NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Vanderbilt coach James Franklin says the open date came at a good time for his Commodores after their most lopsided loss for the program since 2003.
The Commodores (1-2, 0-2 Southeastern Conference) had a week off after a 48-3 loss to then-No. 5 Georgia on Sept. 22 — a game that easily was the worst since Franklin arrived on campus in December 2010.
"We've had some very honest discussions this week and last week," Franklin said on Monday.
Coaches spent last week recruiting and also compared this year's start to opening 3-1 a year ago. Franklin said the Commodores are very similar to a year ago in throwing and running the ball. The big difference comes on defense where Vanderbilt forced more turnovers, 16 compared to just four this season.
"I think there were times last year where we played physical offenses but we were able to get huge momentum plays at critical times," he said. "We just haven't had them right now . The competition we've played, all these different things, we're really not that far off of where we were last year."
Besides the lack of turnovers, Vanderbilt's defense has played stellar with the exception of the Georgia game.
The Commodores allowed 27 points by halftime and gave up 567 yards, including 302 on the ground. Even so, Vanderbilt still ranks eighth nationally in pass defense giving up 141.8 yards per game and 28th in total defense allowing 328 yards.
"We've got to come out with a mentality and a swagger that we are going to hit you in the mouth every play," defensive end Walker May said. "Forget what happens next, we're going to make it happen."
Now Vanderbilt will prepare to visit Missouri (3-2, 0-2) Saturday night for the first time since 1958 with each team looking for the first league win. Franklin gave the Commodores three days off last week, though his coaches started working on Missouri last week.
The Commodores practiced Sunday and were able to dive right into preparing for Missouri not having to look back at a game.
"There's no doubt it gives you an advantage," Franklin said.
The Commodores also need more production from their offense, especially in the red zone.
In 15 trips inside opponents' 20, they've scored just four touchdowns and all came against Presbyterian of the Football Championship Subdivision. The Commodores have settled for field goals six times and turned the ball over three times — all by quarterback Jordan Rodgers.
The senior remains atop the depth chart this week. He lost his job to Wyoming transfer Austyn Carta-Samuels prior to the Presbyterian game. But Rodgers started against Georgia and completed 13 of 23 passes for 218 yards with no interceptions but no touchdowns either.
Franklin said Rodgers will start against Missouri "if he practices well this week."
"If we would probably have played last Saturday, he would have been the starter," Franklin said. "But this week stands alone and we'll see how this week goes."