Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Vanderbilt owns November under Franklin
By Edward Aschoff
It's no secret that Vanderbilt has been very good in the three years that James Franklin has been in charge in Nashville.
He immediately turned the program around, and for his third act the Commodores beat traditional Eastern Division giants Florida, Georgia and Tennessee all in the same year.
Two of those wins came in the month of November, where seasons are made and broken. Vandy blew out Florida -- in the Swamp -- and then used some late-game trickery to down the Vols in Knoxville last weekend.
James Franklin's teams have shown improvement each season as his November record attests.
It doesn't matter how the Commodores (7-4, 4-4 SEC) get the job done, they just do, which is why Franklin and his team enter Saturday's season finale against Wake Forest (4-7, 2-6 ACC) with an eight-game winning streak in November, dating to 2010.
"As the year goes on," Franklin said Wednesday, "we get better and better."
But what has set these Vanderbilt teams, which have an impressive 9-2 record in November in the last three seasons, apart from previous Vandy squads? You know, the ones that went just 3-32 in the final month of the season in the 10 previous years?
And how have the Commodores rebounded from Septembers and Octobers in which they have lost 12 combined games since the start of the Franklin era?
Well, to Franklin it's a cornucopia of things. For starters, the expectations this team has had have been exceptionally high for a program that usually has failed to budge its way out of the SEC cellar. There's an internal belief throughout this team and coaching staff that there's more to this program than just breaking .500, Franklin said.
The coaches have done a good job delivering Franklin's message and players have gobbled it up, he said. It helps when coaches have a believable system to which players have adapted well.
Franklin's strength staff has made players mentally and physically fit enough to make it to the fourth quarter and late in the season. And it helps that coaches haven't tried to overwork players throughout the season, playing a two-deep in games and scaling back on physical work in practices, Franklin said.
"It's not one thing, it's everything," he said.
This season, Vandy has outscored its opponents by an average of 12.3 points in November. Last year, the Dores outscored opponents by 24.5 points in their four wins in November.
Franklin doesn't like to talk about the future or even bowl games, but he doesn't mind a little extra motivation that drives the postseason fuel.
Franklin said defensive coordinator Bob Shoop talks about November as if it's playoff time for the Dores. That's the mentality that keeps this team performing at such a high level late in the year, Franklin said.
"This time of year is like being in the NFL playoffs, and you want to finish your season out the right way," he said. "Our guys just believe in our plan and they stick with it and they grind week in and week out. With that, we get better as the season goes on."