Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason watches from the sideline in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Kentucky, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
View All (3)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Vanderbilt is preparing for another opponent with a very dangerous running back in the Commodores’ final home game of the season.

The Commodores allowed Kentucky to run for a season-high 401 yards in the Wildcats’ 38-14 win against Vanderbilt. On Saturday, the Commodores must try to slow down East Tennessee State and Quay Holmes, who ran for a school-record 255 yards in a 38-33 win over Mercer in their last outing.

“Quay Holmes is a tremendous talent, and they’ve got a good offensive line,” Commodores coach Derek Mason said. “And they found a rhythm offensively.”

Holmes was named the FCS national player of the week and Southern Conference offensive player of the week for his performance. He averaged 9.8 yards on 26 carries, including runs of 64 and 74 to start ETSU’s first two possessions. Holmes has rushed for 1,133 yards and seven touchdowns this season, and this is the season finale for the Buccaneers (3-8).

“We always have confidence in this run game,” Holmes told the Buccaneer Sports Network. “We have a very experienced o-line and every time we take the field, I tell the guys to impose their will on the defense.”

Vanderbilt (2-8) ranks 121st out of 130 FBS teams defending the run. The Commodores are allowing 217.1 yards rushing per game with a defense featuring mostly juniors and sophomores with not a single senior starter.

Some other things to watch when Vanderbilt plays host to ETSU:

MASON’S JOB SECURITY

As speculation swirled about Mason’s future at Vanderbilt with a sixth losing season assured, athletic director Malcom Turner made clear Tuesday that Mason will be back in 2020. Mason appreciated the statement of support.

“Malcom has ridden with us in three or four games this season,” Mason said. “He’s had a chance to look inside the program, and he’s looked at other programs. I think he’s evaluating everything. I really appreciated him going to look at other places and other programs to see how Vanderbilt stacks up.”

Senior wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb described Mason as “a good coach, better guy. I’m sure in the future he’ll continue to ratchet it up and bring this program a level of class and commitment that not a lot of people could give it,” Lipscomb said.

STRUGGLING OFFENSE

Vanderbilt’s anemic offense has ground nearly to a halt, having scored only 21 points combined in the last three games — all losses.

Four quarterbacks have played this season as injuries created a revolving door. Riley Neal, who suffered a concussion against South Carolina three weeks ago, will start Saturday. Mo Hassan, Deuce Wallace and Allan Walters have also taken snaps, and Vanderbilt is averaging 81 yards passing against South Carolina, Florida and Kentucky.

“Developing a quarterback for this year has been hard,” Mason said. “Trying to find that guy consistently of who I am, how we play, how I want to play, what it looks like – it just hasn’t been there.”

REMEMBERING TURNER

Vanderbilt will honor former tight end Turner Cockrell, who died of cancer last November at the age of 21. Saturday would have been Cockrell’s Senior Day.

“Anything that we can do to kind of honor him is something that I’ve put my mind to a lot,” said Commodores tight end Cody Markel, a close friend of Cockrell. “To be able to go out there and get a win for him would be really something that would be really cool.”

QUICK HITS

ETSU only restarted its football program in 2015 after the school discontinued the team 12 years earlier. … Vanderbilt is 34-6 against Southern Conference teams. … The Commodores have won eight straight against opponents from Tennessee.

__

More AP college football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25