Head Coach James Franklin, redshirt sophomore defensive end Kyle Woestmann and sophomore center Joe Townsend met with the media on Monday to discuss the team's upcoming game with UMass at 6 p.m. CT on Saturday.
Vanderbilt is 3-4 overall and 2-3 in the SEC. UMass is 0-7 overall and 0-4 in the MAC. Saturday's meeting will be televised on FSN.
"We found a way to win. Obviously, we didn't play clean, but I don't know how many times we've been able to win an SEC game and not play clean. I think that does show progress.
"We had eight explosive plays on offense and only gave up two explosive plays on defense. I think the opening drive really set the tone. We came back out and had a good drive on the second drive too, but had the turnover, so we really just need to clean those things up.
"I'm excited that our offensive line was able to get an award this week. Joe Townsend got the individual award but it's really an award for our whole offensive line. We signed Joe late a year and a half ago, and I didn't have a chance to go visit him at his home like I normally do. So Friday, I had been at Hendersonville High School, and pay my respects and let them know how happy we are with Joe. The timing was great. We have a great story with Hendersonville High School. Years ago, Vanderbilt donated jerseys to them and that's how they got their colors of black and gold.
"If you look at Massachusetts, we're currently winning the turnover battle. They're trying to solve some of their defensive problems with aggression. We've been very impressed with linebacker Perry McIntyre, who is 12th nationally in sacks. Offensively, they're a young, inexperienced group. They're still trying to work through details and find their identity, but they're also playing better than their record might indicate.
"It's a challenge for us to get up week after week. I know our guys are excited for the opportunity to go out and get a win and play better. Like I discussed after the game this week, I'd really like to challenge our fans and students, who have been awesome, to come out and support us. It would make a great statement to sell out the UMass game. It's one thing to sell out an SEC game where the other team is going to travel well; it's another to sell out a game with an opponent that has a further distance to travel. I'd like to see everyone out, and keep supporting us in taking this program in the direction we're looking to go."
On offensive line improvements:
"They're playing hard and they're playing together. (Offensive Line Coach) Herb (Hand) does a really good job of creating depth by forcing guys to play multiple positions, and I think that's helped us. It's a combination of whom we're playing, how we play and how much confidence we have. I think Jordan [Rodgers] should get credit too. We didn't have any sacks this week, and that's partly the offensive line but that's also Jordan moving well in the pocket."
On Joe Townsend:
"He's a tough, hard-nosed, blue-collar kid who is very intelligent. He's very appreciative and very proud of the opportunity he has at Vanderbilt. Partly, that's how he's been raised, but it's also partly from the community and Hendersonville High School. It's a great program with great coaches. I think it really reflects what we're trying to do: get great kids from great high school programs."
On teams taking the run away from Jordan Rodgers:
"I think he's been effective, maybe not as explosive as last year but we're not going to sneak up on anybody. Everyone knows when they play us that the quarterback run is something they need to prepare for. Coaches say that it makes it difficult to prepare for what we do offensively because of that. We're fairly balanced. I know that preparing and calling plays for a mobile quarterback is a headache. It's challenging."
On the record going into this week:
"The chance is to be 1-0 this week, which is our goal every single week. I have no recollection of what our record is before this week. Saturday night was awesome, I enjoyed it, but when I wake up the next day I have no recollection of what happened and what our record is.
"We have to be prepared. That is our entire focus. The only game we know that exists is UMass."
On Jonathan Krause:
"Part of us using Jonathan is to give Jordan Matthews a little break. He got banged up a couple weeks ago, and we're trying to limit him a little to focus on the passing game. I thought Jonathan did a good job. I thought he was aggressive and that he attacked. That yardage matters."
On Tight Ends:
(Kris) Kentera got banged up a couple weeks ago, so that's part of it. Part of it is matchups, too. Kentera is not nearly as big as (Steven) Scheu, and he gives us a little bit bigger of a guy and more of a presence."
On preparing for a winless team:
"Everyone else talks about it, but we don't. We refuse to talk about those things. I know the guys are hearing about it, but I don't feel we are at a point as a program where we should ever take any game for granted. I don't think we should ever have that approach in general. We've all seen too many upsets across the country. As coaches, we try to take the same approach every single week. We should find the positives in every game; really enjoy the wins regardless of opponent."
On rotating guys on the defense line:
"I was a little upset on Sunday when I saw the numbers of reps that the defensive line got, because I'd like it to be more for the younger guys and the two-deep guys rather than the starters. But, in the first half, the defense didn't get a whole lot of time. The offense ate up most of the first quarter with that drive. That skewed the numbers a little. But we're constantly trying to create depth and develop guys."
On Zac Stacy:
"The most important thing is that we got the win, and his running is putting us in a position to win. I'm happy for him, but we spend very little time talking about it. Our offensive line took as much pride in it as anybody.
"I was very proud of the press conferences afterward. If you listened to Chase Garnham and Zac Stacy, it had nothing to do with Zac. Every question, he put the focus on the offensive line, the tight ends, the receivers, the scheme and the defense having his back when he fumbled. I was proud of how he handled it. We're trying to teach guys to be selfless for our program and also for the rest of their lives.
"Those things are great, but this is not an individual sport. This is the ultimate team sport, and listening to our guys talk, they've really embraced that."
On Richard Kent:
"He's done a very nice job. I think our kicking has improved dramatically compared to last year. There are still times where the ball isn't located where we want it to be, but he's done a really nice job. He always seems to have one really good punt per game to swing field position. He has been consistent, but we'll always ask more of him.
"He already has everyone's respect on the team, but he earned it even more Friday night when he opened up to the whole team. This is the closest team I've ever been with."
On the chance to go .500 this weekend:
"It's definitely a good position to be in, but we're really just focused on being 1-0 this week. Like Coach Franklin always talks about, it's the next game and it's the most important game on our schedule. We're not as focused on the big picture as we are just this week and on UMass."
On how stringing together wins helps build confidence:
"Every win is a confidence booster. Regardless of the opponent, a win is a win, and like I said, we're thankful every time we get a chance to go 1-0 every week and just continue to build our program every week. It's always just about one week at a time and focusing on getting that next win because that's the most important one, and as we reach each one it's just another confidence boost for us. "
On ability to see the field more and how it's helped his development:
"There are no reps like game reps, so it definitely helps develop always as a player. Like talking about Joe starting this week, every opponent you get a chance to play against is always an opportunity to just mold your craft as well as possible because in practice you're going against the same guys every day. They know what you're going to do and you know what they're going to do, and sometimes you can kind of get in bad habits at practice. So when you get in a game you really get a good opportunity to just work everything you have and see how you match up with other guys.
"The more opportunities you get to play in a game, the better player it's going to make you, and I've just been thankful that I've had the teammates that help. They really are the ones that help me the most because we practice so hard all the time, and that really gives you the opportunity to go on the field and play fast. So when I do get more game reps, I can make the most of it and make some big plays and do what my coaches expect of me and what my teammates push me to accomplish."
On if it's easy to stay focused on the task when expected to win by a lot:
"Oh yeah, that's easy to stay focused on. I think one of the greatest things about our coaching staff and our team is that we really are a great team and staff and family and unit as far as staying focused on the task at hand and never overlooking anything. Like Joe said, we never play up or play down to an opponent. We go out every Saturday and play to the best of our ability, regardless of who we're playing. That's never been a distraction for us and that's one thing that I think always makes us a good team because we can go out every Saturday and look at every opponent the same."
On whether there is a challenge or not in facing a non-SEC conference team:
"Like every other team, we watch film and every team in the country has abilities to gash other teams when they get on the field. We've already started watching the film on UMass and as far as offensively for the way we're going to play them on defense, they have some plays and some stuff that they can run that would definitely hurt us if we don't go out there and play a great game. Like (Joe Townsend) said, we're going to take it the same way we've taken every game and prepare our butts off and just get ready to go. Work on getting the next win and being 1-0."
On when he found out he was named SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week:
"I was actually at home this morning and had just gotten out of the shower and Coach Franklin called and told me. It's a great honor, but at the same time it's a unit award. It goes to the whole offensive line and our team. Without everybody working together and playing together, then nobody can get it, so it goes out to everybody."
On starting at center versus Auburn:
"It's nice any time you get a start against a very well-respected SEC opponent, but starting any game whether it's in conference or out of conference is huge. It's huge for your confidence and when you can play well and do things consistently, then it doesn't really matter who you play."
On what he thinks he's improved on in his two seasons:
"Being more vocal at the center position. The center has to make all the calls and you have to get everybody on the same page. That's probably the toughest thing at center, there's a lot on your plate. You are the quarterback of the offensive line, so you have to make sure everyone is on the same page and you have to be loud. It's been tough, but it's been fun. When you get to learn how to do it, do it right and do it consistently, it becomes second nature."
On what it would mean to the team to see the stadium full against Massachusetts:
"It would be great. We always say that we never play down to an opponent or up to an opponent, so we expect to have another sellout crowd. It doesn't matter if it's in conference or out of conference. We want our fans there and we want another win for our fans. We want to go 1-0 this week for our fans and keep building on what we have done so far. To have all our fans there and have a home field advantage, it would be great."
On Coach Franklin recruiting him:
"I always wanted to come to Vanderbilt and I was a defensive lineman. I played offensive line in high school, but I was recruited as a defensive lineman. Coach Franklin and his new staff came in and didn't really know my name, but somehow they got a hold of my film. I was committed to Middle Tennessee at the time and Coach Franklin called me in two days before signing day to meet with me. He wanted to get a feel for me and about midnight before signing day I had an offer from him. It was a no-brainer, I switched that morning. It's always been where I wanted to be. It's close to home, so I get to be close to my family. It's definitely a dream come true and I'm so happy and thankful that he gave me the opportunity to come here."
On if he grew up coming to a lot of Vanderbilt games:
"I came to a lot of games growing up. My aunt has had season tickets since like 1986, so I've definitely been a Vanderbilt fan for a very long time."
On if he has a different perspective of the program now, compared to teammates that aren't from around here:
"No, I think everyone has the same perspective on where we need to go and where we want to go. Just being from around here has nothing to do with football, it's just being comfortable with my surroundings and not really having to go out of my box, which is good in terms of not getting home sick and being able to see my family if I do get home sick. I'm a momma's boy, so being able to see my mom is always a good thing. I definitely love her."
On having Spencer Pulley there to help since he is in the same class:
"Spencer is great. He's a really great offensive player for us and we're real good friends. We help each other out. We see things we need to work on. We both have things to work on, but we keep getting better every day and it's great to have him next to me."