Monday Musings: Turning the page

Nov. 12, 2012

Monday Press Conference & Quotes

Vanderbilt's attempt to knock off Tennessee in Knoxville last season was derailed much by its own doing. Vanderbilt turned the ball over four times, including in overtime when Eric Gordon intercepted Jordan Rodgers and returned it 90 yards for the game-winning touchdown.

The loss came after Vanderbilt had a 21-14 lead midway through the fourth quarter.

There were a number of mistakes made by both teams, but the one that was the most memorable was Rodgers' final interception - his third of the game. As a result, no one took the loss harder than Rodgers himself.

"I feel my performance dictated the end of that game and that is not going to happen again," Rodgers said Monday. "I think I've grown a lot from last season in my decision making with the ball."

Last year's loss to Tennessee postponed Vanderbilt's bid for bowl eligibility by one week and prolonged Tennessee's chances of reaching a bowl. Vanderbilt would go on and defeat Wake Forest the following week to earn its sixth win and Tennessee's season ended with a loss at Kentucky the next week.

Vanderbilt picked up its sixth win of the season last week at Ole Miss, so bowl eligibility is not at stake in this year's meeting for the Commodores. But it is for Tennessee. The Vols enter the game with the Commodores in the exact same position they were a year ago: winless in the SEC and needing to win out to gain bowl eligibility.

Emotions ran high on both sides after last year's overtime game in which both teams missed opportunities. Shortly after the game, a video of Tennessee celebrating in the locker room made its way onto the Internet. At the time, Vanderbilt Coach James Franklin called the video a "wound I'm going to leave open."

But on Monday, Franklin said he was ready to move on and focus on the future, not the past.

"I've matured dramatically since that game," Franklin said. "As you guys know we have one of the best hospitals in the United States, so that wound has healed. It's about Vanderbilt. It's about us getting better."

Tennessee Coach Derek Dooley was asked during his press conference on Monday if he thought Vanderbilt would use the video as motivation this week.

"I don't know," Dooley responded. "I don't think Vanderbilt needs a lot of motivation to come and whip us. I am sure they have plenty of motivation that they don't need that. I can't take that back."

Asked if he would, in fact, show the video to the team this week, Franklin said he would focus on showing game tape and highlights from previous games.

"We do a highlight film that we show every Friday night in the hotel; there is not going to be anything in that highlight film we show the team except for highlights from the previous games," Franklin remarked.

Both teams enter Saturday's game going in opposite directions. Vanderbilt has won four straight games for the first time since starting 5-0 in 2008 and is coming off its third SEC road win of the season - a first in school history. Meanwhile, Tennessee has lost five of six games and has surrendered at least 37 points in every SEC game this season. On the flip side, Tennessee's offense is averaging 37.9 points per game. "(Tennessee has) as good of an offense as I've seen," Franklin commented.

Despite Tennessee's 4-6 record, Franklin knows that the team will be in for a battle come Saturday.

"It's going to be a tremendous challenge, especially with their offense and the challenges that their offense is going to pose to our defense throwing the ball, and the size and speed and athleticism they have at the receiver and tight end position," Franklin said. "And the fact that one of the things we do is try to pressure quarterbacks and they aren't allowing the quarterback to be pressured."

Franklin asks Students for Support on Saturday
Vanderbilt students will begin their one-week Thanksgiving break following classes on Friday. Typically, a number of students depart campus for the holiday either Friday evening or Saturday. The result is often a smaller student turnout for home football games that fall over break.

Franklin and his players know how important a large student turnout can be for the gameday atmosphere and are urging students to stick around for the game.

"Very, very, very important," Franklin said of having a good student turnout on Saturday. "I think there are a lot of hurdles that we have overcome since we arrived here. That's one of the hurdles that we are still working on."

Defensive end Walker May also encouraged his fellow classmates to stick around for Saturday's game.

"A lot of students plan to, and we're hoping more will that aren't," May said. "It's going to be exciting and we want our students to be there for it and to cheer us on."

Matthews Nearing Receiving Records
Zac Stacy set Vanderbilt's individual career rushing yardage record and touchdowns record earlier this season, and now another Commodore is on the doorstep of breaking another Vanderbilt record or two.

Wide receiver Jordan Matthews has been held under 50 yards receiving just one time in his last 16 games and under 70 yards just three times in that same span. In 2012, Matthews ranks second in the SEC in receiving yards per game (100.3) and receptions per game (7.0).

Matthews now has 1,003 receiving yards this season and is on pace to have the most yards in a single season by any Vanderbilt receiver. Matthews needs just 210 yards to pass Boo Mitchell's school record of 1,213 yards in 1988.

Matthews is also currently tied for seventh in school history with 70 receptions in 2012. He is 27 grabs behind Keith Edwards' record of 97 in 1983.

With Matthews' nine catches for 153 yards and one touchdown against Ole Miss, he topped 100 yards receiving for the eighth time in his career. Only Dan Stricker (11), Earl Bennett (9) and Boo Mitchell (9) finished their careers with more 100 yard efforts than Matthews already has.

Defensive Numbers Continue to Impress
At this point in the season, it is no fluke that Vanderbilt's defense ranks among the nation's elite in many statistical categories. The Commodores rank 23rd in total defense, 14th in pass defense, 11th in pass efficiency defense and fourth in tackles for loss.

By allowing just 18 points per game, the Commodores are on pace for the fewest points allowed per outing since the 1974 squad gave up 16.6.

Vanderbilt's overall defensive numbers are exceptional on the surface, and when you dig in even deeper, they become even more impressive.

Last week it was pointed out that Vanderbilt was leading the SEC with the fewest red zone touchdowns allowed with 10. Even after Ole Miss had two touchdowns in the red zone, bringing Vanderbilt's total to 12, the Commodores still maintain the conference lead, but are now tied with Florida.

Vanderbilt continues to lead the league outright in percentage of red zone touchdowns allowed. Teams that have reached the red zone have scored touchdowns in just 12-of-32 trips (37.5%). Florida is second with opponents scoring touchdowns 44.4% of the time once inside the red zone.

In overall touchdowns surrendered, Vanderbilt has given up the third fewest touchdowns of any team in the SEC. The Commodores have allowed just 19 touchdowns. Only Alabama and Florida (14) have allowed fewer.

Defense Even Stronger in Second Half
For as impressive as Vanderbilt's defense has been this season, the numbers are even more remarkable when they are broken down by halves.

As games progress, Vanderbilt's defense only gets better.

In seven of Vanderbilt's ten games thus far the Commodores have surrendered fewer first downs, rushing yards and total yards in the second half than in the first half. Vanderbilt has also allowed fewer points in the second half than the first half in six of 10 games. On five occasions, Vanderbilt has allowed fewer passing yards in the second half than first half.

Over the 10 games thus far, Vanderbilt, on average, has allowed fewer first downs (8.2), rushing yards (69.9) and total yards (161.0) in the second half than the first half.

Seniors to be Recognized Saturday
Vanderbilt will recognize 19 seniors before Saturday's game. The Senior Day ceremony will begin at 5:40 p.m. Being recognized will be:

Manny Amingwa (DB, Whitinsville, Mass.), Robby Barbieri (LB, Eden Prairie, Minn.), Archibald Barnes (LB, Tampa, Fla.), John Cole (WR, Somerset, Ky.), Eddie Foster (DB, Colleyville, Texas), Ryan Fowler (PK, Taylors, S.C.), Josh Jelesky (OL, Naperville, Ill.), Richard Kent (punter, Marietta, Ga.), Rob Lohr (DT, Phoenixville, Pa.), Austin Monahan (TE, Charlotte, N.C.), Colt Nichter (DT, Park City, Utah), Mark Panu (FB, Mableton, Ga.), Jordan Rodgers (QB, Chico, Calif.), Eric Samuels (safety, Eustis, Fla.), Ryan Seymour (OL, Kingsland, Ga.), Zac Stacy (RB, Centreville, Ala.), Johnell Thomas (DE, Orlando, Fla.), John Townsley (QB, Upper Arlington, Ohio) and Trey Wilson (CB, Shreveport, La.).



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