Head Coach James Franklin and select players spoke to media members on Monday to discuss Vanderbilt's upcoming matchup with Army. Kickoff is scheduled for Saturday at 6 p.m. CT (ESPNU) at Vanderbilt Stadium. Tickets are still available and can be purchased online or by calling (615) 322-GOLD (4653).
Opening Statement: "One of our greatest strengths all year has been our turnover battle, and we weren't able to do that this past weekend. We did get our 15th interception for the year, which leads the country. Penalties is an area we still must improve. We won the penalty battle Saturday but that's an area we still need to improve drastically... We rushed the ball for over 200 yards against Georgia. In the previous four games, Georgia had given up -21, 56, 34 and 63 for a total of 132 yards, so again that's another example of some progress we're making... I thought we played the way I'd like to see us play. We had explosive plays, we had some trick plays, we did whatever we had to do to be aggressive and give us a chance to win the game. We had the fake punt, down 10 with nine minutes to go in the second quarter, Ryan Fowler makes a big play to Andrew East. We were able to use that and go on and score offensively. We had a kick return for 96 yards and the block punt that we had a chance to win the game at the end... Mid-season stats are kind of interesting. We've scored 130 points and given up 130 points, and we're 3-3.
On to Army: Coach Rich Ellerson has done a great job there. I think the turnover battle is going to be important there. Right now we're ranked number 43 in the country; Army is ranked 101. We think that's an advantage for us. But they are a disciplined team--we're number 87 in the country in penalties, they're number 7, so that's an advantage for them. One of the things that I know about when you play any of these military academies, I learned this as an assistant, you're playing a team with a bunch of guys who are willing to die for a cause they believe in, that's how committed they are. We have tremendous respect for what they do for our country. But they better know what they're about to face. They're about to face a group of guys that when they commit to something, they commit to it with everything they have."
On the post-game argument against Georgia: "I had a conversation with Coach Richt Sunday morning; I have tremendous respect for him, which I said after the game, and who he is as a man and how he represents his program. I called him Sunday morning man-to-man, we had a discussion. I appreciated talking to him. I hope he appreciated talking to me. After that, like I've mentioned before, we have a very talented commissioner, they'll do their job, they'll do what they think is right and we're going to move forward. I have tremendous respect for the University of Georgia, their history, their program, their coach. We had a hard fought battle with a lot of passion, with a lot of emotion. The momentum swung back and forth. Some things got a little out of hand, and I know myself, and I don't want to speak for Coach Richt, but I know both of us would have liked the game to end a little bit differently and walk off the field and move forward.
Things have changed. So we are going to represent Vanderbilt the right way and we're going to do it with class and dignity. But we're not going to be pushed around. We're not going to be intimidated. That's the one thing I'll make sure that everybody is clear on. That's in general, that's a blanket statement. We're going to compete and be aggressive with everything we do. Things are changing here."
Quarterback situation: "I think at the quarterback position you always want to get to the point where you have only one guy play, but we'll make that decision on Wednesday. It's no different than every other week. We'll go out and compete and we'll go with the guy that we think gives us the best chance to win. I did think Jordan did some really nice things from a competitive standpoint, and his athleticism. He played really hard and he competed extremely well. But there are a lot of things that Jordan, that Larry, that a lot of our players need to improve on, and we'll work on those this week."
Key to stopping Army: "It's the same as what everyone else says when they play one of these teams. You've got to be disciplined. You've got to be gap-sound. And that's really what it comes down to. They are forcing you to defend every player on the field, and then the minute that you over-emphasize or try to pack the box or you get too aggressive to stop the run then they hit you for the big play in play-action."
Junior RB Zac Stacy On success against Georgia: "It's a confidence booster for us. The offensive line; those guys have done a great job in the past couple of weeks, and their getting better each and every week. Georgia was one of the top defenses in the nation so for us to go out and have success on the ground, it's a real positive for us. We just want to keep getting better each and every week, and get ready for Army."
On the change of culture: "Ever since these coaches got on campus, it's been a huge difference around here. We've bought into the program, and we've been excited for the entire six-seven months Coach Franklin has been here. We're just going to keep betting better every week and try get this thing going."
RS Sophomore Safety Javon Marshall On Coach Shoop's Army experience: "It has been a while. I feel like Coach Shoop's doing a great job this year of game planning against the other offenses. Whatever he says, it goes. We have tremendous faith in Coach Shoop, so what he and the other coaches see on film, we're going to go ahead and execute."
On the defensive difference over past few games: "Right now we're getting into SEC competition and we know we're facing tougher teams, better quarterbacks, and more film, so a lot of teams are game planning against us. We're doing our best at our responsibilities right now, but it's the little things that we need to work on. We still need to improve and get better as a secondary unit, but we'll get back there, get the ball in our hands, and get back to scoring on defense."
On the punt block against Georgia: "The player that blocked the punt was in my position. I had been injured earlier in the game so he came in and blocked the punt. Any time a teammate makes a play out there I'm excited, so I was glad he was out there to block that punt. It gave us a chance to win the game."