It wasn't easy, but Vanderbilt's Derek Mason got his first win as a head coach on Saturday against Massachusetts.
And he knows what it means to a lot of people.
"I'm so proud of our team," Mason said. "I'm so proud of our coaches. I'm so proud of our fan base. For me, it's joy and excitement. (Wins) are tough to come by."
Ralph Webb scored on a 4-yard run with 1:08 remaining to give Vanderbilt a come-from-behind 34-31 win.
The winning score was set up on a 36-yard completion from Patton Robinette to C.J. Duncan.
Robinette, a sophomore, entered the game in the second quarter after true freshman Wade Freebeck started the game. Freebeck was the third different starting quarterback for Vanderbilt in its three games.
"(Robinette) came in and had command of that offense. I had planned to play both and utilize their skill sets," Mason said. "Patton gave us something different today. He got off on a good roll. He got the attention of the team. I've been looking for somebody to take the team and put our guys on his shoulders.
"He gave us something that was different. You definitely want your quarterback to have command of the team."
UMass (0-3) drove to the Vanderbilt 4-yard line only to have Blake Lucas miss a 22-yard field-goal attempt to the left with 2 seconds remaining.
Robinette scored on a 1-yard run at 10:02 of the second quarter to give Vanderbilt its first offensive touchdown of the season.
"Once (Robinette) got in, you could see the energy he brought to the team," Mason said.
Vanderbilt (1-2) trailed by as many as 11 in the second half and scored 14 unanswered points in the final quarter to earn the win.
Mason got the game ball right after the final horn and kept it in his arm as he shook hands with UMass head coach Mark Whipple and headed off the field.
Freebeck played the entire first quarter and was 1 for 2 for 3 yards with an interception. He is the fourth quarterback to play for Vanderbilt this season.
Robinette started the first game of the season, a 37-7 loss home loss to Temple, while Stephen Rivers, a transfer from LSU and younger brother of San Diego Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers, started the second game. Vanderbilt lost that game 41-3 to Ole Miss to open the Southeastern Conference schedule for both teams at LP Field, the home of the NFL's Tennessee Titans.
UMass, which raced out to a 14-0 lead, scored on five of its first seven drives and that included a kneel-down by quarterback Blake Frohnapfel to end the first half.
Frohnapfel threw for 205 yards on 17-of-34 passing. He connected with Rodney Mills for a 13-yard TD to start the scoring for the Minutemen.
Frohnapfel wasn't the only Minuteman to throw a touchdown pass to Mills. Brian McDonald threw a 53-yard pass to Mills on a fake punt for Massachusetts' second score. McDonald is a former quarterback who played at Fitchburg (Massachusetts) State in 2011 before transferring to Morris (Minnesota) State to focus on punting in 2012. He is now in graduate school.
Robinette threw for 147 yards and a touchdown while connecting on 15 of 21 attempts.
It was apparent the Commodores wanted to focus on the running game due to the number of quarterbacks they've used so far this season. They rushed for 169 yards on 40 carries, led by Webb's 119 on 26 attempts.
"Even when everyone wants us to throw, we needed to stick with our plan (of running the ball), and it paid dividends for us," Mason said.
Massachusetts running back Lorenzo Woodley scored a career-high two touchdowns. He had a 2-yard scamper in the second quarter and another 2-yard run in the third quarter. He finished with 59 yards on 22 carries.
Vanderbilt defensive lineman/linebacker Caleb Azubike had two sacks on the day and led the team, along with linebacker Nigel Bowden, with seven tackles.
Whipple was disappointed to let this game slip away. His team finished 1-11 last year and couldn't finish off the Commodores.
"No question, they don't know how to win," Whipple said. "They want to win but they don't know how to prepare. We just have to go back to work. We have a huge test next weekend against Penn State. They have to look in the mirror and see what they can do to be a better football player. If everyone does a little bit more and does their job, then I know we will get better. But we just can't give a team 14 points."