NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Vanderbilt Commodores are coming off a big win over a pesky neighbor, and the schedule is testing coach Derek Mason's mantra of focusing only on the next opponent with No. 19 Kansas State and top-ranked Alabama looming next.
That's why Mason mentioned how Howard went into UNLV on opening weekend and upset a big favorite with Vanderbilt hosting Alabama A&M on Saturday in its home opener.
''Alabama, Alabama A&M, it's all the same,'' Mason said. ''We have to be about the work. Again, there are no guarantees. If you look at the UNLV-Howard game, it's a clear perspective on what can happen in college football if you go in with the wrong attitude. Right now these guys are dialed and locked in. We just have to continue to be about the work.''
Alabama A&M is a Football Championship Subdivision school that lost its opener 38-7 to Alabama-Birmingham . Vanderbilt beat Middle Tennessee 28-6 on the road and is looking for its first 2-0 start since 2011, which featured a win over another FCS team in Elon. That also was the last time Vanderbilt won its home opener.
Bulldogs coach James Spady is just happy for the opportunity - and the paycheck - that comes with playing a Southeastern Conference team.
''Coach Mason gets it ...,'' Spady said. ''He understands what's necessary for us to advance as institutions. And it's not just about the football. He understands there's an economic element that's really important.''
Some other things to know about Alabama A&M and Vanderbilt:
NOT QUITE PERFECT: Alabama A&M will be the 21st FCS-level program the Commodores have played, and Vanderbilt has a pretty good record in those games. It's just not perfect at 19-1. The Citadel beat Vanderbilt 27-14 on Sept. 22, 1979, and is the lone loss the Commodores have against that division. Vanderbilt beat Tennessee State 35-17 last year.
RUN RALPH RUN: Vanderbilt senior Ralph Webb already is the school's all-time leading rusher. But he did more as a receiver in the Commodores' opener than as a running back, finishing with 49 yards on 24 carries with one touchdown. ''Running the football is who we are,'' Mason said. Webb currently is 19th all-time among SEC rushers with 3,391 yards in his career, and he could pass Alabama's Bobby Humphrey (3,420) easily for 18th.
ROUGH START: Bulldogs freshman quarterback Aqeel Glass is coming off a debut where he was 7 of 17 for 101 yards with a touchdown with an interception run back for a touchdown. Spady says Glass was very excited after the TD pass. ''And he turned around and threw his first pick 6 and I said, `Well, now you're back to even.'''
SACK ATTACK: Vanderbilt is coming off its best game sacking the quarterback since 2013 when the Commodores last picked up five sacks. Charles Wright led the defense with three sacks, while Dare Odeyingbo added two. It was the first career start for Wright, a redshirt junior.
MOTIVATION: ''If you love football, you don't have to get motivated to play anybody. You're just grateful to be out there no matter who you're playing,'' Vanderbilt safety Ryan White.''
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