Sunday, September 4, 2011

James Franklin says the Vanderbilt-Elon game was closer than it looked — that's just the way we like it

You know what I liked best about Coach James Franklin's post-game comments? One of the first things he said was this: "The game was a lot closer than the score indicated."

The purpose of a game like Elon should be to get better and to prepare yourself for the rest of the season, not to enjoy whipping another team and to strut around like you're a big deal.

While some of our fans wanted to win 100-0, Franklin wanted to win the game and be in a position to win more games. After the game he said we need to work on these things:

• Getting more three-and-outs on defense.
• Having less three-and-outs on offense.
• Making more big plays on special teams.
• Improving our third-down conversion rate.
• Maintaining the level of aggressiveness in play-calling.

This last one will be tough when we start playing the Alabamas and Floridas of the world. It's one thing to go for it on fourth down against Elon; it's entirely another to run Micah Powell off tackle on fourth down against an SEC defense.

The other thing Franklin said that I liked was that "we've got a lot of work to do."

Really, last night's victory was no different than 2008's win over Western Carolina or 2009's win over Eastern Michigan, both of which constituted half our victories for an entire season.

I do like that we got the ball to young guys like Boyd, Tate, Lassing and Jerron Seymour, but we did that in the 2008 opener too. I like that we took some risks, but we did that in the 2009 opener too. I liked that we didn't burn the redshirts off a bunch of kids, but Bobby Johnson had the same strategy in every opener he coached.

As Vandy fans, we've counted a lot of chickens before they've hatched. We sorely wanted to do that when the Malzahn rumors were flying around, and Franklin's hiring prevented us from doing that and left us trying to figure out who this guy was. We had no choice but to wait and see what happens with Franklin and our team. In the past nine months, we've seen a lot of stuff to get excited about, but the chickens haven't hatched yet.

All we can do is sit back and watch it happen. I feel good about it, but I'm not going to say we've arrived yet, and Franklin certainly isn't either.

One final note: I really like how our schedule is set up this year:

1. It started with an FCS team that has never beaten an FBS team.
2. Next up is a solid bowl team that, like last year's Northwestern team, we're capable of beating.
3. Then an SEC team, Ole Miss, that poses a serious challenge for both our offensive and defensive lines, but is also a team that we've beaten before and can beat again.
4. Then SEC East champion South Carolina.
5. Then an open date followed by a date with the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide.

It gets progressively tougher, and we'd be wise not to gloat over any victories before we face South Carolina in Columbia on Sept. 24. You think we had trouble stopping Aaron Mellette? Um, ever heard of Alshon Jeffery?

Let's play ’em one game at a time and see what happens.

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