James Franklin walked out to midfield only minutes after Saturday's game and gathered recruits around him for a quick talk. Vanderbilt's new coach sees a bright future for the school best known as the Southeastern Conference's doormat, not that he's waiting until next year.
Larry Smith ran for a touchdown, and Trey Wilson returned one of his two interceptions for a 52-yard TD as Vanderbilt scored 21 straight in the second quarter and beat Mississippi 30-7 Saturday in making Franklin the first new Commodores coach to start 3-0 since World War II.
For the Commodores, it's their biggest margin of victory in an SEC game since beating Mississippi State 49-19 win in 1971 for a program that hadn't led an SEC opponent by at least 21 points since Oct. 2, 2004, against Mississippi State. Franklin also became the first Vandy coach to win his SEC opener since Ray Morrison beat Mississippi State in 1935 — three years after the SEC was founded.
Franklin got emotional as he spoke of how this win is for his players and coaches who have worked hard to improve.
"We are really, really proud of these kids," Franklin said as tears ran down his cheeks. "That win is for our loyal fans that have showed up here for a long time, looking for something to believe in. So I'm just really proud. I don't know what the stats are. I don't really know what the score is, but it is a win."
Vanderbilt won only two games in each of the past two seasons, and this marks Vanderbilt's first 3-0 start since 2008 when the Commodores won their first bowl since 1955. The Commodores also beat Mississippi (1-2) in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams for their fifth win in seven years in this series.
The Commodores picked off five passes, all off Zack Stoudt, and Wilson's interception return for a TD is the Commodores' third this season.
Vanderbilt outgained Ole Miss 387-234 in total offense. Jerron Seymour's 9-yard TD run capped the second-quarter scoring for Vandy, and Zac Stacy also ran for 169 yards, including a 77-yard TD run.
"I don't want anyone to feel like we think we have arrived because we haven't," Franklin said. "We have a long ways to go. We have done some good things because we are playing as a team. We believe in what we are doing. But we have a long ways to go. We have a long ways in developing our players.
Wayne Dorsey had one of the Rebels' two sacks and also caused a fumble, one of three turnovers forced by Ole Miss.
Ole Miss looked disorganized and kept hurting itself as three different offensive linemen false-started. One false start ruined a chance at fourth-and-1 at the Vandy 40. The Rebels then had to use a timeout with only 10 men on the field before punting.
"I'm really disappointed," Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said. "Looked really bad. It's a little bit of everything. Never felt that way on the sideline. Just felt not right. We just didn't have that confidence."
Nutt stuck with Stoudt, though he did play Randall Mackey. Stoudt came through with a 47-yard TD pass to Donte Moncrief with 2:15 left to avoid being shut out by Vandy for the first time since 1946.
The Commodores got going late in the second and took control.
Stacy picked up 26 yards after Smith handed the ball off to the running back using his left, non-throwing hand, almost directly behind him in a bit of nice misdirection. Smith finished off the drive on an option keeper for 19 yards and a 7-0 lead with 5:40 left in the second quarter.
"We knew coming in that we could get a running game established," Stacy said. "We got that executed and got some big plays.
Nutt rotated Stoudt back in on the next series. Facing third-and-15, defensive end Walker May hurried Stoudt into a throw that went straight to Wilson, and the Vanderbilt cornerback ran it back up the left sideline for a 14-0 lead with 4:39 remaining. It was Wilson's second TD off an interception this season and the third overall for Vanderbilt — the first time the Commodores have had three of those in a season.
"We were pressing too hard, trying to make too much happen," Stoudt said.
After another Ole Miss three-and-out, Seymour pushed his way in to finish off a 9-yard TD and a 21-0 lead that had Commodores' fans celebrating a rare early lead.
The Commodores picked up the scoring early in the third when a bad snap went over Stoudt's head on the opening series. Scott kicked it through the end zone for a safety and a 23-0 lead. The rout could have been worse. Stacy tried to throw to Smith in the end zone only to be picked off by Marcus Temple after the safety.