No matter how much Vanderbilt's football team has improved this season, the Commodores are still struggling to put fans in the stands.
Vanderbilt Stadium — the Southeastern Conference's smallest with 39,790 seats — has averaged only 32,732.
This week, first-year coach James Franklin called for Vandy fans to fill the stands and create a true home-field advantage against Kentucky on Saturday.
The school administration is doing its part with one promotion that's offering two free tickets to each season ticket holder.
Another promotion gives a $15 discount on tickets if the fan brings a canned good to the game for Second Harvest.
Tickets discounted to $35 also are available to Vandy employees and groups buying at least 15 tickets.
As of late Friday afternoon, Ticketmaster still had several good seats available for the noon game.
Quarterback Jordan Rodgers made his own plea for gold and black fans to show.
"If they're not going to show up, they're going to miss a show," he said. "We're going to defend our home field. We're going to play well. I think it's important for our fans to show up and give support to us. ... We want a tough environment for Kentucky to come in here and when we pack it out, it can be a tough place to play."
Joker Phillips was asked about Vanderbilt's ploys to get more fans in its sometimes half-empty stands and the UK coach had a wish of his own.
"They've had a lot bigger crowds than they've had" in the past, Phillips said. "We expect our people to come out also. There's still a lot out there for us to play for. Hopefully (our fans) show up."
Returns on return game?
Kentucky is last in the league in punt returns, averaging just 1.8 yards per return. For the season, the Cats have managed only 29 total yards.
Gene McCaskill hopes to change that. The wide receiver, who has battled a back injury and knee issues, said he's "in the best shape I've been in this season."
McCaskill returned punts his freshman and sophomore seasons and hopes that experience will pay off starting this week.
"Hopefully these next three games I can have big games and fill in what we've been missing," McCaskill said.
'Go back a ways'
First-year coach James Franklin and UK Coach Joker Phillips were in similar situations a few years ago when Franklin was the so-called "coach in waiting" at Maryland when Phillips had the same pseudo title at UK.
Phillips said this week that the two talked often during that time.
Saturday's game marks the first time two black head coaches will go against each other in an SEC game.
Phillips said Vandy was fortunate to get Franklin.
"All he does is elevate our league," Phillips said. "He's done an outstanding job."
Butkus committee: Trevathan got long look
After reading a story this week about UK senior linebacker Danny Trevathan being left off the final list for the Butkus Award, the nation's top linebacker honor, reader Bill Gardner contacted Ron Arp, an award committee spokesman, about it. Gardner got a quick response from Arp. It's as follows:
"As promised, I spoke with the selection committee coordinator, and he said the committee studied Trevathan closely because he indeed has good stats. They noted some softness in his inside coverage, pulling guard reads, etc. He was right on the edge of making the semi-finalist list with a few other players, but the selection committee was comfortable drawing the line with the 12 named."
Battle for blood
The annual Big Blue Crush between UK and Tennessee fans starts next week. Last year was the first time since 2002 that the UK fans won the crush, which runs from Nov. 14-18.
All donors will receive a Big Blue Crush T-Shirt and a coupon for a free McDonald's McCafe beverage, according to the Kentucky Blood Center.There are also several prizes that donors will be eligible for, including an NCAA game package.
There are several pre-game happenings for fans going to Nashville for the game, including the Greater Nashville UK Alumni Club's pre-game event at 9 a.m. (CST) in the parking lot located at the corner of West End and Blakemore near the stadium.
The Cat Walk will be held at 9 a.m. at Gate One of the stadium off Natchez Trace Drive.
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