NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Mo Hasan Experience will not just be a one-game experiment.
Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason said this week that the Commodores will continue to play with the redshirt-junior as their starting quarterback for the foreseeable future. Hasan sparked Vandy to a 21-14 win over No. 22 Missouri last Saturday.
“If Mo Hasan is healthy, Mo Hasan’s the quarterback,” Mason told Nashville’s WPRT-FM this week. “And (senior) Riley Neal will be the backup.”
Hasan was 7-for-11 passing for 120 yards and a touchdown – a 61-yard screen pass to Ke’Shawn Vaughn – to go along with a 34 yards rushing against the Tigers. He left in the third quarter of that win after taking a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit from a Missouri defender.
A Miami, Florida, native, Hasan was held out of practice this week while in concussion protocol. If he’s cleared to play before Vanderbilt’s next game (Nov. 2 at South Carolina) he’ll be behind center once again for the first offensive play from scrimmage.
“That was about being able to take charge of the huddle. That was about being able to provide energy and being able to give this team its best chance,” Mason said about turning to Hasan for the game against Mizzou. “I believe Mo Hasan does that.”
Vanderbilt now has three quarterbacks who have played this season in Hasan, Riley and redshirt-junior Deuce Wallace. That trio has combined to complete 54.7 percent of its passes and throw for 1,454 yards.
Five of the team’s TD throws have come out of the right hand of Neal – including the game-winner against Missouri. But for now his role will be a supporting one as the Commodores turn to the philanthropic Hasan.
“(Hasan) was as cool as I thought he would be,” Mason told Nashville’s WGKX-FM. “When you wait, you see a lot, you learn a lot. You hear a lot of things and you see a lot of things – what guys have done who have been here before you.
“He watched Kyle Shurmur play. He watched Riley Neal play. He watched Deuce Wallace play. For him, he was going to be himself.”
Mason was asked by local media throughout the week how he went about keeping his team together and focused after a 1-5 start to the season and after a 34-10 loss at home to UNLV on Oct. 12. Part of the recipe was a motivational boost from a former Commodore.
“Ainsley Battles spoke to those guys Sunday about his time here and then going on to the NFL and when it’s done what this (Vanderbilt) experience does for you,” Mason said. “He ended it by saying, ‘Who you with?!’ The team answered, ‘VU!’
“And I think that set the tone for the week.”
Battles played four seasons in the NFL in the early 2000s after going undrafted as a former Vandy defensive back. He’s now the Corporate Relations Manager for the United Way of Southern Nevada.
FINGERS AND FISTS
Vandy’s thrilling win over Missouri came down to plenty of execution and play-making, but Mason also said it had just as much to do with a mental state than anything.
He told Nashville’s WPRT-FM that his Commodores had to fully invest into the age-old concept of teamwork.
“It’s like fingers and fists,” Mason said. “The fist is stronger than the fingers. So the group is stronger than the individuals.
“There’s got to be the idea of playing against yourself, practicing against yourself, beating yourself and then what you start to work hard toward is gaining all the things that are trying to improve yourself. The idea is that you get better and your team gets better and now you can start to grasp everything that’s in front of you.”
Vanderbilt goes into the idle weekend at 2-5 and 1-3 in the SEC. It needs to go at least 4-1 over its final five games to make a bowl game for the third time in the four seasons.
The road to another postseason starts with three rivalry road trips (South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee) and a home tilt against SEC East division foe Kentucky along with a nonconference matchup against East Tennessee State. Finding wins along that route won’t be easy, but Mason said he believes in his squad as long as they ride with the stick-together mentality.
“You have to understand you’re always competing with yourself. You want to be your best self when you play ball. This group has worked – but at times it has been unintentional,” he said. “So the reality is if you’re not greedy about the work, if you’re not greedy about making yourself better, well then the team doesn’t get better.
“We’re not good enough individually to just go do what we want to do. Collectively we got to make sure we do our jobs. This was a do-your-job game. Every game that we play is a do-your-job game.”
The Commodores practiced Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. They’ll take a break Thursday, Friday and Saturday before returning to campus to begin preparations to play at South Carolina on Nov. 2.
Mason and his staff will be on the road recruiting the future class of Dores. The head coach will return Saturday in order to spend some quality family time.
“On Saturday I’ll be taking my wife (LeighAnne Mason) out to lunch or dinner. We don’t get a chance to do it much,” Mason told Nashville’s WNSR-FM. “I think I can pay it forward to my wife on Saturday, watch some college football and then get ready for practice on Sunday.”
— Vanderbilt Football (@VandyFootball) October 24, 2019