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Vandy on the Brink of Another Bowl

By Southern Pigskin Staff
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Vanderbilt (5-4) has already notched a couple big firsts this year, beating Georgia and Florida in the same season, and is coming off its first win in the Swamp since 1945.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Vanderbilt Commodores have another piece of football history in their grasp previously unthinkable for the program: A win over Kentucky on Saturday makes the Commodores bowl eligible for a third straight season.

Just don't expect Franklin to change his tune that the Commodores are only focused on trying to be 1-0 this week, even if this Southeastern Conference program only had four bowl berths in its history before he arrived on campus.

"Now we got to show that we can handle the success," Franklin said Monday.

Vanderbilt (5-4) has already notched a couple big firsts this year, beating Georgia and Florida in the same season, and is coming off its first win in the Swamp since 1945. That helps trump the SEC record of 2-4 with losses to Mississippi, South Carolina, Missouri and Texas A&M.

The Commodores now are 14-6 in their last 20 games, a streak that includes the last seven games of 2012. Five of those losses came to Top 25 teams.

Becoming bowl eligible for the third time in Franklin's three seasons seems almost a given with Kentucky (2-7, 0-5) struggling under first-year coach Mark Stoops. The Commodores then visit Tennessee (4-6) and wrap up the regular season against Wake Forest (4-6) on Nov. 30.

Not that Franklin or the Commodores will acknowledge to thinking of another bowl berth. Franklin repeated his usual answer about Kentucky being their Super Bowl. But asked about how he has dealt with success, Franklin credited that very routine treating each game the exact same way from non-conference opponent to SEC rival or bowl game.

"That consistency in our routine and in our approach has helped us," Franklin said. "I think the other thing is we don't really kind of change our plan. We are a fundamentalist program. I think in the long run that's going to allow you to get better throughout the season individually and collectively. I think we've been able to do that."

The Commodores have offset the loss of senior quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels to injury by forcing 12 turnovers over the past three games, which includes the wins over Georgia and Florida. Against Florida, Vanderbilt came up with four turnovers, five sacks, nine tackles for loss and held the Gators to 39 yards rushing on 34 attempts.

That earned defensive end Caleb Azubike honors Monday as the SEC's defensive lineman of the week. The sophomore had two sacks, four tackles and a pair of hurries. Franklin said Azubike has really grown since arriving at Vanderbilt.

"When he arrived here he was a raw athlete that was new to the game of football. Even up until his senior year, he played soccer. I think he has done a nice job," Franklin said.

The coach also made a point to list the number of players "like everybody in the SEC" that the Commodores played without against Florida, though he never said any of them were injured. The biggest loss is Carta-Samuels, leaving Vandy with redshirt freshman Patton Robinette at quarterback.

Franklin also mentioned offensive linemen Andrew Bridges and Barrett Gouger, quarterback Josh Grady, receivers Jonathan Krause and Letevius Rayford, tight end Steven Scheu. The coach also noted neither tight end Kris Kentera nor linebacker Chase Garnham finished at Florida while running back Wesley Tate was on the field only to catch an onside kick in the 34-17 win.

The Commodores now have won six straight in November and are 7-2 in this month since Franklin arrived. In the previous decade, Vanderbilt went 3-32 in November.

"The past is in the past, it doesn't matter who we've played or what the outcome was, our goal is to go 1-0 this week," senior defensive end Walker May said.

Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press