NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Derek Mason has the Vanderbilt Commodores off to their first 2-0 start in his tenure, a perfect beginning that is about to be tested.
The Commodores host 18th-ranked Kansas State on Saturday night, and that’s the first of four straight games against teams ranked in the Top 25 . After the Wildcats, Vanderbilt plays No. 1 Alabama on Sept. 23, then at No. 24 Florida before hosting 13th-ranked Georgia.
Mason insisted Tuesday he’s only focused on Kansas State, a team he expects to finish in the Top 10 before this season ends.
“This is the main event,” Mason said. “I’ll find out who my football team is when we line up on Saturday. … For me, OK it’s about focusing my attention. I mean Kansas State’s got my full attention, they’ve got this team’s attention. Now what we’ve got to make sure we prepare to play, and this team will be ready to go on Saturday.”
Vanderbilt beat the last ranked team that came into its stadium, ruining then-No. 24 Tennessee’s bid for the Southeastern Conference’s Eastern Division title and a berth in the league title game. A victory Saturday night would make the Commodores, who received two points in voting for this week’s Top 25, 3-0 for the first time since 2011 with their fifth straight home win.
Mason said he is between 65 percent and 70 percent in understanding where his Commodores are right now. He noted he had to push them through practices the past two seasons, but not this year.
“It’s one thing to be a football team and it’s learning how to win,” Mason said. “It’s another thing to be a football team that’s learning how to handle success, and what does that look like? So I mean we’re trying to do both at the same time. So I’m gauging it week to week. I can’t gauge it like any more than that.”
The Commodores bring in the nation’s best defense when backed up inside their own 20 and are second nationally holding opponents to just three points a game after a 42-0 shutout of Alabama A&M . That will be tested by the Wildcats of the Big 12 who have scored 55 points in each of their first two wins, including last week’s 55-7 win over Charlotte .
Safety Ryan White compared Kansas State’s physical style running the ball to Georgia and Florida. Asked if the Commodores relish a chance against a ranked, nonconference opponent, White made it clear they are used to that level of competition.
“We play in the SEC, so we play the best each and every week,” White said.
Quarterback Kyle Shurmur has the Commodores ranked third in the SEC and 45th through two games averaging 261.5 yards. He already has seven touchdown passes after having nine in 13 games last season. Shurmur says the Commodores have talked about respectability and having success this season.
“We started off 2-0, and now it’s time to see if we can continue it,” Shurmur said. “As he (Mason) talked, the repeatability is the biggest thing just to try and go 1-0 this week.”
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