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Commodores win again, go to 3-0

9/17/2011

When Vanderbilt coach James Franklin was discussing Saturday’s Ole Miss game earlier in the week, he refused to look at the bigger picture.

But we’ll do it for him now that the Commodores are 3-0 for only the fifth time in the past 60 years after routing Ole Miss 30-7 on Saturday.

This is a team that’s getting better every week, a team that genuinely believes in what Franklin and his first-year staff are doing and a team that could very easily wind up in a bowl game if this keeps up.

The Commodores (3-0, 1-0 SEC) still have nonconference games remaining against Army and Wake Forest. They also get Kentucky at home.

We’re so used to counting sure losses when it comes to Vanderbilt football.

With the way this team is playing, why not count a few wins, too, that nobody sees coming?

Vanderbilt intercepted Ole Miss quarterback Zack Stoudt five times Saturday and returned one of those for a touchdown. The Commodores have returned an interception for a touchdown in all three games this season.

And if you’re looking for a defense that makes things happen, look no further than Bob Shoop’s guys.

In three games now, they’ve forced 12 turnovers, while giving up just three touchdowns. Neither one of Connecticut’s two touchdowns last week came against the Vanderbilt defense.

The Commodores also came alive offensively Saturday, in particular running back Zac Stacy. He had the big run late last week against UConn to set up the game-winning field goal and rushed for 169 yards against Ole Miss, including a 77-yard touchdown run.

Vanderbilt finished with 387 yards in total offense. The 23-point win over Ole Miss was its largest margin of victory over an SEC team in 40 years -- dating back to a 49-19 win over Mississippi State in 1971.

Franklin was emotional afterward and began reeling off all the different people the win was for, including the school’s chancellor and vice chancellor for athletics.

He paused and nearly broke down when he mentioned his Vanderbilt players and coaches.

“That win’s for our kids. That win’s for our coaches … and how hard we’ve worked,” said Franklin, his eyes welling up. “That win is for our loyal fans that showed up here for a long time looking for something to believe in.”

In the same breath, Franklin warned everybody that this Vanderbilt team was hardly a finished product.

“I don’t want anybody to feel like that we think we’ve arrived, because we haven’t,” Franklin said. “We’ve got a long ways to go. We’ve done some good things because we’re playing as a team. We’re playing together and believe in what we’re doing, but we have a long ways to go.”

That may be, but the Commodores head down that road as an unbeaten football team.