Nov. 16, 2013
Vanderbilt is known for having bright students and seldom has that fact been made clearer than recent seasons when James Franklin has successfully taught focus to his football team.
After yet another massive day of production, star receiver Jordan Matthews was sitting beside Austyn Carta-Samuels at the press conference when he was asked how he felt about playing a 13th game (i.e. bowl game).
"We were 1-0 this week and all I know is that if we can be 1-0 five more times we will get that chance," Matthews deadpanned to rare laughter from the collected media. If football doesn't work out, the guy might try stand-up.
The focus on the moment is remarkable and so is the accomplishment of becoming bowl eligible for the third consecutive year, considering our program had been to only four bowls in history prior to Franklin's arrival.
Here's something else that is remarkable: going to a bowl is this program's EXPECTATION. There is no giddiness about reaching the six-game threshold and readers might be surprised at how little discussion bowl eligibility has inside the locker room. They expected it, worked hard for it, six seconds at a time.
Just because they have expectations doesn't mean this team doesn't enjoy winning. If it were possible to measure the intangibles, in my opinion this team would win the karma battle every week. Inside a large organization such as a college football team, the skilled leadership required to keep morale high is nearly as impressive as the results on the field.
We see it every week. Today Matthews was asked about his 12-catch, 141 yard day and he opens by showering credit on the offensive line for giving Carta-Samuels time to throw. Jordan always wants to talk about practice, where he is convinced games are actually won.
So the questions flip to Carta-Samuels, who deflects any credit quicker than Jerron Seymour can find daylight in the trenches. Both seniors mention freshman Patton Robinette without breaking stride, demonstrating their grasp of the big picture.
Perhaps it is a testament to the progress of this program that the home crowd natives were a bit restless as the Commodores clung to a 9-6 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Many came to the game with their own expectations, those being a blowout of the rebuilding Kentucky team.
Perhaps we need a quick timeout here. We fans should have our own six seconds focus, the time required to repeat "this is the Southeastern Conference" where the nation's finest struggle to gain that extra inch and victory seldom comes easily despite what some expert might proclaim.
These are golden days on the Dudley Field turf. It's been a remarkable show to watch and it's not over yet. According to Matthews, the `Dores will try to go 1-0 again next Saturday.