Nov. 18, 2008
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| Gameday Central
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- The Vanderbilt Commodores aren't still celebrating the fact they are bowl eligible for the first time since 1982. They're too busy trying to play their way into as good a destination as possible.
Coach Bobby Johnson said Monday that his cell phone and answering machine have been filled up by a common message: Six is nice. Now get eight.
"So thank you very much," Johnson said with a slights mile. "But that's what everybody's thinking right here at Vanderbilt. We're still not finished. We talked about it when we were trying to get to six, ... it was our minimum. It's not our maximum. We're trying to move on beyond that and keep going."
The Commodores (6-4, 4-3) get their first chance at winning a seventh game this season for the first time since that 1982 bowl season Saturday against instate rival Tennessee (3-7, 1-5). A win also would give this SEC charter member a fifth league victory in a season for only the second time, the first since 1935 -- the SEC's third year of existence.
Johnson said they aren't blowing off the week of preparation for golf after having to hold off Kentucky 31-24 with a late interception last weekend.
"We've got a lot of work to do. We can get a lot of things better on our football team over these next two games. I think our players realize that. I know our coaching staff does," Johnson said.
Still, for a program that hasn't been to a bowl since the 1982 Hall of Fame Bowl, Vanderbilt fans and officials are doing what they can to make the Commodores attractive once the invitations go out in December. School officials set up a committee this fall to handle the groundwork if the team became eligible.
By mid-Monday morning, the company Vandy had selected to arrange any bowl travel had more than 900 signed up for information on travel packages, which was more than any other SEC team. The school's Web site had more than 400 notes of congratulations by Monday morning.
This will be a first for Johnson as well. He never played in a bowl while at Clemson, and he missed the one bowl the school earned while he coached there because he had been hired to take over Furman. That doesn't mean he doesn't have some bowl experience.
He watched the 1978 Gator Bowl that Clemson beat Ohio State, a game best known for coach Woody Hayes punching noseguard Charlie Bauman after an interception.
"I was on about the last row," Johnson said.
It won't be tough for the Commodores to focus on Tennessee. Johnson already is warning that this will be an emotional day as Vandy's final home game of the season and Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer's last appearance as a coach in this series. This series is the fourth most frequently played rivalry in SEC history with the Vols leading 69-28-5 by Vandy's count.
But Vanderbilt won in Knoxville in 2005 and had a 49-yard field goal miss just left last year in a 25-24 loss.
"We're ready to go out and play Tennessee and come out with another win because we're still hungry," safety Reshard Langford said. "We're no way near satisfied with six wins. We know we've got two more games. We want to win them both."