Sep 2, 2013
Monday Interviews | Gameday Central
The message remains the same each week: Take it one game at a time and try to go 1-0 each week.
Since Head Coach James Franklin arrived on campus, he has preached the same consistent message in team meetings, in the locker room and in press conferences. The message has ultimately proved successful.
The Commodores have made it to two straight bowl games for the first time in school history and until Thursday had not lost since Oct. 15, 2012. Vanderbilt's win streak spanned seven games, including four in the SEC.
Even with the streak over, Vanderbilt's message of going 1-0 each week remains unchanged as the Commodores prepare to face Austin Peay of the Football Championship Subdivision at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Keeping the same mentality and intensity could be challenging for some teams when they see an opponent from a lower division on the schedule, but don't expect the Commodores to alter their approach.
"It's not going to be hard," center Joe Townsend said when he was asked about preparing for APSU. "Every game, we prepare the same. We focus on Vanderbilt, we focus on getting better every day and every week. Whether it's an SEC opponent or it is not an SEC opponent, it doesn't matter, it is our next opponent so it doesn't matter."
Last Saturday, Austin Peay fell 45-0 in its opener at Tennessee, but it still won't lead to the Commodores taking the Governors lightly. For added fuel, all Coach Franklin has to do is point out the seven FCS programs that took down FBS teams last week.
"One of the things I'm going to be talking to my guys about and we already started Sunday in our team meeting was last week there were (seven) FCS teams that beat FBS opponents on the road," Franklin said. "No different than when I show my guys things that are going on across the country that we want to learn from, that is one of them."
Austin Peay will be playing its 17th FBS opponent, including just its second from the SEC. The Governors are 1-15 all-time against FBS teams.
Following Vanderbilt's loss on Thursday, the Commodores were able to get a head start in preparing for Austin Peay. Vanderbilt returned to meetings and practice on Friday. The extra practice day enabled Vanderbilt to correct any mistakes from the Ole Miss game, as well as get past any lingering thoughts of disappointment.
"I think players, in general, are very resilient," Franklin said. "Getting with them and getting out on the field and being able to correct our mistakes Friday, so Sunday was a full day of work without having to worry about doing any corrections. We got more work done on this Sunday because the corrections were already made on Friday. I think like all of us, the players were disappointed."
Vanderbilt faced a similar turnaround last season after an emotional loss at Northwestern. The Commodores returned home to face Presbyterian, another FCS opponent, the next week. The result was a 58-0 drubbing by the Commodores. Will the final score look similar this Saturday against an FCS opponent? If so, it certainly isn't on the Commodores' minds. They are just trying to go 1-0.
"I don't think you can judge anybody based on one game," Franklin remarked. "I think it is way to early in the year to do that, and we are going to keep preaching the things that we preach that you better do everything you possibly can to prepare each week not only on the football field, but in the classroom and in life."
Welcoming the Challenge
Wide receiver Jordan Matthews saw a lot of double coverage against Ole Miss on Thursday, and he expects to see the same this week as well.
The added attention given to Matthews by the defense seemed to do little to slow him down. The senior matched a career high with 10 catches to go with a career-best 178 yards and one touchdown.
On Monday, Matthews talked about the challenge of seeing multiple people covering him. And instead of making excuses or backing down from the challenge, the Madison, Ala., native is embracing it.
"It doesn't frustrate me; I like it," said Matthews of the double coverage. "I feel like it is respect, and that's not something I had when I came into college so it is something that I worked for.
"It is actually exciting because I know that if I am able to have success against it, that just helps me realize that I am getting better as a player, but also shows that teams are respecting not just me, but also the passing game that we have."
Clearing the Air
During and following Thursday's game, it was speculated by some that Matthews may have sustained a concussion on a hit he took over the middle. Shortly after the hit, he was seen throwing up on the field. On Monday, Coach Franklin and Matthews put those rumors to rest.
"If you look at the hit, I definitely got hit in the stomach," Matthews said. "I think people worried that I went out there too fast, but we have a top-notch training staff. They knew that I had no concussion symptoms and they knew that I felt fine."
Franklin made it a point during his press conference to reiterate that all medical decisions are made by the medical staff and not the coaches.
"First of all, the coaches never make those decisions," Franklin said. "That's a decision that our medical staff will make and I think we have one of the finest medical staffs in the country. I want everyone to understand, that we will never do anything to put any of our players in jeopardy. Those decisions will always be made by the medical staff."
Despite vomiting on the field, Matthews said it was not going to prevent him from returning to the game.
"People kind of make a big deal about it, but at the end of the day it is football and you only get so many opportunities," Matthews said, "so I am not going to let a little throw up keep me out of the game."
Stopping the Quarterback Run Game
Vanderbilt's defense ranked 19th nationally last season, but if there was an area where the Commodores were exploited last year, it came in the quarterback run game.
Florida's Jeff Driskel had 177 yards rushing, South Carolina's Connor Shaw tallied 92 yards and Northwestern's Kain Colter had 66 yards. All three games also resulted in losses.
On Thursday, Ole Miss' Bo Wallace didn't gain as much yardage, but the plays he made with his feet were just as damaging. Wallace carried the ball 18 times for 48 yards, including two touchdowns. Two of Ole Miss' other touchdowns came courtesy of backup quarterback Barry Brunetti.
The Commodores are well aware of the success other teams have had with the running quarterbacks, and know improvement needs to be made.
"It's been frustrating because I think there have been a lot of games where our defense didn't really hold up our end of the bargain," defensive end Kyle Woestmann said. "I think that has been due to quarterback runs a lot of times.
Quarterbacks have found success running against the Commodores by executing the zone read where a quarterback fakes the handoff and opts to keep it himself.
"I think the zone read and the power read play that they have been running, it is one of those plays that is very similar to the option," Franklin said. "If you are not really gap sound and assignment sound and everyone is not doing their job, the quarterback has the ability to be patient, read it and then once he pulls it, be able to find a seam to get up in. If you are not sound with your responsibilities and where you are supposed to be, they can make you pay for it."
Against the Rebels, Vanderbilt surrendered 39 points, and all five touchdowns came on the ground, including four by quarterback keepers. On the other side, Vanderbilt's offense did its part, scoring 35 points, which is the most in a loss since scoring 43 against Kentucky in 2005.
"I personally feel like I can speak for our whole defense when I say that I feel like this was a game that we let get away," Woestmann said. "We were pretty undisciplined on defense and we are always well prepared and we have a proven process in what we do. I think defensively we kind of strayed away from that a little bit, and as you can tell it definitely cost us during the Ole Miss game."