NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Coach Derek Mason made it very clear Tuesday that the Vanderbilt Commodores have a starting quarterback in Kyle Shurmur and plan to play backup Wade Freebeck as well.
Now they just need to help whichever quarterback is on the field.
''We've got to make some plays for our quarterback and keep our quarterback upright,'' Mason said. ''But that's part of learning from a Game 1.''
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Mason has been heavily criticized since Vanderbilt failed to protect a 10-point lead in losing its opener 13-10 to South Carolina with most of the questions over how the head coach and offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig handled their quarterbacks. Shurmur started and drove Vanderbilt to its lone touchdown within the first minute of the second quarter but was replaced by Freebeck on the next drive.
Vanderbilt never scored again. Shurmur was 8 of 22 for 73 yards passing, while Freebeck was threw an incompletion on only his only attempt. That puts Vanderbilt 120th in the nation in passing offense after one game, which would be a drop from 111 for 2015. Freebeck went three-and-out on back-to-back drives before Shurmur returned.
Mason defended the move after the game, noting the switch had been ''predetermined.'' He didn't back off that decision Tuesday.
''I don't have any regrets about throwing him in there,'' Mason said. ''That was the thought. That was the game plan. You always look and evaluate. Hindsight's 20-20. When those things arise in the future, maybe you attack them differently.''
Shurmur, a 6-foot-4 sophomore, was named the starter in July. The son of Minnesota Vikings tight end coach Pat Shurmur, he started five games last season and threw for 503 yards with three touchdowns. Freebeck, a 6-5 junior, started four of five games in 2014, and he played only one game last season as one of three quarterbacks used last season. He has one TD pass in his short career.
But what Mason and Ludwig like about Freebeck is his mobility and experience running the read option in high school in Florida. Freebeck will play in ''situational'' opportunities, even though his longest career run is 7 yards while in college.
''That was the great thing about college football this weekend,'' Mason said. ''We all watched a lot of college football and what you saw was there's guys who are situational players. Wade Freebeck is our backup. Kyle Shurmur is our starter, and when situations arise, man, we'll look exactly do that. Play a situational player and give us a chance.''
Vanderbilt (0-1) got plenty of production from Ralph Webb, who ran for 97 yards against South Carolina, and converted linebacker Khari Blasingam added 68 yards. C.J. Duncan and Kalija Lipscomb were the only receivers to catch passes, though Mason said some throws were high.
The Commodores will need more production Saturday hosting Middle Tennessee (1-0), a Conference USA team whose home is about 40 miles southeast of Nashville. Vandy needed a late Webb TD run to snap a three-game skid to Middle Tennessee last season in the first game between these teams since 2005.
Middle Tennessee routed Alabama A&M 55-0 with Brent Stockstill throwing for 329 yards and five touchdowns.
''He put up some video game-like numbers,'' Mason said.
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