SEC-worst 10 interceptions may cost McCrary Vandy QB job

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason has run out of patience with quarterback Johnny McCrary.

The Commodores have turned the ball over more than any other team in the Southeastern Conference thanks largely to McCrary's league-high 10 interceptions. The sophomore turned the ball over four times in last week's 19-10 loss at South Carolina.

''We're going to make the changes necessary for us to move forward,'' Mason said Tuesday.

The second-year coach stopped short of committing to a change at quarterback. McCrary still is listed as the starter on the depth chart, but freshman Kyle Shurmur has been added as an option behind sophomore Wade Freebeck. Asked if McCrary remains his starter, Mason said repeatedly that he is ''exploring every option.''

''Turnovers and penalties have been the nemesis for us,'' Mason said. ''We're going to continue to figure out exactly what that is. I do know this. You can't keep doing the same thing and expect different results. So with that being the case, we're looking at every opportunity to get better.''

Mason had been trying to give McCrary time to work through and learn from his mistakes, starting the quarterback the first six games. It's the opposite of last season when Vanderbilt started four quarterbacks - the most by any FBS program.

The worst part of the turnovers for Mason is how easy Vanderbilt has lost the ball. Mason said he can live with defenders forcing turnovers but not handing the ball to an opponent.

McCrary was intercepted twice in the end zone in Vanderbilt's 14-12 loss to Western Kentucky in the season opener, and the Commodores trailed South Carolina 13-10 before unraveling behind McCrary's three interceptions. The quarterback also lost a fumble with 3:53 left at the South Carolina 17, costing Mason a chance at his first SEC win.

Mason said Vanderbilt should be 4-2 instead of 2-4, if not for the turnovers. He also has Vandy coaches looking at everyone and everything to make sure they're playing as well as they should.

Whoever starts Saturday against Missouri (4-3, 1-3) needs help from his teammates.

''There is no magic elixir,'' Mason said. ''We just know right now between the penalties and the turnovers that this football team can't continue to play that type of football and expect to win.''

Mason is very happy with what coordinator Andy Ludwig has brought to Vanderbilt's offense in his first season. Vanderbilt is averaging 399 yards, 132.7 yards more than last season, and the Commodores are up across the board except in red zone offense. There they rank last in the SEC with nine touchdowns and five field goals on 23 trips inside an opponent's 20 with four turnovers.

Coming off an open date, Ludwig used junior Darrius Sims who ran only six times for 104 yards to ease the pressure on Ralph Webb.

''Andy's finally figured out exactly where each of those pieces fit, and we're moving them around to get the production that we need in order to be successful.''

Protecting the ball will be crucial with Missouri ranking as the SEC's top scoring defense, allowing only 12.9 points a game. The Tigers also have intercepted eight passes.

''Obviously, it just comes down to who's going to put us in the best position to win the football game,'' tight end Steven Scheu said. ''Johnny's a great player and everybody loves him, but it comes down to the coaches and what they think is best.''

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This story has been corrected to show turnovers came with Vandy down 13-10 instead of 13-7.

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Online:

AP College Football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org

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Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

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