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Make It 27 Straight For Florida; Mizzou & Vandy Get Non-Conference Wins

postgame-linksFlorida 24 – Kentucky 7. Video Highlights

1. Matt Jones has 176 rushing yards, quarterback Tyler Murphy leads Gators on three first-half touchdown drives.

2. Make it 27 straight Gator victories over Kentucky.  Pat Dooley: “Florida needed this win for its soul.”

3. Kentucky coach Mark Stoops: “They really controlled both lines of scrimmage the entire game.”

4. John Clay: “Florida’s second- and third-stringers are still better than most of Kentucky’s starters.”

Missouri 41 – Arkansas State 19. Video Highlights

5. Trailing 14-13 at halftime 16-14 in third quarter, Missouri pulls away late for the win.  Coach Gary Pinkel: “We did a great job as a football team finishing,”

6. Tigers lose a player to targeting penalty – second time in three games.

7. 288 total yards for Missouri quarterback James Franklin.

Vanderbilt 52 – UAB 24. Video Highlights

8. Vanderbilt quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels throws for 334 yards and two scores.

9. Season-high 540 yards and 52 points for the Vandy offense.

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Carolina’s Spurrier Thinks Vandy Must’ve Relaxed Its Academic Standards

gfx - they said itSo how has Vanderbilt become competitive in the SEC?  How have the Commodores found their way into two straight bowl games?  How did James Franklin lead Vandy to its first nine-win season since the Earth cooled?

South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier thinks the school might’ve eased up a tad on its entry requirements for football players:

 

“The biggest difference is their athletes.  They’re not slow guys anymore.  They’re fast, and they’re in excellent shape.  You don’t see many overweight guys playing for Vanderbilt.  Even their offensive linemen are not quite as heavy as they used to be, but their defensive players are really in tip-top shape.  They’re fast and lean, and they can really run…

I don’t know all the academic requirements they have there at Vanderbilt, but if you’re going to play in the SEC you’ve got to recruit very closely to the standards everybody else has.  I would think they’ve relaxed them a little bit, but I don’t know exactly…

They want to play football, and they want to be competitive, and to do that you almost have to have the requirements pretty close to the other schools.  Pretty close.”

 

Spurrier isn’t the first person to make that suggestion.  He is, however, the first coach to make that suggestion in the days leading up to his team’s game against Vandy.

South Carolina is favored in Saturday’s contest and rightly so.  There’s simply more talent in Columbia than in Nashville this year.  But the Commodores have proven themselves to be quite pesky when facing the Gamecocks over the past six seasons.

And now Franklin can motivate his team by telling them, “Spurrier thinks you’re dumb,” which is exactly how a coach would spin Spurrier’s comments to motivate his own team.

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Carolina Rolls, Ole Miss Nips Vandy In A Music City Shootout

postgame-linksSouth Carolina 27, North Carolina 10

 

Our Take:  So that was easy.  Obviously, we have no idea how good North Carolina will be, but if they’re a bowl quality team, well, that’s a scary thought for the SEC because South Carolina dismantled them.

Most impressive was USC’s ground game which cranked out 228 yards against the Tar Heels.  Mike Davis filled Marcus Lattimore’s shoes quite nicely with 115 yards on just 12 carries, including a 75-yard touchdown gallop in the second half.

Connor Shaw’s passing remains spotty.  Overall he was 11-of-20 for 149 yards and a TD, but 65 of those yards came on his first-drive scoring pass to Shaq Roland.  Dylan Thompson threw just one pass on the night, a 29-yard score to Kane Whitehurst in the back of the end zone.  The Cocks only slowed down in the first half once the Ol’ Ball Coach started calling more passes than runs.  Carolina just isn’t that built that way.

The Gamecocks’ conditioning also looked to be an issue — even Steve Spurrier promised to fix it in his postgame talk — but if this was Carolina at its worst?  Maybe we should move them into the national title contender category after all.  A great debut.

 

What’s They’re Saying:

South Carolina downs North Carolina, 27-10

Thumbs up, thumbs down from Gamecocks’ win over UNC

South Carolina’s Clowney Show lacks sizzle

Clowney downplays lackluster opener

South Carolina Notes: Gamecocks’ Mike Davis off and running

 

Video Highlights: click here.

 

And apparently, Under Armour had a little trouble with one of Carolin(a)’s jerseys…

 

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Ole Miss 39, Vanderbilt 35

Our Take: If you didn’t stay up for this one, you missed a curtain-raiser that turned into a barn-burner.  There was nary a defense to be found as the two teams combined for 74 points and 915 yards, 583 through the air.  Back and forth they went — Ole Miss up 10-0, Vandy up 21-10, Ole Miss up 28-25 — right down to the final two minutes of the game.

Austyn Carta-Samuels (21-of-36, 300 yards, two TDs and two INTs) connected with Steven Scheu to put the Dores in the lead 35-32 with just 1:30 left on the clock.  Twenty-three seconds later, Rebel running back Jeff Scott weaved his way down the left sideline for 75 yards on a zone read play, giving Ole Miss the lead.

Vandy was driving again when a Carta-Samuels pass bounced off the hands of receiver Jordan Matthews and into the arms of Mississippi defensive back Cody Prewitt.

Both teams should be concerned about the lack of defense displayed on Thursday night, but these teams both have quarterbacks who can move the ball.  UM’s Bo Wallace passed for 283 and ran for another 48 including two touchdowns.

 

What They’re Saying:

Vanderbilt loses wild game to Ole Miss

Vanderbilt misses chance to bury offseason distractions in loss to Ole Miss

Scott’s late touchdown dash leads Rebels to opener win

Notebook: Ole Miss’ Shackelford strong in return

Same old Ole Miss?  Not the way they showed resilience by beating Vandy

 

Video Highlights: click here.

 

Here’s guessing Vandy’s Caleb Azubike just started a new fad…

 

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SIDENOTE – As we’ve written many times, show us the team that commits the most turnovers and we’ll show you which team lost the game.  Last night, North Carolina was -1 in turnover margin and Vanderbilt was -2.  It’s the single most important stat in football, especially in the SEC.

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Dad Of Vandy WR Boyd Angry That His Son Has Been Connected To Rape Case

gfx - they said itThe Vanderbilt rape case just gets uglier and uglier by the week.  After an initial arrest of four Commodore football players, another player — top receiver Chris Boyd — was charged with attempting to help “cover up” the rape.  Nashville police accused Boyd of aiding some of the defendants who had already been indicted.

Now, the father of Boyd is speaking out against Nashville’s District Attorney for ruining his son’s name unnecessarily:

 

“Whatever they want, they could have gotten without indicting my son.  I don’t know how he gets his name back.  He’s 21.  I don’t know how someone repairs their integrity and character after this.  There is nothing bigger…

We’re holding him together.  We’re waiting to find out what the DA wants or needs to satisfy them.  All three of my boys are Eagle Scouts, and they have never been in trouble.  It goes without saying that they tell the truth, and he did.”

 

The elder Boyd said his son cooperated with authorities during “two or three meetings.”  He will have his first court hearing tomorrow morning.

Vanderbilt suspended Boyd following his arrest.

Depending on the amount of help Boyd provided to his teammates, we could come down on this one in a couple of different ways.  While no one should ever attempt to cover up a crime — especially one as heinous as the one four Vandy players are charged with — we realize that a 21-year-old asked by his friends for help might provide it without thinking of all of the potential ramifications.

Obviously, DA Susan Niland will eventually have to prove her case in court (if it gets that far).  At that point we’ll know to what extent Boyd is believed to have aided his teammates.  If it turns out Niland and the DA’s office brought charges against Boyd in order to force him to be more open about his knowledge of events, that is a rather harsh action.  As the young man’s father has noted, his son’s name has now been attached to a rape case.  It will be hard for him to put that one in the rearview mirror even if he’s eventually cleared of all charges.

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Lack Of “Sidewalk Alums” Hurts Vandy At The Ticket Office

dudley-field-emptyWe’ve said it before and we’ll say it again — Vanderbilt’s fanbase can’t rival those of other Southeastern Conference schools due to a lack of “sidewalk alumni.”  That fact is becoming clear once more as the school’s season-ticket sales are actually down despite back-to-back bowl trips and an amazing nine-win campaign last season.

Across the SEC, college football is a year-round passion.  Kids pull for the local school and remain fans throughout their lives… whether they actually wind up attending Alabama or Georgia or Tennessee or LSU or not.  The big, public state schools of the SEC boast a great many fans who have no real ties to the school other than a passion that began in childhood.

Vanderbilt — the league’s only small, private school — simply doesn’t have that type of following.  To build that type of following, the Commodores will have to start winning football games with even more regularity over a much longer stretch of time.  Think Duke basketball type of winning.

The Blue Devils have fans all across the country.  That’s because it’s been — arguably — the most dominant program in the country over the past quarter-century.  But when it comes to Duke football, good luck finding a Blue Devil fan outside of Durham.

And for a century, Vanderbilt football has looked a lot more like Duke football than Duke basketball.

There are other excuses that can be tossed out — there’s more competition for the entertainment dollar in a city like Nashville, etc — but head coach James Franklin isn’t interested in hearing them:

 

“(The number of season-tickets sold is) going to get up to where it was last year.  I would have thought we would have been sold out by now.  We’ve still go some time to do it.

I really don’t want to hear about excuses about we’re in a city and we have other things to compete with.  I don’t want to hear about nationally how the trend is that people are struggling to get people to go to games, because that’s not the fact in the SEC, and we’re in the SEC.  So I think the excuses are over and it’s time for us to get out and support our team.”

 

One must wonder if Franklin will continue to show loyalty to Vanderbilt if fans don’t begin to show more loyalty to his program.

According to The Tennessean, ticket sales would only need to reach the mid-20,000s for Vanderbilt to achieve “sold out” status.  But VU hasn’t sold out its season tickets since way back in 1996 and even that number was aided by Notre Dame fans who bought Vandy season tickets in order to see their Irish play in Nashville.

Currently, Vanderbilt fans have bought just 16,200 season tickets.  All told, the Commodores averaged just 37,860 fans per game last season in 40,000-seat Dudley Field (which is easily the smallest venue in the SEC).

Vanderbilt’s football program doesn’t rank as the worst in the SEC for nothing, folks.  VU has no track record of high achievement on the gridiron.  That fact makes the turnaround orchestrated so far by Franklin all the more impressive.

But until the school begins to win even more games and some Middle Tennesseans who didn’t attend Vandy start to pull for the Dores, the ticket sales in Nashville will likely remain disappointing.

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Vandy Rape Case An Ugly Story, But It’s Way Too Soon To Be Talking About Franklin’s Recruiting

gfx - honest opinionIt’s as if rival SEC fans were just waiting for a Vanderbilt player to step out of line.  James Franklin — to paraphrase a Jerry Reed song — has pretty much done what they say can’t be done.  He’s turned VU into a decent football program.  And many outside of Nashville suspect the Commodore coach must have been cutting some corners in order to accomplish that feat.

In a worst-case scenario for Vandy, four players have been dismissed from the team, arrested and charged with five counts each of aggravated rape and two counts of aggravated sexual battery.  This isn’t a run-of-the-mill fistfight, a stolen motorscooter or a boating offense on a Middle Tennessee waterway.  It’s a heinous crime.  The kind that draws media attention from all across the nation.

Armed with such an ugly story and already feeling as though Franklin must’ve been doing something naughty to turn Vandy around so quickly, many, many rival fans have suggested via messageboards and call-in radio shows that the young coach has started to recruit a different kind of player to the West End.  Put simply: A lot of people believe this case proves that Franklin is recruiting bad boys in order to win.

In reality it proves no such thing.

Oh, we might eventually find that Franklin is taking a few more chances on character as is being claimed, but one horrible episode shouldn’t be enough evidence for a conviction even in the court of public opinion.  There’s not a football program in the Southeastern Conference that hasn’t dealt with its own share of unseemly behavior and high-profile arrests over the years.  When you bring together 85 to 100 teenagers from all corners of the country and from all sorts of economic backgrounds, there’s no way of projecting who might go astray.

If we begin to see a string of arrests from within the Commodore program, fine.  Then everyone will have a bit more ammunition to hurl at Franklin.  But as bad as this particular incident is… it’s still just one incident.

That means it’s time to dial down the “he’s recruiting thugs” talk.

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Franklin Having To Build Traditions At Vandy

gfx - they said itVanderbilt head coach James Franklin has been doing it all since arriving in Nashville two years ago.  And yes, we mean all.

Commodore recruiting has soared to new heights.  Vandy won nine games last year for the first time since the Earth cooled.  The Dores have been to back-to-back bowl games.  But as Frankling said last week, he’s also having to worry about creating traditions:

 

“We’re trying to build a program, we’re trying to build a fan base and we’re trying to build traditions.  At a lot of other schools in the SEC the head coach doesn’t have to focus on that because those things have been going on at those institutions for 80 years.”

 

While that may sound like extra work, there’s actually a positive flipside to the start-from-scratch situation.  Franklin doesn’t have to worry about doing things as a legendary predecessor might have done them.  And how many coaches get to build a program completely as they see fit?

If Franklin continues to have success at Vanderbilt, one might actually begin to wonder why he would ever leave.  The man can literally be the “father” of a major college football program in the SEC.  (Sorry, old timers, but Dan McGugin’s last championship at Vandy came in 1923.)

Anchor Down, anyone?

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WOW Headlines – 7/16/13

Vanderbilt has finally named the four players dismissed from its football team for their involvement in an alleged sexual assault…
Brandon Banks, Corey Baty, Jaborian McKenzie, and Brandon Vandenburg were dismissed for a violation of Vandy’s team rules on June 29th
SEC Media Days begins on Tuesday with Florida, Missouri, Ole Miss and South Carolina will take turns with the media in Birmingham on Day One
Kentucky RB Josh Clemons will miss the entire 2013 season due to an Achilles’ tendon injury
Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel has reportedly apologized to his coaches for leaving the Manning Passing Academy early
Follow the SEC and this week’s Media Days at MrSEC.com and twitter.com/mrsec

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Vandy’s Stallings Blocks Jeter’s Transfer

roadblock-signsOver the weekend it was learned that Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy was blocking quarterback Wes Lunt from transferring to Southern Miss, Central Michigan, Pac-12 schools, SEC schools, any schools whose names end in R or start with Q, etc.

Yesterday, we wrote that it was time for the NCAA to create a uniform transfer policy that — for the most part — would take the power from coaches’ hands in such situations.

Now, a day later, there’s yet another such situation.  This time Vanderbilt hoops coach Kevin Stallings is reportedly blocking sophomore-to-be Sheldon Jeter from transferring to Pittsburgh.  Jeter is a native of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania.  Over the weekend, Stallings had said: “Sheldon has indicated that he’d like to play closer to home and we wish him the best.”

Not sure about your take, but Pittsburgh would indeed seem closer to Beaver Falls than Nashville.

According to The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, however, Stallings — for an unknown reason — has decided to place a black-and-gold roadblock between Jeter and Pitt.  One would guess that Stallings feels someone in the Steel City has tampered with his ex-player.

If Jeter still wants to attend Pitt, he can transfer there and pay tuition for his first year or he can appeal Stallings’ decision to the Vandy athletic department (though it’s doubtful the Commodore brass with take the ex-player’s side over the current coach’s).

The irony here is that Vanderbilt was one of the schools OSU’s Gundy scratched from Lunt’s list of options.  Round and round we go.

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Franklin Says He’s Building Vandy, Not Tearing Down UT

james-franklin-vandy-coachingJames Franklin might be the most popular man in Nashville… and the least popular man in the state of Tennessee.  Vanderbilt fans love the man who’s taken the school’s football program to back-to-back bowls and locked up a nine-win season.  They also love him because he had the Commodores go toe-to-toe with the rival Vols — losing in overtime — in Knoxville two years ago… and because his team mopped the field with Tennessee 41-18 last year on the West End.

Tennessee’s fanbase hates Franklin for pretty much those exact same reasons.  Well, that and Franklin also has no problem stepping on the occasional toe.  From the Todd Grantham dust-up during his first season to the “Nicky Satan” episode earlier this offseason, Franklin hasn’t been afraid to do what he feels needs doing or to say what he thinks needs saying.  Love him or hate him, you can’t question his fire.  Fire that most believe burns hottest when it comes to the Vandy’s chief rival.

But in a short Q&A with The Tennessean, Vandy’s coach quickly shot down the idea that he had a “disdain for all things orange.”

 

“That’s not really accurate.  I’m trying to build our pride in the black and gold, and in the Star V, and in Vanderbilt. I have tremendous respect for the University of Tennessee, their history, their traditions, the state as a whole.

I’m trying to fight for the respect of our program. So it’s really not about anybody else’s colors. It’s about me demanding respect for Vanderbilt, the Commodores, the black and gold, the Star V and for our football program. That’s it.

I’m trying to get everyone in our stadium to wear black and gold. I’m trying to get everybody in Nashville to wear black and gold. I’m trying to get all of our alumni and fans all across the entire country to be proud to walk around wearing their black and gold and wearing the Star V and throwing the VU (sign) up to each other.

It’s a sense of brotherhood. It’s a sense of pride. I hear it all the time. I hear people tell me all the time that I see more Vanderbilt gear in stores. I see more Vanderbilt gear walking around in the community.”

 

The more Franklin has won, the more pride Vanderbilt fans have taken in their program.  Granted, Tennessee was at a low point when the Volunteers traveled to Nashville last season, but the stadium still featured more black and gold and less orange than anyone had seen in decades.

Moving forward, Franklin knows that the Commodore fanbase will have to continue to prove itself if VU is to land in better bowl games:

 

“… There’s no doubt that bowl games and cities at locations that want to sell tickets to their game, sell the place out, and bring people in that are going to bring revenue into their town, so teams that travel well (are considered).

That’s why I’m constantly talking to people about how we’ve made great strides, but the next step is we have to show everyone through our support and our fan base and our alumni and our students that we love our program and that we support our program.  That’s why we’re going to sell out every single game next year.  I think that’s going to be a good statement to the country of what’s going on here, and also to the bowl people about what’s going on.”

 

Franklin is only stating the obvious.  And hey, if we wrote it on Tuesday it had to be obvious, right?

The 41-year-old coach has Vanderbilt on the uptick.  From on-field results to recruiting wars to comments that sometime rub opposing fans the wrong way, Franklin is the first Vanderbilt football coach in years to elicit real emotion from the Dores’ rivals.  And that wouldn’t be the case if he weren’t doing something right.

You swat an annoying gnat.  You moan, scream, and complain about a bee that stings.

Franklin has given VU a stinger.

 

UPDATE – Speaking of stingers… Franklin was taken to task on Nashville radio yesterday for suggesting in a tweet last month that players who don’t sign with Vanderbilt “want 2 settle in life.”

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