Rob Lohr puts on the blinders.
When Vanderbilt’s senior defensive tackle journeys to an unfamiliar — and often unwelcome — football stadium, he doesn’t get awestruck with his surroundings.
“It doesn’t matter where you’re playing,” Lohr said. “You’re playing football. It is the same field everywhere.”
Excursions outside of Nashville this fall have been a mixed bag for Vanderbilt.
Lately, though, the Commodores have begun to crack the road puzzle. After losing a tight game to Northwestern and being blown out by then-No. 5 Georgia, the tables have turned. Vanderbilt has won close and won big.
Last month’s four-point win at Missouri snapped an eight-game Southeastern Conference road losing streak that started in 2010. Last weekend’s 40-0 blowout at Kentucky was the program’s first league shutout since 1968.
Now, the Commodores (5-4, 3-3) are barreling down on the rare hat trick.
In addition to a second straight year of bowl eligibility, a win at Ole Miss (5-4, 2-3) on Saturday would give the Commodores their first three-game road winning streak since 1999. It is also believed that Vanderbilt has never won three consecutive SEC road games in the same season.
“I think we’re starting to realize where we are as a team and we’re starting to believe a little bit more,” wide receiver Chris Boyd said on Monday. “We’re having more success because of an attitude and swagger we’re starting to develop. I think that has a lot to do with it.”
Since being rattled in a 48-3 loss to Georgia two months ago, the Commodores have been more composed on the road.
The penalties are down — perhaps a sign that crowd noise is less of a factor. They were flagged five times each against Missouri and Kentucky. Combined that’s still one less than a season-worst 11 at Georgia.
Third-down conversions are improving. A woeful statistic most of this season regardless of location, Vanderbilt was 11-of-17 against Kentucky.
Most importantly, the Commodores are scoring more away from Vanderbilt Stadium. After just 16 total points in their first two road games, they’re averaging nearly 30 in their last two.
“I don’t really look at it as a road or home or away kind of thing. It doesn’t really matter to me,” Lohr said. “I know a lot of my teammates don’t really care. It is just the fact of going out there and playing. I don’t think it is the atmosphere necessarily. I think it is more of a mindset. You’ve got to go into the game expecting to win.”
• Bo knows winning: Before jumping around the college circuit, Bo Wallace put up eye-popping numbers at nearby Giles County High School in an undefeated 2009 season and the Class 4A state title.
Ole Miss’s sophomore quarterback holds the Tennessee prep record for single-season total yards (4,195) and is also in the top five in total touchdowns, passing touchdowns and total yardage. After redshirting at Arkansas State in 2010, he captured another championship, winning the junior college national championship at East Mississippi Community College last fall.
The 6-foot-4, 204-pounder has sparked the Rebels in his first year on campus. He has completed 66.1 percent of his passes for 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He is also second on the team with 265 rushing yards.
“I’ve been impressed with him,” Vanderbilt coach James Franklin said. “He is a big, strong, physical guy. He throws the ball well. A lot of it is off play-action looks so he gets really good throwing situations, which I think that offense is all about. … And you have to be ready for him as a runner.”
• Two SEC honors: Left tackle Wesley Johnson and kicker Carey Spear earned weekly accolades from the SEC, the league announced Monday. Johnson was tabbed as the SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week. Spear was named Special Teams Player of the Week.
Johnson's award was the third of his career — the most for a Vanderbilt offensive lineman. The former Montgomery Bell Academy standout recorded eight knockdown blocks and received an 87 percent blocking grade. The junior helped pave holes for the Commodores to gain 427 yards, including 227 on the ground.
Spear was 2-of-2 on field goals and drilled a career-long 48-yarder. The junior is 13-of-16 this year and 9-of-9 on field goals less than 40 yards. The Mayfield, Ohio native needs just three more field goals to tie the school record of 16.
• Game time: Vanderbilt’s final home game against in-state rival Tennessee on Nov. 17 will kick off at 6 p.m. and air on ESPN2.