The good news for Vanderbilt is that there’s a lot of room for improvement after failing to score at least 10 points in half your SEC games a year ago and finishing last in the conference in scoring.

The bad news is that Thursday night’s 14-12 loss to visiting Western Kentucky is proof enough that there’s still a lot of work to be done as the Commodores’ offensive challenges remain a major issue.

Vandy managed to drive into WKU territory on eight occasions, managing only two field goals before Trent Sherfield’s touchdown reception in the final minute. More disturbing were the two costly interceptions in the end zone thrown by quarterback Johnny McCrary and another would-be touchdown pass dropped.

Things won’t get any easier for the Commodores this week, when they host ninth-ranked Georgia in Saturday’s SEC opener for both teams. The Dawgs boast one of the nation’s top defenses and are loaded with big-play athletes on that side of the ball.

Vanderbilt can take some small consolation in knowing that it moved the ball fairly well as whole in its first game, totaling 393 yards of total offense.

The Commodores’ seven third-down conversions surpassed any single-game total from 2014, while Sherfield’s career-high four receptions paced the parade of nine different players to catch a pass.

But avoiding the mistakes in the red zone will be the key if the team is to better its offensive output and score more points. For starters, McCrary must make better decisions with the football. His first interception in the end zone was a result of his being late in trying to find tight end Steven Scheu, who was open initially. Rather than continue his progressions, throw the ball away or simply tuck it in and run, McCrary tried to force the action and the poor decision resulted in the turnover.

For the night, he completed 18 of 34 passes for 217 yards, but the two ill-timed picks proved the undoing for a team just not talented enough to make those kinds of mistakes and win.

New offensive coordinator Andy Lugwig has consistently stressed the need for cutting down from the 19 interceptions of a year ago as being paramount to turning things around offensively. McCrary simply must do better, as both Ludwig and coach Derek Mason feel that his mobility and promise as a passer gives their team the best chance to win.

But ask any coach about red zone offense and they’ll tell you about the need to be able to consistently run the ball in that condensed area. The Commodores are no different. Running back Ralph Webb finished the night with 70 yards on 18 carries, but will have to be more effective the closer his team gets to the end zone.

Another option being considered might include more designed carries from the 6-foot-4, 220-pound McCrary. His 66 yards rushing against the Hilltoppers were the most by a Vanderbilt quarterback in nearly five years.

But McCrary is hardly the only one who needs to step his game up if the Commodores are to be more than a punch line on offense.

Ludwig, who came to Music City following two record-setting seasons calling plays at Wisconsin, will need to be more creative as well. WKU players said following the game they had studied him and knew exactly what he had in mind when Vanderbilt unsuccessfully attempted a game-tying two-point conversion with 33 seconds left, according to The Tennessean.

That means that players and coaches alike will have to do better if they hope to avoid another ugly outing this week against the Bulldogs, all the more so because Vandy’s defense and special teams appear solid.

It’s time for the offense to do its part.