September 5, 2011

Looking back, looking ahead

Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin met with the media on Monday to discuss the Commodores upcoming game against defending Big East Champion, the Connecticut Huskies this Saturday at Vanderbilt Stadium.

The Commodore leader fielded questions from reporters on the state of the team as well as visiting Huskies, while also assessing Vanderbilt's 45-14 season-opening victory over Elon.

Looking back to Elon

Vanderbilt coach James Franklin realizes his team "beat a team we were supposed to beat" in a 45-14 win over FCS foe Elon on Saturday. But even in context, Franklin seemed pleased with how the Commodores performed in his head coaching debut.

Franklin was pleased with Vanderbilt's lack of mistakes and its ability to capitalize on those that Elon made. Specifically, he mentioned that Vandy won the turnover battle 3-0, committed just four penalties, had eight "explosive plays," converted all four red zone chances, and capitalized on better field position all evening.

Quarterback Larry Smith's performance also made Franklin happy. Franklin said that Smith played much better than his 13-for-27, two-touchdown, no-interception, 125-yard line in the boxscore showed.

"I did an adjusted statistic for him, and he was 18-of-24, which is 75 percent. What I mean by that is, he had three throw-aways where he made great decisions, didn't take a sack and got rid of the ball. And the other thing is, he had five drops."

"I think they're pretty good statistics, understanding that he didn't take sacks, he didn't create any turnovers, and really put the offense in a position to be successful," Franklin added later.

As far as complaints, Franklin felt the defense was on the field too long, and had fits in trying to cover Elon's Aaron Mellette, who torched the Commodores with 11 receptions for 180 yards.

Franklin gave credit to Mellette, saying, "He's a good player who can play for anybody," but also recognized that Vanderbilt could have executed better.

"We did some technique and fundamental things where we did some blitzing and were leaving our defensive backs on islands, which is good, we're going to do that. But we didn't play the right techniques, and we weren't as aggressive as we needed to be," he said.

Only three freshmen-running back Jerron Seymour and offensive lineman Spencer Pulley and Joe Townsend--played on Saturday.

Looking forward to Connecticut

Vanderbilt's next opponent is the Connecticut Huskies, a team that beat the Commodores 40-21 in East Hartford last season. The game was tied 21-all at the half, but UConn scored 10 points in the third quarter and nine more in the fourth to win convincingly.

The Huskies beat Fordham 35-3 over the weekend, gaining 434 yards of total offense to the Rams' 169. Like Elon, Fordham is an FCS school, though one much smaller than the Phoenix, fielding only 32 scholarship players against the Huskies.

Franklin termed the Huskies a "disciplined team," and cited UConn's offensive line as a huge concern. Connecticut has a pair of all-conference candidates in tackle Mike Ryan and center Moe Petrus who helped redshirt freshman Lyle McCombs run for 141 yards on 24 carries last Saturday.

Another difficulty in facing UConn will be not knowing which quarterbacks for whom they should prepare.

"They're playing three quarterbacks right now," Franklin said. Johnny McEntee, he's a pro-style quarterback. They've got Michael Nebrich, whom I'm familiar with He actually came to our 7-on-7 camp at Maryland, so I'm familiar with him. He's a true freshman and a pretty good athlete.

"And then Scott McCummings is their wildcat quarterback. We'd better be prepared for him."

Franklin also has considerable familiarity with UConn defensive coordinator Don Brown, who'd been in the same position at Maryland while Franklin was there the past two years.

"They're a veteran defensive team that's played and won a lot of games," Franklin said.

Franklin felt that they keys to beating UConn were to play the same type of mistake-free game the Commodores played on Saturday, and to additionally force some "negative plays."


Franklin said that the Commodores remain healthy after Saturday's win. The key player missing on Saturday was running back Warren Norman, whom Franklin said could have played if needed, but Vanderbilt wanted to get him additional rest.

Norman described himself to Franklin as "about 91 percent" healthy last week, and seems to have progressed since them.

Smith also missed part of last Saturday's fourth quarter after the game was well in hand, but pronounced himself well on Monday. He didn't cite a specific injury, but said he was slightly shaken up after a hard fall late in the game.

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