Vanderbilt Head Coach James Franklin Opening Statement: "I appreciate everybody being here and we want to thank the people from the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. We had an unbelievable experience. There was a lot of talk about us staying in town and how we would feel about that and how the experience would go. I can’t speak for these guys up here, but I think we had an unbelievable experience. The people who ran the bowl did it in a first class manner. We had a bunch of fun, no issues, no problems. Which I think is another terrific compliment to these young men we have here at Vanderbilt and I think, for the most part, we put on a really good game.
"Some of the statistics and some of the things we went over as a team; you all know we take it one game at a time, we don’t really talk about the past to the point where you guys get angry with me. We don’t talk about the future, but the significance of winning nine games. I think it is perceived different than winning five or six games. When you get in the nine game category, it is a completely different conversation you’re in. Other than what we talked about, this team tied a school record with nine wins. The last nine win season was in 1915, and again when you are throwing out dates like 1915 that’s a very long time ago. Talking about these guys great, great grandparents. Seven game win streak is the teams’ longest since 1948 and we currently have the longest win streak in the SEC, which we’re very proud of. Fifteenth win in two consecutive years, the most since 1926 and 1927. That’s a long time. Fifth straight win off campus, we’re considering this off campus. And this team outscored its 13 opponents by a 154 point total, the most since 1955. A lot of really significant things we were able to accomplish this year. So proud of these guys, these seniors, they’ve been through so much adversity if you think about their four or five years they’ve had here. The different coaches, a lot of success early on, then no success, then back to laying the foundation for the future. I couldn’t be more proud of them, but again I just want to make sure that everybody understands that we had an unbelievable experience at the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl and thank you so much for having us."
On how the transformation happened: "I think it is really two things, the university decided to hire some psycho that nobody ever heard of and gave him a chance and an unbelievable group of guys that bought into and believed in everything that we asked them to do."
On the emotions the team brings out in him: "It really starts all the way back when we would be in those team meetings and not only what we talk about, the X’s and O’s and schemes and the importance of all those things, but we would also get up as a group, as a family and share some really personal things. And also all the things that we’ve been through. The high’s and low’s that these guys these been through his career and how he has handled it and I can go on with all these guys, but we spend a lot of time getting to know each other as a family. And the X’s and O’s and the schemes are important, but to us everything we do, our coaching philosophy is about relationships and I believe we’ve been able to maximize these guys experience here because how we feel about each other. About how they care about one another as a team, about how the coaches feel about them and that’s also why all year long we haven’t had any off the field problems as well. Because they carry themselves in a first class manner on and off the field and I think nobody wants to embarrass their brother or their uncle or their father or however it is and we believe in that."
On next step for program: “It’s not over. These guys will be a part of the Vanderbilt family for the rest of their life. And I cannot wait until they come back next year and find out all the exciting things that their doing, if it’s the NFL or the business world or whatever it is, these guys are going to make a tremendous impact for years to come and be representing Vanderbilt University and this football program. This is a great foundation. You made a statement about what could happen here. We really heard about the things that couldn’t be done, from when we stepped onto campus or can’t be done. All the negativity that surrounded the program and we just put our earmuffs on and kept bombarding these guys with the same positive messages."
On the effectiveness of the wildcat offense: "I think people try to make the game of football a lot tougher than what it is. I think coaches get affected by calling plays that they think is sexy, that the fans and the recruits are going to like. We’re going to do whatever we’ve got to do to win, like Jordan (Rodgers) said.
"We’re going to keep running it until you adjust and stop it. If not, we’re going to keep doing it. We were able to do that today. Even the halfback pass we threw with Zac (Stacy). We didn’t complete it, but know they had to worry about that as well. That’s just kind of our philosophy. We’re going to do whatever it takes to win. If it’s throw it 80 times one week and then ran 80 times the next week, that’s the flexibility that we have in our offense."
On forcing turnovers and preparing for NC State’s offense: "I didn’t think we played a great game, but we made plays when we needed too, especially on defense. They moved the ball on us, but the turnovers were great erasers. I think that quarterback (Mike Glennon) is really good, and he’s extremely accurate. That’s why when we were able to get tight coverage on them we were able to get our hands on the ball because he is so accurate.
"I thought they did a pretty good job protecting. We got a little bit more pressure in the second half, but it wasn’t anything we saw on film, you know, we had a really good feel for who they are and what they were going to do. Everyone asked a lot of questions about would they change with the coaching change, but it’s pretty much the same staff.
"We were confident that our defense would find a way, and to me, that’s the exciting thing about this year. Last year, it was all turnovers on the defensive side of the ball was made up of. This year we found all different ways to do it today was with turnovers, most of the year was just keeping people out of the endzone.
"One of the things that I’m so proud of is not only the nine wins and how recruiting is going and how the community is behind us or watching these guys play, but I’m also so proud of being at a school like Vanderbilt, where I can sit and listen to these guys talk and articulate what they’re thinking and that’s what it’s all about. That’s what it’s all about, is setting these guys up and preparing these guys to be successful in life. That’s one of those things that I think, being at Vanderbilt, we take so much pride in, is listening to this guys stand up and present themselves. All are graduates, all are going on to do great things."
On if his philosophy is paying off: "It goes back kind of to our four core values. Our four values: have a positive attitude, have an unbelievable work ethic, compete in everything you do and the fourth thing is you must be willing to sacrifice and these guys did this. You must be willing to sacrifice what the common man won’t to have the things you want.
"Just going back even simpler is let’s not worry about the past and the historical references and all these different things and the conference we play in. Let’s just wake up every day, maximize that day, let’s take it one game at a time and that has really helped us. It sounds very simple and some people may think it’s silly, but we live it. We live it every single day.
"I hope this is something that these guys take on for the rest of their life. Wake up every single morning, be the best husband, be the best brother, be the best father, be the best whatever in what profession they decide to go into. You do that and good things will come. It’s not much more complex than that, just strive to be great in everything you do.
"That’s what this university is based on - a commitment to excellence in everything you do.
QB Jordan Rodgers On his play in the game: "I’m going to do what this team needs me to do to win. Today, it started with the guys on defense. They gave us an unbelievable amount of opportunities, and the way they played today really dictated the game. The way that our run game was going, the team didn’t need me to do too much to win."
On the end of this year versus last: "Last year, I feel like I didn’t put my team in a position to win, and that was really tough. This year, I did what I was asked to do. I don’t think I played a perfect game, but that is where the play of our defense and offensive line picked up this team and made us so successful."
On his career: "Initially, getting to Vanderbilt and having to redshirt was tough because I was on the sidelines. Being a competitor, you want to be out there helping your team. It wasn’t my year. It was tough to say that maybe we could go to back-to-back bowl games. If you would have asked me back then, I probably wouldn’t have said we could. Coach Franklin came in and changed the culture, and he demanded that we work harder and prepare harder than we have ever prepared before. We did, and once we started seeing results we bought into it. You saw the fruits of that last season, but you really saw it all come together this season."
On taking hard hits: "It is a physical game, and quarterbacks are going to get hit. Coach Franklin gives me the ability to see something and make a check. We are confident in our ability to make plays when we need to and I am confident in my receivers. If you can’t take a hit then you have no business playing this position."
RB Zac Stacy On his performance: "This is definitely a great experience, just like Coach Franklin was saying earlier. We were blessed to take advantage of this opportunity to play in the Music City Bowl. From an individual standpoint, winning the MVP is definitely a team award. All of my success throughout my whole career is all because of these guys, my teammates, having my back regardless of what the situation was. Just speaking for these seniors, we’ve been through a lot. We had coaching changes, two back-to-back disappointing seasons. It’s a lot of weight on your foot. The one thing that Coach Franklin and his staff has done a great job of is instilling confidence in us. I really think that’s what stood out about Coach Franklin and his staff is their confidence in us and staying positive. I know the momentum from this win will carry over into next season for these guys."
On how James Franklin instilled confidence in the Vanderbilt program: "The thing with that question is it’s funny because of the success we had last year, and we’re not a team that talks about the past, we had the same players from the previous two seasons. It just exemplifies how much has changed around this program, the confidence he instilled in us as players. He just brought out our full potential not only as football players but as men."
On the effectiveness of the Wildcat formation: "It’s pretty much one of those thing, don’t fix it if it’s not broken. We did a great job on offense of executing today, especially in the running game. With this offense, we can run and throw. We have a great wide receiver corps with Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd and an amazing quarterback in Jordan (Rodgers). It just goes back to the defense as well, giving us opportunities to get on the field. It was pretty much a domino effect all around the team."
On playing his final college game: "It hasn’t hit me yet, but eventually it will in the next couple hours."
On his execution of the Wildcat: "We, as players, spend a lot of time in the film room studying our opponents. That’s one thing these coaches do a good job of is preparing like crazy week in and week out for games. We never have a question about the coaches calling the right plays. The game of football is all about execution. We could run any play we wanted to today. It’s a matter of executing and playing to our full ability."
DE Johnell Thomas On how turnovers affected the game: "The turnovers helped us a lot in the game. Coach (Bob) Shoop does a great job of dialing up those plays and putting us in position to make great plays. As you said, those turnovers made a big-time difference in the game and as you saw we came out victorious."
On pressuring the quarterback in the second half: "I credit all that to Coach Shoop. He dials up those plays and had us going after the quarterback. What’s important to realize is that Coach Shoop is a smart individual and makes great halftime adjustments."