Vandy looking for upset vs. No. 14 South Carolina
Derek Mason just got his first at Vanderbilt, needing a missed 22-yard field goal to start celebrating.
A win in the Gamecocks' first road game this season would push Spurrier out of a tie with former Georgia coach Vince Dooley and into sole possession of second behind only Paul ''Bear'' Bryant (292). Yet the old ball coach has been busy trying to keep his Gamecocks (2-1, 1-1) from getting too confident after edging Georgia last week 38-35.
''We've got a lot of room for improvement if we're going to have a chance to have a big year,'' Spurrier said. ''So hopefully our guys know that. I think they do.''
Mason has had his own hands full at Vanderbilt (1-2, 0-1) where he's played 31 combined freshmen - most in the nation - and 21 first-time starters taking over a program coming off consecutive 9-4 seasons capped by bowl wins. Spurrier has praised Mason as a defensive coach both with the Commodores and at his old job as defensive coordinator at Stanford.
''Those guys are well coached and in position,'' Spurrier said of the Commodores. ''They don't make mental mistakes on defense. I haven't watched their offense that much, but their defense looks tough. It looks like a real good one.''
That's Spurrier being kind to an SEC opponent. Vanderbilt didn't score its first offensive touchdown until the second quarter of its third game, and the Commodores had to rally from an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat Massachusetts 34-31 last week.
Mason said Spurrier now is using a two-back offense this season focused on running over defenses, not that old Fun-n-Gun passing attack. Mason said he appreciates the kind words from Spurrier, a coach he respects but is busy with his own very young team.
''No one really cares about how young you are when they line up against you,'' Mason said. ''They're looking to beat you. We have to continue to look at our team and say we're going to grow and we're going to make mistakes. But if you make them, make them physical and make them fast and don't make the same mistakes.''
Here are some things to watch Saturday night when Vanderbilt hosts No. 14 South Carolina:
GAMECOCKS' EDGE: South Carolina is going for a sixth straight win in this series and have a 19-4 edge all-time over Vanderbilt. The Gamecocks' last trip to Nashville came in the 2012 season opener, and they left town with a 17-13 win. Last year, they scored on the first four possessions in Columbia before holding onto a 35-25 win.
BACK TO ROBINETTE: Mason already has played four quarterbacks this season, and now the Vanderbilt coach says Patton Robinette once again is his starter. Robinette was pulled in the opening loss to Temple, and now he's back after scoring their first offensive touchdown and leading the Commodores to their first win.
THOMPSON'S TIME: Spurrier has changed quarterbacks plenty in his career. But senior Dylan Thompson is 5-1 as a starter in his career and is the only quarterback to play for South Carolina this season. Spurrier said Thompson could throw five interceptions in a game and won't be pulled this year.
HEALTHIER DAVIS: Spurrier said junior Mike Davis, who ran for 1,183 yards and 11 touchdowns last year, has practiced this week. Davis left the opening loss to Texas A&M with bruised ribs and had 16 carries for 66 yards against Georgia.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Vanderbilt already has two touchdowns on special teams this year. Stephen Weatherly blocked a punt and scored in fourth quarter, and Oren Burks recovered a poor snap on a punt for a TD in the opener. That doesn't count Adam Butler recovering a fumble in the end zone for a TD against UMass.
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