Monday Musings: Changing expectations

Sept. 23, 2013

Monday Press Conference

Just a few short years ago, Vanderbilt was coming off back-to-back two-win seasons. Now after back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history, the expectation level for the program has changed. Even the way in which the Commodores win is now being critiqued - a far change from not too long ago.

On Saturday, Vanderbilt won 24-7 at UMass, but it didn't come easily. The Commodores led 10-7 after the third quarter before scoring two touchdowns to pull away and improve to 2-2 on the season.

"People are not just happy with wins anymore," Head Coach James Franklin said Monday at his weekly press conference. "They have to be wins in a convincing matter or a certain style of game. I will take as many as what people call `ugly wins' as we can get. If there is a way to possibly get 15 ugly wins this year I would love it. I don't know if that is possible but I'd love them."

Last year through four games, Vanderbilt sat at 1-3 overall before winning a total of nine games.

After tasting last season's success, people are clamoring for more, and Franklin views it as a positive step.

"I don't think there is any doubt about it that the expectations have changed," Franklin said. "And with that there comes an expectation from the fan base, an expectation from the coaches, from the players, from everybody. I think that is a positive, I really do. But I also know we are still growing."

For the players, getting a win is all that matters.

"You can win a game and not play up to your potential or up to the standard that you set for yourself," center Joe Townsend said. "I don't think any win is an ugly win. You can always learn from stuff like that, but at the end of the day, winning is all that matters. A win is beautiful to me. I don't see any ugly in a win."

In a league that has produced the last seven national champions, very few wins come easily. This upcoming Saturday, the Commodores will play their third non-conference game of the season when they take on UAB (1-2) at 6:30 p.m. CT on FSN. The game will be Vanderbilt's final non-conference tilt before embarking on a run of seven straight league games leading up to the season finale against Wake Forest on November 30.

"I truly believe a win is a win," defensive end Kyle Woestmann said. "Especially when you play a lot of the teams in the league we play, you should be grateful for any wins you have because regardless of who it is, it doesn't get any easier."

Krause Receives Praise
On Saturday, senior wide receiver Jonathan Krause had a career game with six catches for 105 yards and a touchdown. It was Krause's first 100-yard game and his first receiving touchdown.

"I think Jonathan Krause is a perfect example of what I want all of our players to learn from," Franklin said. "Here is a guy that just kept his head down, kept working, kept grinding, stayed positive, is doing great in school. You just keep working hard and good things happen."

Krause has been counted on to step up this season, and that is exactly what he has done. In addition to Saturday's performance at UMass, Krause has posted three of his four highest receiving yardage games of his career this season.

"I think there has been a little bit of misperception to everybody outside our football program because we all view Jonathan Krause as a big-time player," quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels said. "I just don't think people have seen that come to fruition on the field because we haven't gotten him the ball as much as we probably would have liked."

Statistically Speaking
With the Commodores reaching the one-third point of the regular season, NCAA statistics are beginning to become more relevant.

As a team, Vanderbilt ranks in the top 10 nationally in four categories. The Commodores are fifth in the country in penalty yards per game (24.75 yards) and kickoff return defense (16.14 yards). Vanderbilt ranks sixth in fourth-down conversion percentage (85.7%) and ninth in net punting (42.88 yards).

A few other top statistical rankings include:
15th - Fewest Penalties Per Game (3.75)
15th - Fumbles Recovered (4)
31st - Passing Yards per Completion (13.52)

Individually, Jordan Matthews is fourth in the country with 471 receiving yards. He is also 10th in receiving yards per game (117.8 yards) and 13th in receptions per game (8.0 receptions).

Taylor Hudson ranks 12th with a punting average of 45.3 yards per game.

Quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels ranks 23rd nationally with 56 total points that he is responsible for. Carta-Samuels is also 28th in passing yards (889 yards) and 32nd in passing yards per completion (13.68 yards).

Back in '96
Just a few hours separate Vanderbilt's and UAB's campuses, but the short distance between the two has not led to a plethora of meetings on the gridiron. On Saturday, the teams will meet for just the second time. The only other meeting came Nov. 2, 1996 when the Commodores defeated the Blazers, 31-15, at Vanderbilt Stadium.

"I think this is a good game for both schools," Franklin said. "I think it makes sense from a regional perspective."

The 1996 game featured the return of UAB coach Watson Brown to campus. Brown, a Vanderbilt graduate and former offensive coordinator and head coach of the Commodores, coached the Blazers from 1995-2006.

Vanderbilt was quarterbacked by Damian Allen, who threw two touchdown passes and rushed for another. Vanderbilt's Anthony Jordan also recorded a 41-yard interception return for a touchdown.

UAB opened the game with a 42-yard field goal before the Commodores scored 31 straight points.

Happy with Jelks' Performance
Andrew Jelks made his first start on Saturday, filling in for Andrew Bridges at right tackle. Jelks, a highly-publicized recruit out of Paris, Tenn., played as a reserve in Vanderbilt's previous three games. On Monday, Franklin commended the play of the redshirt freshman.

"Pleased with how Jelks played," Franklin said. "He's a guy who has been playing a good amount in certain personnel packages from the beginning of the year.

"I thought he played pretty well. There are still some areas that we have to clean up with a lot of things, but for a first start, I thought he played pretty well."

Crowded Backfield
The talented trio of Brian Kimbrow, Jerron Seymour and Wesley Tate each bring a different element to the running game. The three running backs have at least 19 carries apiece, but it has been a challenge to equally distribute the ball.

Against South Carolina, Tate did not carry the ball until the second half. On Saturday, it was Kimbrow who did not receive a carry.

"We're trying to make them all angry," Franklin joked. "We are trying to make them all upset. We are trying to cause frustration and we are trying to balance it out."

Franklin added that the staff will continue to rotate the three running backs and go more with the player who has the hot hand until someone steps forward and wins the job.

"This is kind of the situation you are in," Franklin said. "You've got three different backs. They all are really competitive. They all want to be able to impact the game. Well, if you want to do that, then somebody needs to stand up and take the job. That's kind of what happened last year with Zac (Stacy)."



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