Vandy coach sticking to tunnel-vision approach


Vandy coach sticking to tunnel-vision approach

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Vanderbilt coach James Franklin has a mantra he has driven into his Commodores that each week is a new season, each game stands on its own.

He just hopes to be 1-0 by Saturday night.

The Commodores only need a victory against winless Massachusetts on Saturday to cap a three-game home stand and finish October at .500. A second straight win will set up the Commodores in November with not only the chance to become bowl eligible for a second straight year, but a rare winning record in the regular season.

So Franklin isn't about to back off his one-game-at-a-time approach.

``I just don't feel like that we are at a point as a program that we should ever take any game for granted,'' Franklin said Monday. ``I don't think we should ever have that approach in general. We've all seen too many upsets across the country whether it's a FBS opponent, a I-A opponent or I-AA opponent or FCS whatever those abbreviations are now.''

Franklin understands Vanderbilt's history well enough in his second season to know what he's talking about.

The Commodores are 3-4 overall after a 17-13 win over Auburn, their second in three games. Not only is UMass 0-7, the Commodores kick off November visiting Kentucky (1-7, 0-5) when they turn back to the Southeastern Conference. Followed by a trip to Mississippi (4-3, 1-2). Then there's Tennessee and Wake Forest.

On paper, it's a schedule filled with opponents that Vanderbilt could use for its first winning record in a regular season since going 8-3 in 1982 before losing the Hall of Fame bowl. That would make Vanderbilt bowl eligible for a second straight season for the first time in the history of a program that started playing football in 1890 yet has only five bowls to its credit.

Franklin said he knows everyone else will be talking about what could happen with a win for Vanderbilt. He knows his players are hearing some of the chatter as well, but he refuses to talk about that himself. His coaches take the same approach to avoid taking any opponent lightly.

He noted people downplayed the Commodores' win over Elon of the Football Championship Subdivision last season.

``We should be cherishing every win we get and really enjoying it and finding the positives in it,'' Franklin said. ``I think that's what we should be doing. We should be really enjoying the wins and whatever opponent it is, whether it's a conference opponent, whether it's an out of conference opponent, whether it's Division I or I-AA, whoever it is, we should really enjoy the wins that we get.''

That win over Auburn (1-6) goes into that category for Franklin and the Commodores.

Auburn is off to its worst start since 1952, and the Commodores were a seven-point favorite going in. Yet they found themselves fighting at the end to preserve the 17-13 win after a late fumble by Zac Stacy, who earlier became Vandy's all-time leading rusher with 169 yards, giving him 2,670 yards for his career with five games left.

Franklin said finding a way to win indicates progress.

``I don't know how many times in Vanderbilt history we were able to win an SEC game and not play clean in terms of penalties, in terms of turnovers and things like that ...,'' Franklin said. ``We found a way to win a tough game.''

That message has filtered strongly throughout the roster with a coach who grades himself on his media interviews and also checks those of his players to keep them on message. Defensive end Kyle Woestmann said they know that reaching .500 with a win would be a good position to be in going into November.

``We're not as focused on the big picture as we are on this week, and our focus is on UMass,'' Woestmann said.

Vanderbilt also remains at a point where Franklin is encouraging fans to turn out after two consecutive home sellouts, the first since the start of the 1996 season. The first two included lots of Florida and Auburn fans helping fill the stadium. Tickets remain available for Saturday night's game with UMass.

``It's one thing to sell out an SEC game where the other SEC teams going to travel extremely well,'' Franklin said. ``It's another thing to sellout an opponent like UMass who has a further distance to travel to get here. I'm asking for everybody's help. I'm asking for everybody's support to do that and to continue to take strides in building this program in the direction we want to go.''


Follow Teresa M. Walker at

Quick Links

Rain knocks out another Phillies-Nationals game

USA TODAY Sports Images

Rain knocks out another Phillies-Nationals game

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals and Phillies are 2-for-2.

Tuesday night's game was postponed following a two-hour rain delay. Monday's game was postponed after a three-hour rain delay.

Tuesday's game will be made up as part of a split day-night doubleheader Sept. 24 at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., bumping a four-game series to a five-game series. The Nationals and Phillies are scheduled to also play a split day-night doubleheader Wednesday.

The day was not without news. Nationals ace Max Scherzer broke his nose in batting practice when a ball bounced off his bat and struck him in the face. Scherzer was attempting to bunt at the time.

Scherzer's injury and the multiple postponements throw the Nationals' pitching plans into disarray. They're not sure if Scherzer will pitch as expected Wednesday. It appears Austin Voth, who was scratched from his Thursday start for Triple-A Fresno, will be available to pitch in one of the Wednesday games -- should they be played. More rain is expected Wednesday.

The Nationals will bump Patrick Corbin, who was slated to pitch again Tuesday, into a Wednesday spot. Wednesday's other starter is TBA. It could be Scherzer if he is ready. It could be Erick Fedde, and Voth could be used in the bullpen as the 26th man. That would provide Scherzer a chance to pitch Thursday and Strasburg on Friday against Atlanta. 

Or, Scherzer could be provided more time off. There's a lot to sort out once again thanks to the rain.



Quick Links

Source: Wizards will have competition with teams like Lakers, Clippers for restricted free agent Bobby Portis

USA Today

Source: Wizards will have competition with teams like Lakers, Clippers for restricted free agent Bobby Portis

This summer is shaping up to be lucrative for NBA free agents and big man Bobby Portis is well-positioned to cash in. After spending the final three months of the 2018-19 season with the Wizards, Portis is already seeing a healthy market develop ahead of the June 30 start of the league's negotiating period, NBC Sports Washington has learned.

The Wizards are likely to first extend a qualifying offer on June 30 to make him a restricted free agent. According to, it will be about $3.6 million and that will give the Wizards the right to match an offer sheet from another franchise.

But teams are already indicating they want Portis, who is just 24 and coming off a season in which he averaged a career-high 14.2 points and 8.1 rebounds in 50 games. That market includes 5-10 teams and could grow once free agency opens.

Portis is expected to draw interest from the Lakers, Clippers, Jazz, Bucks, Magic and Knicks among others, NBC Sports Washington has learned.

Despite restricted free agency, Portis has a few things working for him. For one, there are a lot of teams with cap room. Spending won't reach 2016 levels, when the new CBA spiked the salary cap, but there will a lot of money to go around.

Also, guys in Portis' tier will only be helped if the top free agent options continue to dwindle. Klay Thompson looks more likely than ever to stay in Golden State after tearing his ACL. Winning a title could increase the odds Kawhi Leonard re-signs in Toronto, according to reports. And Kevin Durant's torn Achilles has thrown a wrench into the plans of teams with the most money to spend.

There is also the possibility Kemba Walker stays in Charlotte. And Kyrie Irving signing with Brooklyn, if it happens, would leave others exploring backup plans.

Portis isn't directly competing with any of those players, but could benefit if the top options are off the market. His name will only move up the list if that is the case.

Portis also has a unique selling point going for him. He shot 39.3 percent from three this past season and held a 40.3 percent clip to close the year in his 28 games with the Wizards. Three-point shooting is more valuable than ever and he brings that to the table at 6-foot-10.

Portis, who averaged 3.8 three-point attempts per game this past season, was one of only six players 6-10 or taller to shoot at least 39 percent on 3.5 attempts or more (min. 50 G). 

The question for Portis will be whether he gets the money he wants. He turned down an extension with the Chicago Bulls last fall just hours before the deadline to sign one. According to the Chicago Tribune, the deal was worth about $50 million and he wants to be paid in the range of $16 million annually. His asking price was partly why the Bulls traded him to the Wizards in February.

Even if the Wizards clear money, and they are expected to free up some by declining Jabari Parker's $20 million team option by the June 29 deadline, Portis could price himself out of Washington. It might not even take $16 million per year for that to happen.

The Wizards are set to operate through free agency with interim team president Tommy Sheppard at the helm, as the Washington Post reported on Tuesday. Sheppard making the call increases Portis' odds of staying, but that doesn't mean the price will match for both sides.