NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - James Franklin often talks about "Vanderbuild" when tweeting away as Vanderbilt's biggest salesman in addition to his job as coach. Now he's pushing Commodores' fans for another big step for this program.
Sell out the stadium Saturday night against Austin Peay.
Filling the Southeastern Conference's smallest stadium has been an issue for Vanderbilt, though the Commodores did sell out their season opener against Mississippi last week. That was their first sellout of the season opener since 1999 against Alabama and only the fourth sellout since Franklin was hired in December 2010.
Franklin called that real progress, noting Vanderbilt had only one sellout the entire decade before he arrived on campus.
"I think it would be a strong statement to this region, this conference and nationally if we can sell out a game like Austin Peay," Franklin said. "It's one thing when you play a SEC opponent. They're going to travel extremely well. It's another thing when you can sell out your own stadium and basically sell out with 40,000 of your own fans. That's really the next step we have to take."
Vanderbilt still had tickets available for the Commodores' first game against Austin Peay, a Football Championship Subdivision program just 50 miles away. This is a chance for the Commodores to bounce back after a wild 39-35 loss to Ole Miss.
The Governors had never played a team from the SEC until this season, and now they are playing their second straight team from the power conference after a 45-0 loss at Tennessee last week.
"We're going to go down there and play hard," Austin Peay coach Kirby Cannon said. "It's in our backyard. A lot of our kids are from Nashville, and we have some similar issues that we had against Tennessee."
Here are five things to watch when Vanderbilt hosts Austin Peay on Saturday night:
EXPERIENCE: Austyn Carta-Samuels showed off his strong arm at quarterback against Ole Miss, throwing for 300 yards. He became the first Vandy quarterback to do that in an opener since Greg Zolman in 2001. So the Commodores got a good look at what the senior can do. A quick start by the Commodores would allow Franklin to look at Josh Grady, who was at receiver last year, and redshirt freshman Patton Robinette who currently are listed as splitting the backup duties.
RECEIVERS: This is a perfect opportunity for Vanderbilt to get much-needed experience for its highly-touted freshmen receivers. Jordan Cunningham was one of only two freshmen to play against Ole Miss, but he didn't catch a pass. Senior Jordan Matthews caught 10 passes for a career-high 178 yards in the opener, but the Commodores need to find other options to Matthews and senior Jonathan Krause to help them run the three-receiver sets they like on offense.
AUSTIN PEAY'S TOUGH ROAD: The Governors had never played a team from the SEC before this season, and now they are playing their second straight opponent from the league. This game will earn Austin Peay a $300,000 payday for a program that has had only 18 winning seasons in the 76 years the Governors have played football. The Governors have lost 17 straight road games dating back to their last win away from home Sept. 18, 2010 at Tennessee State. They are 1-15 Football Bowl Subdivision schools with the lone win coming in 1987 26-22 against Kansas State.
FCS DANGER: Franklin made sure his Commodores noticed the five upsets by FCS teams alone on Aug. 31. Vanderbilt is 15-1 all-time against FCS opponents since Division I was split in 1978 with that lone loss back in 1979 by a score of 27-14 to The Citadel. Vanderbilt beat the last FCS opponent, Presbyterian, 58-0 last season.
A FAMILIAR FOE: The Vanderbilt coaches know Austin Peay defensive coordinator Granville Eastman pretty well. Eastman has worked Vanderbilt's summer camps the past three years or each one since Franklin has been the Commodores' head coach.
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