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October 1, 2013

Notebook: Vandy Vengeance?

On October 5, 2012, Vanderbilt beat Missouri 19-15 in Columbia. It was the loss most view as most damaging in the Tigers' 2-and-6 debut Southeastern Conference season.

Depending on who you talk to, that loss is either motivation or a distant memory.

"I don't use revenge," E.J. Gaines said. "I just expect to win any football game we go into. This is just another game."

"Anytime you lose to a team, especially at home like that, there's a definitely a feeling we owe them," linebacker Andrew Wilson countered.

"I don't need any motivation," said Henry Josey, who will be making his SEC debut against the Commodores on Saturday night. "I've had enough motivation. I'm just happy to be out there."

In that loss to Vandy last season, James Franklin left in the first half with a knee injury. What does he remember about that game? Franklin doesn't even need a full word: "MCL," he said.

One other Tiger who figures to play a prominent role this weekend had to watch last year's loss from a distance. Dorial Green-Beckham watched the game on television with his grandparents, serving out a one-game suspension after an arrest for marijuana possession.

"It was tough to just watch my team go out there on that field without me and without some of the other players," Green-Beckham said. "It was tough just sitting there. I never really missed a game, really in high school, either. That was the first game I'd really missed. So it was tough to see my team go out there and fight, but then come up short at the end.

"I didn't get to play last year, so this should be a big game for me."

Speaking of Suspensions: Randy Ponder had every intention of playing against Arkansas State on Saturday night. But just minutes into the Tigers' 41-19 win, Ponder found himself headed to the locker room after being called for targeting. The flag brought not only a 15-yard penalty, but an automatic ejection that was upheld by replay officials.

"I saw him make a catch and I just went through my fundamentals as far as keeping my head up and driving through the ballcarrier," Ponder said. "I guess I went a little too high and they ejected me."

He was taken to the Tiger locker room where he watched the rest of the game on television.

"It was like I was in jail, kind of," Ponder said. "I couldn't even leave the locker room. Because of the rule, after the hit, I couldn't even walk out on the sidelines with the team.

"It's pretty tough as far as practicing the entire week and then, like, something like that happens and you're done for the rest of the game. It's real frustrating. I'm real excited for this next game, especially since it's the first SEC game."

Another New Venue: Mizzou's second season in the SEC brings another round of brand new road trips. The Tigers and Commodores have played five times, but Saturday will be Mizzou's first trip to Nashville.

Not that the location is the most important part of any game for those involved, but players and coaches alike still do enjoy the chance to play in different places.

"That's one of the great things about this league and certainly the Big 12 is you're playing in some great places," Gary Pinkel said. "I tell our players to embrace them."

Even after more than two decades as a head coach, Pinkel still takes a moment to enjoy the environments in which he gets to work.

"I really do. I really like it. I've always liked it," Pinkel said. "That's an awesome feeling, you go into some of those stadiums and you get a chance to play. Tennessee, South Carolina, Florida, and all the different places we've been and all the places we've played here. Oklahoma and Texas and all those places, the West Coast, they're just great, great experiences."

Likewise, the other Tigers are looking forward to another new campus.

"I appreciate every moment, period," senior receiver L'Damian Washington said. "I know that this is all a blessing. People that don't understand that, I actually kind of feel sorry for them because you never get these moments back again. Right now, I'm looking forward to it all. I definitely love going on the road and seeing different stadiums."

"It's actually kind of cool when we first get there on Friday night," Andrew Wilson said. "Coach Pinkel will take us to the stadium and we'll do a walk through in the stadium and it's kind of neat. We can kind of look at the stadium and get that out of the way so we don't do that right before the game."

"Really more the environment as you approach the stadium and are in the stadium, I would say," quarterbacks coach Andy Hill said. "It's pretty cool because you're used to going into the venues that we've all been used to going to, but it is pretty cool to go see new places."

Of course, one thing makes it a little more fun.

"They're better experiences when you win," Pinkel said.

Injury Update: Pinkel said he expected defensive tackle Matt Hoch to return against the Commodores. Hoch missed last week's game. Pinkel said he probably could have played, but the Tigers felt it was better to give him an extra week's rest so he would be healthy for SEC play. Max Copeland returned to the field last week part-time after missing the win over Indiana. Pinkel indicated that Anthony Gatti has played well while Copeland was banged up and may have worked his way into the rotation even with Copeland on the mend.

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