Emotional, opportunistic Vanderbilt remains unbeaten

Saturday, September 17, 2011 at 6:20pm

James Franklin insisted Saturday’s Southeastern Conference opener against Ole Miss was just another game.

His tears said otherwise.

The emotions spilled out of Vanderbilt’s first-year coach as he proudly soaked in the Commodores’ 30-7 whipping of the Rebels in front of 34,579 at Vanderbilt Stadium.

“That win is for Chancellor [Nicholas] Zeppos. That win is for Vice Chancellor [David] Williams,” Franklin said before his eyes welled up as he stood silent for nearly 20 seconds at his postgame press conference.

“That win is for our kids,” he continued as tears streamed down his face. “That win is for our coaches ... and how hard we have worked. We are really, really proud of these kids. That win is for our loyal fans that have showed up here for a long time, looking for something to believe in. So I'm just really proud. I don't know what the stats are. I don't really know what the score is but it is a win.”

Coach, here are some highlights: junior Zac Stacy rushed for a career-high 169 yards, the defense had five interceptions and Vanderbilt scored 21 points in the last 5:40 of the first half to break open a scoreless game.

The result is significant for numerous reasons. Franklin is only the second Vanderbilt coach to win his SEC debut — Ray Morrison last did it in 1935. He is also the school’s first head coach to start 3-0 in his first year since World War II.

The Commodores have defeated Ole Miss (1-2) in five of the last seven meetings. Most important, three games into the season, Vanderbilt is 3-0 — halfway to bowl eligibility — after consecutive 2-10 seasons.

“This is what we expect,” cornerback Trey Wilson said. “As hard as we have been working we are going to approach every game like we did the first one. ... It is a series of steps. We got to get better.”

Vanderbilt broke open a scoreless battle by scoring 21 points in the last 5:40 of the first half.

Quarterback Larry Smith started the scoring on a 19-yard scamper to the end zone. Barely a minute later, Wilson picked up first of two interceptions. Defensive end Walker May hit Ole Miss quarterback Zack Stoudt, forcing a wobbly pass that landed right into the hands of Wilson. He returned it 52 yards for his second interception touchdown return of the season. Vanderbilt has returned three interceptions for touchdowns — the most in a single season.

The Commodores have picked off 10 passes, with Wilson leading the way with three.

“Trey does have a nice knack for that,” defensive coordinator Bob Shoop said. “He really went up and high-pointed the ball well and played it in the air.”

“I think it is a complementary thing,” Wilson said. “We do our job in coverage giving [the defensive line] time to get there. They get pressure and give us those throwups like that and we go make plays.”

The Commodores cruised in the second half and only a late fourth-quarter touchdown kept them from their first shutout in two years.

Still, the win was Vanderbilt’s largest margin of victory in an SEC game (49-19 against Mississippi State) in 40 years.

“I have a tremendous sense of pride,” Franklin said about his team. “I am an emotional guy anyway. My wife makes fun of me in movies and commercials and all that kind of stuff. But I know how hard these guys have worked and I don’t take it for granted. A lot of times, as football coaches, we try to be tough guys. I love those kids. It means a lot to me.”

8 Comments on this post:

By: TITAN1 on 9/17/11 at 4:59

Great game Vandy! Huge win! It gets much tougher next week, but enjoy this for now!

By: KaeWor on 9/17/11 at 11:15

Good job, Vandy! The 'Dores are winners starting now.

By: richgoose on 9/18/11 at 10:16

This is a special time for Vanderbilt. Wins over Elon, UConn,and Ole Miss are the kind of victories that contribute salve to an ailing and wretched football program,

South Carolina were it not for Lattimore would be another victory for Vanderbilt. Lattimore and 36 carries will be too much for Vanderbilt. In any case there is Army, Kentucky and maybe even Tennessee coming forth.

By: TITAN1 on 9/18/11 at 11:43

You mean the same football program you claim to be a fan of all your wretched life?

By: richgoose on 9/18/11 at 3:58

Titan1.....;Being a fan does not excuse me from reality. I hold everyone responsible from my employees to my family and especially to petty things like fandom.

By: Dore4Life on 9/19/11 at 5:00

I just wanna know why richgoose thinks in "reality" so much that he can never be optimistic. I am pretty damn cynical in life myself, but James Franklin has his team believing in what he is selling and ignoring the type of comments that richgoose and others make based on history and realism.

I also wanna know if richgoose is ever gonna buy in and be a supporter or merely give a pat on the back while simultaneously reminding everyone that VU has been inferior in football for approximately 60 years and that any players wearing the VU uniform are inevitably destined to the same fate. BTW, Franklin's approach is the ONLY way anything is ever done that hasn't been done before. It's called faith. It's what brings revolution.

Make no mistake richgoose, James Franklin has endeavored to revolutionize VU's culture regarding football, not merely win football games at Vanderbilt. The key will be whether he becomes exasperated with the lack of support and appreciation for whatever successes his program has, (ala Scott Blade at HHS after winning the state championship over Maryville High and ending then the longest winning streak in the country in 2008) and simply cuts his losses and takes another job in a few years.

By: joe41 on 9/19/11 at 6:42

That is why a thousand or so fans stood at the Star Walk long after the players had gone to the locker room to give Coach Franklin a big cheer after Saturday's game.

I do not intend to let my support waver for this coach as long as he is in charge.

By: NobodyKnows on 9/20/11 at 2:02

GO 'DORES!!!!!