James Franklin kept busy over the weekend.
He didn't just coach football. He also crunched numbers.
His team having lost its last five Southeastern Conference games heading into Saturday’s 11:21 a.m. kickoff (SEC Network) against visiting Kentucky, Vanderbilt’s first-year head coach wanted to provide some “perspective.”
During his weekly press conference on Monday, Franklin played the role of historian, rattling off past scores. Vanderbilt dropped its last three SEC contests — against Georgia, Arkansas and Florida — by a total of 13 points (90-77). Last year, against the same three teams, the Commodores were outscored 147-28.
“As frustrated as I was this week and as frustrated as the fan base and people were, I do think we need to keep some things in perspective as well,” Franklin said. “I think we are improving in general. I understand at the end this is a wins-loss very, very driven profession. But I also do think it is important we do talk about the progress that has been made.”
On Saturday, Vanderbilt (4-5, 1-5 SEC) couldn’t quite pull off a comeback. It rallied from 17 down but lost 26-21 to Florida.
The Gators have won 21 straight in the series, but in 2010, Franklin pointed out, the Commodores lost 55-14. Prior to last weekend’s bout, Florida had won the last four by a score of 173-53.
Not that he’ll get any sympathy from other SEC schools, but Franklin also noted four of their losses —Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia and Arkansas — have been against ranked opponents.
“I understand that is part of the deal playing and coaching in the SEC,” he said. “But I also want to keep it in perspective, understand the history of where we came from and where we’re going.”
The biggest improvement has been the passing game.
Since taking over as the starting quarterback against Army, Jordan Rodgers has averaged 241 passing yards. During that span, he threw four touchdown passes and ran for another four.
In their last four games, starting with Georgia when Rodgers entered in the first half, the Commodores are averaging 30.2 points.
“I think how we have been playing speaks for itself. We are an exciting team,” Rodgers said. “We’ve showed that we can compete with anybody.”
• Senior Day: Vanderbilt will honor all 32 academic seniors on Saturday in its final home game of the season against Kentucky (4-5, 1-4).
“We’re doing some different, other programs around the country have done this. ... Our guys are going to walk with their freshman class,” Franklin said. “Really, this is the only year it will be a little different. We’ll have all academic four-year guys and five-year guys walk. From here on out, four years from when you’ll walk on Senior Day.”
Fifth-year seniors wide receiver Udom Umoh and defensive tackle T.J. Greenstone will also start at their respective positions. Umoh started the last two years and Greenstone started in eight games in 2010.
But both players have been used in reserve roles this year. Umoh has caught three passes for nine yards. Greenstone, a captain last year, has made five tackles and missed the last four games due to a leg injury.
“I’m very, very appreciative of those seniors and how hard they’ve worked,” Franklin said. “Although some of those guys may not get the total number of reps in the game as a normal starter would, symbolically they are going to have an opportunity to go out and start the game. I think they deserve that.”
• Discount tickets: Tickets for Saturday’s game are still available for the discounted price of $35. In order to receive the discount, fans must drop off a canned good donation for the Second Harvest Food Bank at the McGugin Athletics Center. The same price is also available for Vanderbilt employees and groups of 15 or more.
• Tennessee game time: Vanderbilt’s road game at Tennessee on Nov. 19 will start at 6 p.m. and will be televised on ESPNU.
The Volunteers (4-5, 0-5), like Vanderbilt, need just two wins to clinch a bowl berth. They play at Arkansas on Saturday and close the regular season at Kentucky.