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Mizzou's next opponent seeing red

2012-10-01T00:35:00Z 2012-10-01T10:16:02Z Mizzou's next opponent seeing redBY STU DURANDO • sdurando@post-dispatch.com > 314-340-8232 stltoday.com

Facing a trip to Mizzou this week, Vanderbilt coach James Franklin had plenty of problems to address during a bye week for the Commodores, from shaky red-zone efficiency to penalty problems that Franklin attributed, in part, to a noisy stadium at Georgia in a 48-3 loss.

The Commodores won't see as many fans at Faurot Field as they did at Georgia, where 92,746 were in attendance. But Franklin acknowledged the impact of the crowd on the timing of his offense.

"They have great speed on the edge and you can't hear, so now you have to use a silent count," he told reporters last week. "So instead of using your usual cadence, you're going on rhythm as an offense. You lose that advantage. Once you jump offside and fans know they had something to do with it, what do you think happens? You get more of it."

That hasn't been helpful in the team's pursuit of an improved red-zone performance. The Commodores rank 102nd nationally in red-zone offense, having produced 46 points in 15 trips inside the opponents' 20-yard line.

They have scored only four touchdowns with six field goals.

"Your playbook shrinks because you have less field," Franklin said. "So (it's) being able to throw and understand 'I'm going to throw with confidence but not force anything because I've got points already.' "

Yet, he remains confident in quarterback Jordan Rodgers, who has completed only 54 percent of his passes. He has thrown for 649 yards during the team's 1-3 start with two touchdown passes and one interception.

Against Georgia, Rodgers was 13 for 23 for 218 yards without a TD. Yet, the always upbeat Franklin nearly raved about the effort.

"You know, this sounds crazy but I enjoyed coaching him (against Georgia) more than any other game," Franklin said. "I thought he was decisive, he was confident. There really weren't any plays I was frustrated because he wasn't seeing it the way I was seeing it."

REVIVED OPTIMISM

It's a little early to start talking about the Rose Bowl, but Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald has created some excitement in Evanston with the Wildcats' 5-0 start. The schedule, however, has two distinctive halves.

Northwestern has defeated five teams with a combined 6-14 record. That includes a Big Ten-opening victory over Indiana. To remain in the hunt for a major bowl, the Wildcats must handle a schedule that still includes trips to Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State and a home game against Nebraska.

The fast start was rewarded by the pollsters as the Wildcats debuted at No. 24 this week.

SLIP-SLIDING AWAY

Meanwhile, LSU dropped a spot in the rankings for the second consecutive week after a less-than-inspired effort in a 38-22 win over Towson State. The Tigers slipped to No. 4 after creating a 1-2 situation with Alabama two weeks ago.

"I thought that we played down to our opponent," LSU coach Les Miles said. "It is uncharacteristic at the end of the game that a defense like ours would be driven on. I must not have prepared them well."

LSU won 12-10 at Auburn the previous week. In that case, it couldn't be said the Tigers were looking ahead. But this time? LSU will play at Florida on Saturday.

'WE GOT EMBARRASSED'

Georgia Tech was not far from breaking into the preseason national rankings and early overtime losses to Virginia Tech and Miami at least indicated that the Yellow Jackets were deserving of consideration.

But what happened against Middle Tennessee State in Atlanta over the weekend was tough to explain. The Blue Raiders lost their season opener to McNeese State but managed 510 yards against Georgia Tech.

"We got embarrassed, and we just didn't play with a whole lot of energy," coach Paul Johnson said. "The bottom line is we just didn't do anything very good. ... That's probably my worst loss here."

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