- Associated Press - Saturday, April 12, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The Vanderbilt Commodores and new coach Derek Mason have wrapped up spring practice. A decision on a starting quarterback may not be made until August at the earliest.

Patton Robinette showed off his knack for scoring late yet again Saturday, running for a 1-yard touchdown to lift the Gold offense to a 21-16 win over the Black defense in Vanderbilt’s spring game. Johnny McCrary got the edge from Mason for his play at least Saturday.

“I don’t want to jump the gun, because when you do that, you paint yourself into a corner,” Mason said. “It needs to be competitive. These guys need to push each other and whoever else comes in here needs to have an opportunity to really push them. We have to be as good as we can be at that position because it’s still a quarterback’s game. You have to have a guy who can control it and lead it at all times.”

The game before 8,400 capped the first spring practice under Mason, and they used a system pitting the offense and defense. Mason said his intent was to measure what his Commodores know and how they play. He didn’t want to load them up after taking over in late January replacing James Franklin who left for Penn State.

Mason has to pick a new starting quarterback for a program that went 9-4 and finished ranked 24th in The Associated Press’ final rankings. Austyn Carta-Samuels is gone, and Robinette started three games last season as a redshirt freshman, including the Compass Bowl and a win at Florida. He also came off the bench to play a major role in the win over Georgia and scored the winning touchdown with 16 seconds left at Tennessee.

On Saturday, the offense scored 11 of the last 12 points with Robinette lifting the offense to the win by driving the Commodores 65 yards for his touchdown. The offense took advantage of two defensive penalties on the winning drive, including pass interference for a first down inside the 10.

Mason said Robinette struggled early trying to do too much early and settled down in the second half. Robinette finished 9 of 11 for 89 yards passing, and McCrary, who redshirted last season as a freshman, was 10 of 18 for 94 yards.

“He still has to do a better job of keeping his eyes downfield,” Mason said of Robinette. “I thought he was good on his primary read, but when he goes to his second or third reads, he looked to run versus throw. We’ve going to get him to understand to keep the ball up so he can find targets.”

Mason said McCrary did a solid job and has a tremendous arm and good grasp of the offense, though his immaturity shows up managing the clock and getting people lined up.

The new coach liked what he saw on both units with the defense up 15-14 going into the fourth quarter thanks to seven sacks, including two by linemen Jay Woods.

Ralph Webb also scored on a 60-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. He finished with a game-high 114 yards rushing on 14 carries, and Brian Kimbrow ran for 55 yards on 11 rushes.

Now Mason gets a little break after the whirlwind of taking over as a first-time head coach.

“These guys have grown with me and I’ve grown with them,” Mason said. “I understand who they are, and they understand who I am. We have to make sure that we’re all on the same boat, grabbing an oar and rowing together. It’s about us and I think, collectively, the message got across to them exactly where we want to go. … The future is bright.”



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