loss at the hands of Temple, in which the Commodores’ only points were the equivalent of found money with a fumble recovery inside the Temple end zone, the Mason era has begun with the black and gold getting outscored 78-10. Karl Dorrell’s offense is still waiting on its first touchdown, and the 10 points it does have were absolute gifts.
Much of the talk of Vanderbilt’s uglier-than-it-looks 0-2 start has centered around Mason, but it’s clear former Vandy head coach and current Penn State coach James Franklin left the cupboard half empty (at best) and infested with rats.
The Commodores achieved nine first downs and totaled only 167 yards of total offense. Rivers completed only six of his 25 throws for 90 yards and an interception. Four Vanderbilt runners combined for 107 yards on 25 carries.
On the opposite sideline, it appears Bo Wallace has exorcised whatever demon controlled his right arm over the first three quarters of the Boise State game. The senior hit 23-of-30 passes for 320 yards with a touchdown and zero turnovers. A cavalcade of Rebels runners – nine players totaled between two and eight rushes – combined for 50 carries, 180 yards, and three touchdowns. Ole Miss did not score in the fourth quarter after leading 10-0 through one quarter, 20-0 at the half, and 41-0 through three.
Ole Miss finally opens its home schedule with Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday.
It’s unclear where Mason and Vanderbilt go from here. It’s an almost certainty that the three-year streak of bowl appearances and two-year run of nine-win seasons are on their last legs. It’s not readily apparent where the solutions are, but here may be one of them: Vanderbilt hosts Massachusetts next week in a game that certainly (hopefully) will bring the ‘Dores’ first offensive touchdown.