NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — James Franklin has used the idea of one game at a time and worrying only about the next six seconds to help his Vanderbilt Commodores ignore the past and shake off adversity.
Now he faces his biggest challenge yet: Helping his Commodores handle success.
Franklin has more wins in his first two seasons (13) than any Vandy coach not named Dan McGugin, who went 16-1 in 1904-05. The Commodores (7-4) need a win to match the most victories in the regular season since 1982 going into the finale at Wake Forest (5-6) on Saturday.
Franklin said Monday the Commodores have been through the gamut since they arrived with him the third different coach for the juniors and seniors along with a lack of success. Vanderbilt is 5-2 in November since Franklin arrived compared with a 3-32 record over the past decade combined.
"You talk about the negativity, and now it couldn't be any more positive right now," Franklin said. "And I'm probably more concerned about that than anything is I think a lot of times I think it's easier to handle adversity than it is success."
The list of success since Franklin has arrived is growing longer by the day.
The Commodores won their fifth Southeastern Conference game this season with a 41-18 rout of rival Tennessee last weekend, their fourth game scoring 40 or more points this season for the first time since 1916. They last won five SEC games in a season in 1935.
They also have won four SEC games by 23 or more points under Franklin, matching the total Vandy managed between 1957 through 2010. That win over Tennessee also marked the most points scored against Vanderbilt's biggest rival since a 51-7 win in 1923.
A win against Wake Forest would be Vanderbilt's sixth straight, something the Commodores last did in 1955 when they capped the season beating Auburn in the Gator Bowl. They're already in line for a second straight bowl
"We definitely have a lot of momentum coming off the victories that we have, but we can't let that get to our head and approach it as one game at a time and worrying about the things we need to do from a Vanderbilt standpoint to take care of business," cornerback Trey Wilson said.
Franklin has talked to reporters and his players alike about the Commodores accomplishing something that hadn't been done in years and decades.
"As long as we keep taking the one game at a time approach, all those historical things will go away," Wilson said.
Cornerback Andre Hal became the sixth Commodore to earn SEC player of the week recognition Monday after two interceptions against Tennessee. He ranks second in the SEC with 13 passes defended.
Franklin has had some advantages past Vanderbilt coaches haven't. The SEC's lone private university has invested heavily in the program, including breaking ground in October on an indoor practice field wanted for years and a new video board and artificial surface for the stadium.
He also earned a pay raise last December after going 6-6 in his debut season and likely will get more money with athletic director David Williams determined to keep the coach he hired.
Franklin also has helped Vanderbilt sell out three home games this season for the first time since 1996. He went to the student center encouraging people to stick around through the Thanksgiving break for the Tennessee game, and Franklin said he even talked to the parents of up to 20 people pitching why they should change scheduled flights.
The result was the smallest amount of Tennessee fans decked out in orange in years.
"Definitely since I've been there that was probably the best showing for a home game against Tennessee the past five years I've been here," offensive guard Josh Jelesky said. "I want to thank all the fans for that. That was huge and really helped."
It's enough success at what had been the SEC's perennial doormat that Franklin could see his name mentioned as a candidate for SEC coach of the year.
Not according to his own players, proving they've bought into his approach completely.
"Coach Franklin is zero and zero right now," receiver Jordan Matthews said.