- Associated Press - Friday, September 18, 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Derek Mason likes a lot of what he has seen early from his Vanderbilt Commodores. Now he wants them to clean up some mistakes as they wrap up a three-game home stand.

Winning their first game also would be nice.

“I believe we’ve been our own worst enemy,” Mason said of his Commodores. “They see it on tape. There’s things to clean up.”

The Commodores (0-2) get a chance Saturday to take care of all those areas hosting Austin Peay (0-2) of the Football Championship Subdivision. Vanderbilt is coming off a 31-14 loss to then-No. 10 Georgia where the Commodores hurt themselves with three interceptions, one in the end zone after pulling within 24-14 in the fourth quarter.

Johnny McCrary has been intercepted five times through the first two games with three of those in the end zone, a big reason why Vandy ranks last out of 127 FBS teams scoring in the red zone. Mason said both he and offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig have sat down with the redshirt sophomore and discussed making better decisions.

But Mason said he hasn’t thought about switching to backup Wade Freebeck.

“He’s the leader,” Mason said of McCrary. “He’s got to make sure he protects us, our guys depend on that, we depend on him. He’s growing every practice, every day.”

This will be the second game between teams separated by 50 miles, and Vanderbilt beat Austin Peay 38-3 in 2013. The Governors (0-2) are coming off a 52-6 loss at Southern Miss, and the Ohio Valley Conference program that won only once last season is playing its second FBS opponent in a row.

Austin Peay coach Kirby Cannon said such games are a necessity for the majority of FCS programs.

“I’m anxious to go down there and play,” Cannon said. “We were down there two years ago. I said we’d come back with a much better football team, and it’s time to prove it.”


Some things to know about Saturday’s game:

TURNOVERS: Vanderbilt has yet to force its first turnover this season, though the Commodores have come close. Mason, who also works as defensive coordinator, wants that to change. “That’s never a good stat,” Mason said. Linebacker Darreon Herring said the Commodores have been working hard in practice to better strip out the ball.

FASTER STARTS: Vanderbilt has not scored a point yet in either the first or third quarter, and those slow starts haven’t helped the Commodores take advantage of playing at home. Mason said cleaning up penalties that have stalled drives is a key focus to revving up the offense.

SPECIAL TEAMS: The Commodores gave up a 77-yard punt return for a touchdown to Georgia and also have missed a couple field goals. Austin Peay had a punt blocked by Southern Miss in the first quarter last week.

MONEY MONEY: Cannon said Austin Peay will earn about $600,000 for playing Southern Miss and Vanderbilt this season - the equivalent of the Governors’ football operations budget in helping the athletic department. With Vanderbilt, the Governors will be playing their sixth FBS opponent in Cannon’s three seasons. “We need to evaluate our ability to maybe schedule these games on a less frequent basis,” Cannon said.

NO PEAKING: With the Commodores looking for their first win of the season, they insist they will not be thinking of visiting No. 15 Mississippi on Sept. 26. Vanderbilt won only three games in Mason’s first season last year. “This is all we have on our radar right now,” receiver Kris Kentera said.



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


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

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