Vanderbilt gets second SEC coach fired

10:46 AM, Nov 19, 2012   |    comments
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By Jeff Lockridge | The Tennessean

For the second time in three weeks last Saturday, Vanderbilt pummeled an SEC opponent that used to have its way with the Commodores.

And for the second Sunday in November, the embattled head coach of the losing team was handed his walking papers.

Tennessee's Derek Dooley and Kentucky's Joker Phillips were likely on their way out. But when their athletics directors and fan bases watched a rebuilt Vanderbilt program on the way up hang 40 or more points on their floundering teams, an immediate response was triggered.

The coaching change for which Vanderbilt could end up being most responsible in 2012 hasn't happened yet. Auburn's Gene Chizik still has his job for the moment, though most have been forecasting his departure since a 17-13 loss on Oct. 20 in Nashville.

Losing to Vanderbilt -- and losing in embarrassing fashion -- remains hazardous to one's job security. But if the Commodores (7-4, 5-3 SEC) continue their climb up the SEC ladder under coach James Franklin, that league-wide mindset should soon change.

"We are Nashville's team," Franklin declared after Vanderbilt's 41-18 rout of the visiting Vols before a sellout crowd on Saturday night.

As lopsided as the Tennessee result was, it could have been much worse. Franklin and offensive coordinator John Donovan took a safe approach in the first half, settling for field goals after his offense reached the Vols 1 and 2 on separate possessions.

In the third quarter, an apparent Jordan Rodgers touchdown pass to Chris Boyd was wiped out by an illegal block on Josh Grady at the Vols 2.

On the next play, Zac Stacy underthrew Rodgers on a throwback pass that would have been an easy score. That series ended with an interception in the end zone.

Vanderbilt ran the ball again when it reached the red zone late in the fourth quarter. Had the Commodores capitalized on all those chances, their score could have been in the 60s.

"It was a team effort," Rodgers said. "The O-line played unreal in the run game and the pass game. Gave me time and blew holes for the guys, especially on a couple of those screens.

"We saw exactly what we thought we'd see during the week. ... We put our trick plays in there. We scored on the reverse (to Jordan Matthews). I should have scored on the throwback. But we're going to be aggressive."

Radio apology: Clear Channel, which owns WLAC 1510-AM, issued an apology Sunday for technical difficulties that prevented the final minutes and postgame show from Saturday's game from being broadcast. WLAC will rebroadcast those portions tonight at 7 p.m.

Third quarter: The Commodores have dominated the first 15 minutes after halftime during their five-game winning streak. Vanderbilt has outscored its opponents 77-7 in the third quarter of that stretch, including a 21-0 advantage over the Vols.

Receiving votes: Vanderbilt received one vote in this week's Associated Press Top 25 poll. It was the lone SEC school outside the top 25. Seven SEC teams are ranked -- five in the top nine.

Start time: The Commodores' regular-season finale at Wake Forest next Saturday will have a 2:30 p.m. kickoff and be televised on ESPNU.

Bowl bid: The Demon Deacons, who have lost their last two games (N.C. State and Notre Dame) by a combined 75-6 score, put their bowl hopes on the line this week with a 5-6 record. The roles were reversed last season with Wake Forest bowl eligible when Vanderbilt came in 5-6.

Vanderbilt opened as an 81/2-point favorite Sunday on vegasinsider.com and betonline.com. Vanderbilt is seeking its first six-game winning streak since 1955, when the Commodores' season ended with a Gator Bowl win over Auburn.

Independence out: The list of bowl possibilities for Vanderbilt shrunk with losses by Tennessee and Arkansas on Saturday.

The maximum number of SEC teams that can become bowl eligible is now 10. If two SEC teams go to BCS bowls as expected, the Independence Bowl will not be able to make use of its SEC tie-in.

The likely bowl possibilities for Vanderbilt are the Music City and Gator, but the Liberty and Compass could come into play if Ole Miss and Missouri get a sixth win this week.

Reach Jeff Lockridge at 615-259-8023 or jlockridge@tennessean.com.

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