Oct. 31, 2011
Vanderbilt Head Coach James Franklin and select players met with media members on Monday to discuss the Commodores' upcoming game with Florida. Interviews and quotes from the session are posted below.
Saturday's conference matchup is scheduled for 11:21 a.m. CT at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla. The game will be televised by SEC Network.
Head Coach James Franklin
"I think obviously the big issue [against Arkansas] was the turnover battle; we lost, and were critical plays in the game, as we all know. Penalties is an area that I think we really improved on. We had 3 for 25 yards compared to Arkansas having 7 for 59.
Explosive plays offensively, finding ways to create more big-plays each week. This past week the offense had 11 of those eight per week is our goal. It's the third week in a row now that we've accomplished that goal. Defensively, that's an area that we've got to improve, eliminating those explosive plays. We had four against us and our goal is to have two per game. I think one of the big stories on offense is the offensive line play only giving up three sacks in the last four games.
A real positive for us in the last three weeks we've rushed for 766 yards: 344 against Army, 200 versus Georgia and 222 versus Arkansas. I thought that was pretty impressive.
We outgained the number one offense in the SEC, 462 yards to 88, and Zac Stacy is leading the SEC in average yards for rush at 7.3, so there are some real positives. But I'm also the same guy that says stats are for losers and the only thing that really matters is the wins and losses. But where we are as a program, I also think it is important that you look at the growth that we've made, the direction we're going and the positives and that's what we tried to do Sunday in our team meeting. Defensively, we limited Arkansas to 72 yards rushing, 2.8 yards per rush; we won the third down battle and held them to only 5-of-15 on third downs. We really must improve, and we talked about this a little bit me and Coach Shoop, we've got to look at our drives right before the end of the first half. That's something that's showed up a few times this year. We've just got to make sure we have the right plan, approach, philosophy and it's well-thought out in detail which I know it is, but whenever you have any challenges or issues you want to go back and study those things. One of the things I do want to mention is it's frustrating, and I want to apologize to the fans out there, as frustrating as that loss was I also want to keep it in perspective. That was the No. 8 team in the country that we played and the same team that last year we lost 49-14 to, so were we in a situation where we had a very, very good chance to win the game and we gave it away? Yes, we did. But I still think we've showed tremendous progress this year and I still think we showed tremendous progress this past game. We just have to learn to win and we have to learn to finish people and eliminate the critical mistakes. This wasn't built in 10 months and it's not going to be fixed in 10 months, but we're heading in the right direction.
To talk a little about the Florida game, Coach Muschamp, it's kind of interesting because me and Coach Muschamp have some similarities in our backgrounds. We've had some really good conversations in the past. Obviously Florida and their program, growing up and watching them and hearing about The Swamp and all those types of things I know our coaching staff and our team are excited to go play there. The turnover battle is going to be very, very important. We're ranked 5th in the SEC, they're ranked 12th and we'd like to keep it that way and that should be an advantage for us. The same thing with penalties, we're ranked 79th in the country, which is an area we've got to improve, and Florida's ranked 120th so I'm hoping that's going to be an advantage for us on Saturday as well. Their defensive coordinator, Dan Quinn, and I know Muschamp is obviously very, very involved in there, they play a 4-3. They're big and they're physical and they're athletic in the front seven. Obviously, the guys that follow the recruiting are very aware of the type of athletes that they get every year. I've been very impressed with their athleticism and how physical they play and how hard they play. On offense Charlie Weiss, we're all very familiar with him and his background. Offensively, returning six starters from the previous year. They've got unbelievable speed, especially at running back with Rainey and Demps, so that's going to be a challenge for our defense to stop. And then you just look at their tight ends and H-backs and the personnel that they have and the size and athleticism. Quarterback with Brantley, he's been improving every single week and then obviously you got a chance to see some Driskel and Brissett as well. They're dangerous on the perimeter with the wide receivers. It's going to be a tremendous challenge for our guys and I know they're excited about it. Special teams, usually when you play a team like this that's got tremendous athleticism and speed, special teams is where it shows up. It's going to be a real challenge for Coach Bankins and our special teams who have played pretty consistent all year long and we've been finding them ways to make more and more big plays, so that's going to be important for us again on Saturday."
On how to teach the team to finish games:
"It's the same thing we've been doing since we arrived on campus and you guys have heard me say it before. We're just going to keep pounding them with the same, consistent, positive message over and over again and that's not going to change. I think consistency with young men is very, very important and no different than what we do on the field. I'm a details guy, so the details are what's going to allow you to be successful as a team, as an organization, as a company. It's who does the little things better."
On offensive drives:
"What I think we've been doing is the explosive plays. When you're able to mix in the explosive plays and keep the defense on their heels and get chunk plays then it allows you to have some more drives as well because the drives a lot of times are dinks and dunks and runs, well if you don't stretch the field it makes it more difficult to do those things. So I think the explosive plays are working hand-in-hand with our ability to have longer drives as well and obviously our development of our running game."
On the offense's improvement in the last three games:
"I think the O-line for sure is probably the biggest part of it. I think Jordan's ability to make plays with his feet and I thought Saturday the receivers for the first time really made plays. They made contested catches, they made people miss, they really did some impressive things."
On playing aggressively with the use of trick plays:
"I think it's exciting for our fans. I think it's exciting for our kids to know that we're going to call the game in an aggressive manner. That makes our kids play more aggressively, knowing that we're not going to play not to lose, we're going to go out and try to win the game and be aggressive. At times, is that going to bite you? Yeah, you're going to have some issues, but to me that's a calculated risk."
On the possibility of the team playing in a bowl game:
"I'm not even sure what it takes to qualify for a bowl in the SEC. This is my first time in the conference, so I'm not really sure. We're just focused on Florida. If at the end of the year they say we're going somewhere, I'll be fired up about it. If not, we'll get on the recruiting trail a little bit faster and keep going from there."
Sophomore Offensive Tackle Wesley Johnson
On headed to The Swamp:
"I actually went when I was a redshirt my true freshman year. It was pretty cool, the fans are right behind you on the bench, everything is real loud. The fans are real organized on all their cheers and chants. It's a really cool experience."
On Florida's motivation due to their four-game losing streak:
"Yeah, I would think that they would be (more motivated). I bet they are trying to get the win just as much as we're trying to get the win. That being said, we are preparing for them and we are focusing on ourselves more than we're focusing on them. We are just trying to get better each week."
On being easier or harder bouncing back from the loss Saturday:
"It's a lot easier because we learned from Arkansas. We thought we had that game within our grasp and we lost the game. They played well, but I don't think they won the game as much as we lost the game. We are real excited and there is a lot of hope, we learned from and we know how we can play now. Every loss is tough, it's no fun losing."
On the confidence gained from keeping a top 10 team on the ropes:
"We are pumped about what's going on. We felt like we had them on the ropes, then we just kind of let it go at the end. We are excited about this trip down to Florida."
On being the same Vanderbilt as years prior:
"It's a lot different, we got smoked by Arkansas last year. We took them down to the very end this week, so it's not the same old Vanderbilt, that's for sure."
Sophomore safety Javon Marshall
On The Swamp: "My redshirt freshman year, I didn't get to play, but I traveled everywhere, so I did get to see the environment. It is crazy in The Swamp, but it's just another game."
On preparing for the noise:
"Coach Franklin does a great job at getting us ready and preparing for the noise, as far as having music going during practice and having the stadium sounds from The Swamp actually in practice, so Coach Franklin is going to have us very prepared."
On gaining confidence from Arkansas:
"It does (give us confidence), because even though we didn't come out with the win, we are looking back at the game and seeing the positives, and we are improving tremendously from last year. We are looking at those and seeing the positives, and we are going to continue to grow and improve ourselves. It has become a confidence booster for next weeks game."
On looking for a road win:
"It is difficult to get a home win in the SEC. Every week is a different team, top 25 rank, and we've got to come out with a positive state of mind and stay strong together as a team. We will come out there strong this week. Every week we need a win."