Vandy focused on Vandy hosting UMass
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- The Massachusetts Minutemen have lost seven straight games to open their first full season in the Football Bowl Subdivision and have been blown out by everyone from Connecticut to Western Michigan.
Vanderbilt coach James Franklin insists it's not a topic of conversation and he's not worried about his Commodores overlooking the Minutemen on Saturday night.
"We don't talk about records. We don't talk about who's favored to win," Franklin said. "We just keep to our plan and our process and our approach that we do every single week. ... We're competing with Vanderbilt and to be the best Vanderbilt football team we possibly can be. Doesn't matter who we're playing. It's about us."
Considering his Commodores are 32.5-point favorites, that's probably a good approach to take as they play the first of four games over six years with UMass.
Vanderbilt (3-4) is from the Southeastern Conference, and the Commodores are celebrating homecoming Saturday night. A win against the Minutemen (0-7) also sets Vanderbilt up needing only two more victories to become bowl eligible for a second straight season, which never has happened before at the SEC's lone private university.
"We always say that we never play down to an opponent or up to an opponent, so we expect to have another sellout crowd," Vanderbilt sophomore center Joe Townsend said. "It doesn't matter if it's in conference or out of conference. We want our fans there, and we want another win for our fans."
Still, this will be a nice break for the Commodores from the SEC slate and gives them a chance at starting a winning streak coming off a 17-13 win over Auburn last week.
UMass played in the national tournament for Division I-AA eight times, winning the 1998 title and playing in the championship game in 1978 and 2006. But these Minutemen are finding out tough the transition to the FBS-level can be, especially after a 24-0 loss to Bowling Green last week.
First-year coach Charlie Molnar has played 28 freshmen and redshirt freshmen this season, including starting eight.
"We know we will have a lot of eyes on us with just the fact that we are playing an SEC team that beat Auburn last week is enough to get everybody excited," Molnar said. "I know our guys are ready to play football, even after the game I could tell our guys were disappointed but not discouraged. The morale was good. No one likes to lose, and we certainly didn't taking losing easy."
Vanderbilt has won five of its last six games outside the SEC, and senior Zac Stacy should get a chance to add to his total as the Commodores' all-time leading rusher. He tied his fourth-best game with 169 yards rushing against Auburn, and he needs only one more touchdown for his 26th and tie the school record held by Dean Davidson (1947-50).
"The fact we've been able to get him the ball as many ways as we possibly can during games and ride him has really helped us," Franklin said. "It's helped us as a team, helped us as an offense and just really proud of him. Durable, fast, strong, tremendous character, the whole package. So I'm trying to find a way to appeal to the NCAA and try to get another five years out of him."
Vanderbilt is averaging 157.6 yards rushing per game, 71st nationally. UMass is giving up 228.7 yards rushing per game.
The Minutemen have other issues too using a spread, no-huddle scheme offensively. They had only 118 yards total offense in the loss to Bowling Green, and they managed 33 yards passing -- their fewest since 2007. But quarterback Mike Wegzyn will have back tight end Rob Blanchflower and receiver Alan Williams, who missed the last two games.
"Playing at Vanderbilt is a different kind of pressure, but never the less, it's an intense setting that will help our guys as they go forward and as we start playing bigger and more meaningful games in the Mid-American Conference ...," Molnar said.