Commodores' defense will challenge Rebels

By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – James Franklin’s message of defeat the past to win the future has been nothing if not consistent, and his Vanderbilt players have caught on.
Asked what stood out for him in the Commodores’ two-touchdown win at Ole Miss last year, Rob Lohr drew a blank.
“Honestly, I don’t remember much about last year. It was a long time ago,” said Lohr, a fourth-year junior defensive tackle from Phoenixville, Pa.
Odd. Often players remember a dominating performance, and Lohr posted a career-high six tackles and added a half sack as Vanderbilt won 28-14.
Lohr has gotten off to a fast start in 2011. He had four tackles last week in Vandy’s 24-21 comeback win against UConn.
All four of Lohr’s tackles were behind the line of scrimmage, not a good sign for an Ole Miss team that allowed nine tackles for loss to FCS member Southern Illinois last week.
Lohr is the current SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week.
Franklin, in his first year as coach after serving as offensive coordinator at Maryland, has rebuffed discussion of Vanderbilt’s football past at every turn – even the wins.
“We’re not talking about what has happened in the past,” Franklin said. “The 2010 team that beat Ole Miss is nothing like this year. We have to handle our business. That game last year, in my opinion, has no relevance this year. It’s this team. It’s this season.”
Vanderbilt’s recent past has been pretty good. The Commodores have won four of the last six in the Ole Miss series.
They enter Saturday’s game 2-0, winning against FCS foe Elon and against UConn, which was picked near the bottom of the Big East.
Vandy managed only 259 yards in the game but beat the Huskies with defense, holding them to 193 yards and creating four turnovers.
The Vanderbilt defense has picked off five passes this season. Primarily with Zack Stoudt under center, Ole Miss has yet to throw an interception. The Rebels have thrown 50 in the last three years.
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt hopes to see more consistency from his run game. He hasn’t announced that senior running backs Brandon Bolden and Enrique Davis – both injured against BYU – will play, but both practiced all week.
The run game could get a spark from backup quarterback Randall Mackey, who rushed for 36 yards on six carries in limited action against Southern Illinois, but the Rebels’ offensive line is looking for improvement, especially against stunts and varied looks that have caused problems through two weeks.
Lohr doesn’t believe the Rebels’ slow start up front means anything moving to Saturday.
“They’re big, strong and well-coached. They’ll come off the ball and hit you in the mouth,” he said. “Like any offensive line, you’re going to give up penetration at times. We have to try and take advantage of it when we can and get back there and make some plays.”
parrish.alford@journalinc.com