The replays confirmed what James Franklin saw.
And 15 minutes later, so did the SEC.
Conference officials contacted the Vanderbilt coach minutes after a 17-13 season-opening loss to No. 9 South Carolina last Thursday. On Monday, in preparation for Saturday’s game at Northwestern, Franklin refused to disclose the details of the conversation, which presumably included an apology for a missed pass interference call against South Carolina.
With 1:47 left, Vanderbilt receiver Jordan Matthews failed to haul in a fourth-down pass but replays showed that safety D.J. Swearinger grabbed Matthews’ left arm before the ball arrived. Possession went to the Gamecocks, who ran out the clock.
Like he did on Thursday, Franklin chose not to comment for fear of getting fined with stiffer league rules in regards to coaches’ remarks about officiating. He said when officials do make a mistake, however, the league office is forthcoming.
“It’s hard to hear sometimes but I respect that. I really do,” Franklin said. “I appreciate the honesty from the SEC and the office. I think we have very good officiating in the SEC.”
Right after the play, Franklin was seen motioning to an official that Swearinger tugged on Matthews’ arm. After every SEC game, the Vanderbilt coaches send in questions or ask the league for clarification about certain plays.
“I think we have to widen our gap on the field and not every single call will be so heart-breaking to all of us,” Franklin said. “… I actually think the officiating in the SEC is really good. I think you when you play a bunch of very close games like we do, every call is magnified. When we start being able to spread the gap and have more significant wins where every call is not so important for us, they won’t cut as deep for us.”
• Judging by Franklin’s emotionless tone and choice of tense, Warren Norman’s carries could be numbered – or non-existent.
The 5-foot-10 junior running back hasn’t played in a game since Oct. 30, 2010. Apparently the former SEC freshman of the year hasn’t impressed the coaches enough for them to take a chance on his surgically repaired right knee. He is listed on the second team but Franklin said Norman’s status for Saturday is still in the balance.
“If he has a good week of practice, he’ll get some carries. If he doesn’t, he won’t,” Franklin said. “I love Warren. He is a great kid, good student. Had a nice career here. We’ll see what he does this week. If he has a great week of practice, he’ll play.”
• Joining Norman on the list of uncertainty is running back Jerron Seymour. The sophomore was no in uniform on Thursday and was not listed on this week’s depth chart. Franklin doesn’t know if the sophomore will travel and plans to make that decision by Thursday morning.
The 5-foot-7, 190-pounder was third on the team in rushing last year but battled a knee injury. He was limited in practice during the preseason.
Wesley Tate has moved from second-team receiver to Zac Stacy's backup and a spot on the first team if the Commodores feature a two-back set. The 215-pounder rushed seven times for 17 yards against South Carolina. Brian Kimbrow moves to the second team after the true freshman had two carries for five yards.
• More than 4.1 million viewers tuned into see Vanderbilt and South Carolina kick off the college football season for ESPN’s most-watched Thursday night season opener since 1994.
The SEC battle drew a 3.0 national rating, which is the highest since Virginia and Auburn opened the season in 1998.