Upstart Vanderbilt not lacking motivation
Vanderbilt kicker Carey Spear (39) receives congratulatory helmet slaps from his teammates, including Chase White (73), after kicking the winning extra point in the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game against Mississippi in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012. Vanderbilt won 27-26. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. Apparently time does heal, even in college football. Vanderbilt coach James Franklin insists he's matured dramatically from a year ago.
That's when Franklin promised to keep video of Tennessee coach Derek Dooley boasting how the Vols always beat the Commodores as an open wound until they met again. Now the Commodores are bowl eligible for a second straight year for the first time in Vanderbilt history, while Dooley's job status at Tennessee is precarious at best.
So Franklin said Monday he won't be showing the video.
"We shouldn't need any other motivational techniques or sources," Franklin said.
The video taken inside Tennessee's locker room got out hours after the Commodores lost a game had four turnovers and were upset that Eric Gordon returned an interception 90 yards for the winning touchdown despite a whistle Vanderbilt thought should have stopped the play.
"I don't think Vanderbilt needs a lot of motivation to want to come whip us," Dooley said. "I'm sure they have plenty of motivation, they don't need that. I can't take that back."
The Volunteers (4-6, 0-6) do believe Vanderbilt has more incentive to beat them Saturday night.
Vanderbilt has not beaten the Vols in Nashville since 1982 — also the last season the Commodores posted a winning record in the regular season. Now the Commodores are favored to do both at the expense of the team that has dominated this instate rivalry while also improving their bowl prospects.
"They were kind of mad about the little video they saw on YouTube and stuff like that," Tennessee offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James said. "It's going to be a pretty good game."
Vanderbilt is coming off a 27-26 road win at Mississippi after rallying from 17 down in the second half. The Commodores now have three SEC road wins and a victory Saturday night would be their first five-game winning streak since a 5-0 start to 2008. It also would be their first five-game winning streak into November since 1982.
That may be why Franklin said his Commodores need to focus on themselves, doing their job and getting better. Franklin said he respects Tennessee, their tradition, history and fan base.
"Our focus is on Vanderbilt and getting better. We've been trying to get better ever since the day we arrived on campus. If we need any other type of motivation or things like that, then our focus isn't where it needs to be," Franklin said.
The Commodores are busy following their coach's lead. Jordan Rodgers did discuss the last play of that loss to Tennessee and said he feels his performance dictated the end, which will not happen again.
"I've grown a lot from last season with my decision-making with the ball," Rodgers said. "So whenever you put your team in a situation with four turnovers and still have a chance to win in overtime that speaks a lot to the defense. And I think we've shown this year we can come back from adversity. I'm excited about our opportunity."
Franklin took time out of celebrating the win at Ole Miss to send a tweet imploring Vandy students to change their Thanksgiving plans and be in the stadium for the final home game. School officials emailed a note to students reminding them that dormitories will stay open until Sunday so they can stick around for the game.
The coach said he may go around campus using a bullhorn and toss rocks at windows to alert students they need their support in one of the hurtles they're still working on since he arrived. Franklin said he told many people unsure if they could attend Vandy's bowl game that they shouldn't be making plans anymore.
"Same thing with Thanksgiving. You shouldn't be going home for Thanksgiving. We have a game ...," Franklin said. "That's going to be very, very important. I want people to make that a part of their plans and if they already have plans to go home, change them. Change your plans to be here instead."
The Commodores hope to give their fans something worth recording.