Vanderbilt prepared to deal with sound of silence Saturday

Austyn Carta-Samuels relied on the silent count last Saturday.

He and his Vanderbilt teammates are likely to get the silent treatment – or something close to it – this week. Rather than deal with the roar of a hostile crowd, the quarterback might just hear his voice echo throughout a mostly empty stadium.

The Commodores (1-2) will play on the road for the second consecutive week when they face the University of Massachusetts (11 a.m., ESPNews) at Gillette Stadium, the home of the NFL’s New England Patriots. The surroundings will be nothing like what they faced in their 35-25 loss before more than 81,000 at South Carolina.

“We talked about it [Sunday], that this could be a completely different atmosphere than we faced last week and we have to be a mature football team,” coach James Franklin said. “We have to understand that we have to bring our own energy. … I want to make sure our focus is on the right things, which is the game and what we put on tape not who’s in the stands or where we’re playing or the opponent.”

UMass (0-3) has hosted one game this season and it drew 15,624 for a 24-14 loss to Maine on Sept. 7. Last season the program drew 16,304 when it hosted a Big Ten opponent (Indiana) and played its final game in front of 6,385.

Gillette Stadium holds 68,756.

Three of the four smallest crowds for a Vanderbilt game since the start of 2011 have been at road games, This likely will be the smallest yet.

“That’s not something that we can really control,” defensive end Walker May said. “But we’re going to bring our own energy. We’re going to be loud on the sideline and we’re going to be jumping around and we’re going to be really excited to play this game.”

The smallest crowds for a Vanderbilt football game over the last two years:

26,134 – at Wake Forest, Dec. 31, 2012 (Vanderbilt 38, Wake Forest 24)
27,599 – vs. Elon, Sept. 3, 2011 (Vanderbilt 45, Elon 14)
28,020 – at Wake Forest, Nov. 26, 2011 (Vanderbilt 41, Wake Forest 7)
31,644 – at Northwestern, Sept. 8, 2012 (Northwestern 23, Vanderbilt 13)
32,119 – vs. Connecticut, Sept. 10, 2011 (Vanderbilt 24, UConn 21)
32,210 – vs. Army, Oct. 21, 2011 (Vanderbilt 44, Army 21)
32,227 – vs. Massachusetts, Oct. 27, 2012 (Vanderbilt 49, UMass 7)
33,247 – vs. Arkansas, Oct. 29, 2011 (Arkansas 31, Vanderbilt 28)
33,718 – vs. Kentucky, Nov. 12, 2011 (Vanderbilt 38, Kentucky 8)
34,579 – vs. Ole Miss, Sept. 17, 2011 (Vanderbilt 30, Ole Miss 7)

Vanderbilt has won its last five non-conference games, including a 49-7 rout of UMass before last season’s smallest home crowd.

This one won’t require the same adjustments needed to execute in an SEC venue.

“I enjoy the silent count,” Carta-Samuels said. “I enjoy it. I enjoyed South Carolina. I loved the way the crowd was. I think it brings a lot of intensity and energy to the game. … I think that brings out the best in people and the worst in people, and those situations teach you about your team.

“The fact that we had no penalties and were able to focus and communicate well is something that I think bodes extremely well for us in the future.”

It’s just not going to mean anything to them this weekend.