Vanderbilt Head Coach James Franklin and junior quarterback Jordan Rodgers discussed the Kentucky game with reporters at the Commodores' weekly media session on Monday. Interviews and quotes are posted below.
Saturday's conference matchup between the Commodores and Wildcats is scheduled for 11:21 a.m. CT at Vanderbilt Stadium. Tickets are still available and can be purchased online or by calling (615) 322-GOLD (4653). SEC Network will broadcast the game.
Opening Statement: "Our offensive line play is the offensive story of the season so far. They've only given up five sacks in the last five games. I think Jordan Rodgers is playing extremely well, 297 yards passing, gave him two 200+ yards passing two games in a row. Our 14-play scoring drive in the fourth quarter was the longest drive we've had all year and we outscored Florida 21-9 in the second half. I thought that was a real positive.
"Defensively, the fumble that we caused on the 1-yard line was a tremendous effort play and was a big play for us. We've played extremely well in the first quarter all year, we've talked about how we need to do a better job at the end of the half and at the end of games.
"One of the things I really want to talk about is perspective on where we're at and where we're going as a program. If you look at the last five Florida games, in 2011 it was 26-21, in 2010 it was 55-14, in 2009 it was 27-3, in 2008 it was 42-14, and in 2007 it was 49-22. I think as frustrated as I was this week and as frustrated as our fan base was, we need to keep things in perspective. We're improving in general. Look at four of our five losses are from ranked teams: No. 3 Alabama, No. 8 Arkansas, No. 13 South Carolina, No. 15 Georgia."
On the team fighting back: "It's the coaching staff that I've hired, it's a little bit of my personality, and it's the kids. They know how much they have invested since (we) arrived on campus. That's just all we know. I went in the locker room willing to fight anyone I had to in order to get my point across of how we're going to play around here.
"Obviously I didn't have the guys prepared enough in the first half. But we were able to rebound from it and that's a sign of growth for this team. As we all know, we've all got a long ways to go. But that's just how we're going to play. We're going to be aggressive, we're going to fight, we're not going to be denied from trying to reach our goals."
On the penalties, and correcting that situation: "I think its just education, talking to our guys about the game of football not just from the X's and O's perspective, but about (different) situations. I think the other thing that goes into it - if you look at our penalties on the road, the (home) team has the advantage. There's noise. It's not an excuse, it's just something we have to be prepared for and overcome."
On quarterback Jordan Rodgers, looking like different player from camp: "I think it's a combination of things. I think Jordan is playing extremely well and I'm very pleased. We're playing better on the offensive line, we're playing better at tight end and making plays, and we're playing better at wide receiver. That doesn't take away from Jordan but this is a team game, and it takes all positions, every guy to understand their role of offense, defense, special teams, and that's what's happening now. I think early on Jordan was able to provide a spark with his playmaking ability and his footwork. I think the team has rallied around him right now, and that's given other guys confidence that they'll have opportunities to make plays. We got something going good right now and I don't want to put the emphasis on one player."
On the continuing task of changing the culture of this program: "I think we're heading in the right direction. I'm getting really good feedback from other coaches, friends that I have on other coaching staffs that don't have to go out of their way to come up and say things before and after games, officials that have a great perspective and what they say to us, high school coaches, our players, people on campus. There are some things happening and I think there's no doubt that there's been a change.
"Is it as dramatic and as fast as people would like it to be or I'd like it to be? No, but we're heading in the right direction, I don't think there's any doubt in that."
On the addition of Missouri into the SEC: "My focus is on coaching Vanderbilt and doing the things that I can control. That's out of my control. The expansion is an important thing for our conference, we have a very talented commissioner and vice chancellor that will handle all those things."
On the experience of the Florida game and moving forward: "It was an exciting place to play my first road SEC start. I would have liked a different outcome, but I thought we improved a lot. We played well. We fought back, which we have been doing each and every game, we played four full quarters. I am just excited to see where this team is going to be when we put together four full quarters together for one game."
On the opportunity to play evenly ranked SEC teams: "All you can ask for is to have the opportunity to play against the teams that you are going to be even with towards the end of the season, and that's what we are going to have the opportunity to do. We have a few games coming up that we can be real competitive in and have the opportunity to win. We just have to play one game at a time. We have Kentucky this week, it is going to be a big game and we have to get a win."
On playing a game that Vanderbilt should win: "We go into every game thinking we could win, we really do. We worked really hard this last spring, off season, and we didn't work hard to be an underdog, we didn't work hard to go into a game thinking, maybe we could win this. We worked hard so we could go into a game knowing we could win, having confidence, and I think we are playing with confidence. So, really, we go into every game knowing that we can win. If we can put four quarters together, play turnover free football, I think we know we have a shot to beat any team we play."
On Kentucky: "I have watched quite a bit of film on them already, and they are a talented team. I think they haven't played as well as they have wanted to, but they have some really good players on defense, some guys we are really going to have to account for, some schemes, they give us some different looks, but we are just going to have to execute like we do every week. Start up front with the run game, be able to establish that, and hopefully open some stuff up on the outside."
On adjustments made during half time of Florida coming out for the second half: "We just changed our approach really, our mental approach. I think we came out a little flat, not something we like to do, we like to jump out on them fast. We had a great first drive, we just didn't finish it out. We had a couple long drives, a 13-play drive, a nine-play drive that we didn't finish out on, and those are situations where we need to get points. So at half time, we just really needed to buckle down, realize that we are moving the ball on them, we just have to finish out drives. We really had to change our mentality, pick ourselves up a little bit, and get going. I think we did that."
On bowl game possibilities: "I think it is always in the back of our minds. That is a goal from the beginning of the season, but Coach Franklin has really hammered the fact that we need to go one week at a time, and that's really something we have to do. We can't start looking ahead, our margin of error is too slim for us to overlook games, and we can't do that. We are really focusing on Kentucky, it is going to be a good game. We have our last home game here, we have played well at home, and we need to continue to do so."
On getting the fans to come support on Saturday: "I think how we have been playing speaks for itself, we are an exciting team. We've showed that we can compete with anybody, so if they are not going to show up, then they are going to miss a show. We're going to defend our home field, we are going to play well, and I think it is important for our fans to show up and give support to us. It helps us play, it creates a great environment, and we want a tough environment for Kentucky to come in here and when we pack it out, it can be a tough place to play."