The cause and central players of an altercation after Vanderbilt’s 33-28 loss to Georgia on Saturday night have yet to determined.
But Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin believes his Commodores sent a message to rest of the Southeastern Conference.
“We are not going to sit back and take stuff from anybody – anybody. No one," an emotional Franklin said immediately after the loss. "Those days are long gone, and they are never coming back – ever."
On Monday, at his weekly press conference, he didn’t back down from those sentiments, which came after Franklin was involved in a postgame verbal altercation with Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham.
“Things have changed. So we are going to represent Vanderbilt the right way and we’re going to do it with class and we’re going to do it with dignity but we’re not going to be pushed around. We’re not going to be intimidated,” Franklin said. “... That is not really in response to what happened [with] Georgia. That is just in general. That is a blanket statement. We are going to compete and be aggressive with everything we do. If some people don’t like that, I’m sorry. Things are changing here.”
Franklin said on Saturday that he tried to find Georgia head coach Mark Richt for the postgame handshake and to address some things that were said that he deemed inappropriate.
“I found one of his assistant coaches and it didn't go well,” Franklin said.
Video shows that Grantham approached Franklin and started pointing in his face and yelling. A Vanderbilt police officer and Commodore tight end Austin Monahan tried to separate the two. Both teams had to be divided and went into their separate locker rooms, avoiding a brawl.
“It’s the SEC. Any time you face an SEC opponent there are going to be emotions. There are going to be a few words exchanged,” Vanderbilt running back Zac Stacy said. “But that’s part of the game. It’s football.”
Several reports circulating on the Internet have said the altercation allegedly started when Franklin began to shout at Georgia safety Shawn Williams, who was twice penalized for personal fouls. Grantham, who was seen giving a choke sign to Florida kicker Chas Henry last year, then walked toward Franklin.
"I love my players,” Grantham said on Saturday. “I'm going to support my players.”
SEC spokesman Charles Bloom said on Monday that the league is “gathering information” from both schools and disciplinary action could
come as soon as Tuesday. Vanderbilt (3-3, 1-3 SEC) hosts Army at 6 pm. (ESPNU) on Saturday.
Franklin said he had a “man-to-man” discussion with Richt on Sunday morning.
“I appreciated talking to him. I hope he appreciated talking to me,” Franklin said. “We have a very, very talented commissioner [Mike Slive]. They’ll do their job. They’ll do what they think is right. After that, we’re going to move forward. ... I am not a guy who really has a whole lot of regrets. I’m pretty calculated. I am pretty well thought out in the things that I do for the most part.
“I would have liked the game to end differently ... that we could have left the field and shook hands and been men of character – all of us – and walk off the field.”
• Quarterback update: Jordan Rodgers might not have thrown a touchdown pass against Georgia but he did lead two scoring drives.
Was it enough for him to catapult over three-year starter Larry Smith? Franklin wouldn’t say.
“At the quarterback position, I think you would always like to get to the point where you just have one guy play,” Franklin said. “But we’ll make that decision on Wednesday. This is no different that it has been every other week. We’ll go out and compete and we’ll play the guy that we feel like gives us the best chance to win.”
Rodgers, a junior-college transfer, has yet to start but has played in all six games. He came on against Georgia after Smith threw two interceptions, including one in the end zone. Rodgers was just 4-of-19 for 47 yards with one interception but he took just one sack and rushed for 80 yards. A 40-yard scamper on a second-and long set up Vanderbilt’s final score, which cut Georgia’s lead to five points with 9:15 left.
“I did think Jordan did some really nice things from a competitive standpoint with his athleticism and his legs,” Franklin said. “I thought he played really hard and he competed extremely well. But there are a lot of other things that Jordan, that Larry, that a lot of our players need to improve on. We’ll work on that this week.”
• Run heavy: Army leads the Football Bowl Subdivision in rushing offense, gaining 368.4 yards a game. The Black Knights (2-4) run a triple-option offense, which is orchestrated by quarterback Trent Steelman. The native of Bowling Green, Ky., isn’t asked to pass often, completing 19-of-36 attempts this season for just 329 yards. Steelman leads the team with 536 yards on 109 carries.
“We have to be very disciplined,” safety Javon Marshall said. “We need to be focused on what we have to do, reading our keys. ... You have to read slow and react fast, as [defensive coordinator Bob Shoop] puts it. You can’t miss any reads because that one slip-up could be the pass right over your head.”
• Arkansas game time: Vanderbilt will end a three-game homestand on Oct. 29 against Arkansas with a 11:21 a.m. start on the SEC Network.