Vandy seniors have high hopes for fitting bowl game send-off
Posted: Thursday, December 22, 2011 7:03 pm
By TERESA M. WALKER
AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) — The Vanderbilt Commodores know how to wrap up a final practice in style. Just ask senior linebacker Chris Marve.
His teammates lifted him up onto their shoulders Wednesday and carried him off the practice field, while defensive back Sean Richardson got the same treatment himself.
Marve says it’s been a tradition to carry off the senior linebackers at least since he was a true freshman.
Just don’t count him as finished yet.
“It’s my last one at Vanderbilt as a Commodore,” Marve said. “It’s been a great ride. I’m thankful to have this opportunity. I’ve been out here, ran a lot of sprints, ran a lot of plays day in and day out for five years now. It’s been great. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
Marve can’t wait until Monday when the Commodores (6-6) gather in Memphis to start their final preparations for the Liberty Bowl on Dec. 31 against Cincinnati (9-3).
The Commodores are working on adding the next step in tradition in just the program’s fifth bowl ever and second since 2008.
“Right now, I’m tunnel-visioned on Dec. 31st and Cincinnati,” Marve said.
The Commodores (6-6) wrapped up their third straight practice Wednesday in preparation for the bowl, and coach James Franklin kept them from making any travel arrangements until the afternoon trying to keep them focused. Vanderbilt spent its first week of bowl practice giving work to young players with last week off for finals. They returned to practice Monday and spent the past three sessions prepping for Cincinnati.
Franklin said he noticed his Commodores a little bit looser than normally before escaping for the break. He also has talked with them about handling a bowl game that is just Vanderbilt’s second since 1982.
“We don’t have a whole lot of experience doing this,” Franklin said. “There’s time to have fun and mess around, and there’s a time to work and handle our business. We just got to make sure we’re handling it the right way. I’m going to talk to the coaching staff as well. It’s important we set the tone from a leadership perspective and show these guys what it’s going to take to go down and win this game.”
As a fifth-year senior and two-time co-captain, Marve said he made sure that none of his teammates eased up in these practices.
Vanderbilt ranks 19th nationally in total defense and the Commodores are coming off a 41-7 win at Wake Forest that earned them their first bowl berth under Franklin and first since the 2008 Music City Bowl.
“We can’t waste a rep,” Marve said. “Coach Franklin always talks about maximizing our opportunities together, maximize our time when we’re out here on the practice field, when we’re in film, whatever we’re doing in life just maximizing it and reaching our full potential. So of course as a senior leader, a guy who’s about to play his last game of course I made it my job, and I bear the burden of making sure everything is crisp and we can get as close to being ready as we possibly can.”
Jordan Rodgers, the junior who started the last six games at quarterback, said the last two days of practice went well.
“Everyone’s kind of checked out of school already obviously. People already home in their minds sometimes, we were wondering if we were going to slack off in practice,” Rodgers said. “That didn’t happen. We were crisp.”
Workers packed equipment into a tractor-trailer outside after practice for the trip to Memphis. When Vanderbilt played in the Music City Bowl, the Commodores needed to pack nothing since they practiced on their own field and had to travel only a couple miles to the stadium.
This is definitely a different trip this time around. It’s why Franklin plans to have Marve give his teammates some advice on what they need to see while in his hometown along with the places to avoid once they gather in Memphis..
“Dec. 31st can’t get here fast enough,” Marve said.
Follow Teresa M. Walker on Twitter at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker Published in The Messenger 12.22.11