Vanderbilt and Georgia Football 2015: Similar Stories, Different Endings


Georgia football and Vanderbilt football share similar story lines in 2015, along with a distaste for the Penn State head coach.

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It was an ok weekend for Vanderbilt. The Commodores lost to Western Kentucky and Penn State lost to Temple.

More from Georgia Football

When we last we met in the Music City, James Franklin was riding high as Commodore football head coach. But after parlaying luck and an ebbing Tennessee program into the Golden Era of Vanderbilt football, Franklin took his medicine show to Penn State. Franklin left a Vanderbilt program in shambles, although it took the Commodores a year to figure out the scam.

New Vandy head coach Derek Mason lost the 2014 season opener to Temple 37-7. A year later, second year Penn State head coach James Franklin  lost the 2015 season losing to Temple.

Commodore fans now see thing more clearly.

In 2013, Mason led Vanderbilt beat Georgia for the first time since 2006 and the Commodores celebrated. In 2014, Mason led Penn State lost to Temple for the first time since 1941 and the Commodores celebrated.

The immediate future is bleak for the Commodores. But if James Franklin, now 7-7 at Penn State, is dismissed as the Nittany Lions’ head coach, Vanderbilt will count 2015 as a winning season.

More from Dawn of the Dawg

Opponent: Vanderbilt Commodores

Game Time: Saturday September 12, 3:30 ET

Where: Nashville, Vanderbilt Stadium, built in 1922


Radio: Georgia Bulldog Sports Network from IMG – Scott Howard, Eric Zeier, Chuck Dowdle; Bulldog Radio Network, Sirius 113, XM 191,

Vanderbilt Coach: Derek Mason is Vandy’s 28th head coach. Mason came to Nashville in 2014 with a sterling reputation as a defensive coordinator, serving as associate head coach and Defensive Coordinator from 2011-2013 at Stanford.

Mason takes over defensive coordinator duties this year and has otherwise upgraded his staff.

Mason earned his way up the college-coaching ladder with stints at Mesa Community College, Weber State, Idaho State, Bucknell, Utah, Ohio University, New Mexico State, the Minnesota Vikings of the NFL, before arriving at Stanford.

Last Year: The Commodores won only three games in 2014, beating Massachusetts Charleston Southern, and Old Dominion.

Offense: the story

Just as Georgia had a quarterback soap opera, so did Vanderbilt. After four different quarterback starters in 2014, Mason named Patton Robinette the starter in the spring. But Robinette decided to attend medical school.

Sophomores Johnny McCrary and Wade Freebeck battled for the job and sophomore McCrary prevailed.

McCrary is the leading passer in DeKalb County history, going 567 of 831 (68.2%) for 9,025 yards and 78 TDs at Cedar Grove. McCrary, no doubt hungry for a win over home state Georgia, will hand the ball to sophomore Ralph Webb and throw the ball to senior TE Steven Scheu. McCrary will also run early and often.

Expect Vanderbilt to make Georgia choose between defending the runner Webb and the receiver Scheu. With the offensive line bringing 90 career starts to the 2015 season, McCrary may have an opportunity to execute against a Georgia defense intent on confronting, confusing, and chasing him.

Defense: the story

Just as Georgia is in year two of Jeremy Pruitt’s defense, Vanderbilt is in year two of Derek Mason’s defense. The Vanderbilt defense returns nearly every contributor from the 2014 defense and with the Mason year-two factor, will be good.

Vandy’s soft spot is at nose tackle. Just as Georgia hopes to shore up the interior defensive line, Vandy replaces Vince Taylor with Jay Woods – a converted end/linebacker – and with highly touted freshman Nifae Lealao.

The strength of the Commodore defense, Just as Georgia, is at linebacker.

Expect Vanderbilt to rely on its linebackers and tackles to defend the vaunted Dawg runners and allow the safeties to defend against the pass. If Vandy brings the safeties to the line of scrimmage early in the game, the Dawgs will throw. And if the Dawgs can catch, those visiting from Bulldog Country can in the middle of the third quarter begin  choosing between drinking at Tootsies’ and dancing at Laylas’

Coach Richt says:

“[McCrary is] very talented,” Richt told “He’s a guy we knew about through the recruiting process. Obviously, (he) can throw the ball well, as well as being big, strong, physical and fast. He’s got a lot of the tools it takes to be a great quarterback.”

Georgia should prevail. But this a Southeastern Conference Road Game and early dinner reservations are not advised.

Next: Mark Richt: Fair and Not So Fair Criticism