Just like last week in a comeback at Ole Miss and after the rally against Texas A&M at Cowboys Stadium, there were times the Hogs had a hard time looking "pretty" in a victory over the Commodores.
The Commodores malfunctioned on two critical plays in the North end zone of Vanderbilt Stadium. Running back Zac Stacy fumbled before contact on a second-and-goal play at the UA 3-yard line.
Franklin executed the scoop and score to perfection, taking Stacy's fumble 96 yards the other direction. The Hogs tied the score when Tyler Wilson's scramble and across-the-body throw found Jarius Wright for the two-point conversion.
Near the same spot, Casey Spear missed a 27-yard field goal that would have tied the game with eight seconds left. It was never close, kind of like Stacy on his fumbled run that let the Hogs back in it when it appeared the Commodores were on the verge of going up 35-20.
"I don't think anyone hit him or caused the ball to pop out," Franklin said. "Maybe someone did get the ball, but I thought it just popped free. I was tracking the running back and I think he tried to put on a little move and just lost it out of his hands.
"I got to it and pretty quickly I knew it was going to be a touchdown. I had quite a nice little escort and I didn't think anyone would get me. I can tell you that they weren't going to score on that play. We had people there and were going to stop it. It was going to be a good defensive stand."
The Hogs did make a few plays in the second half. But they were their usual lackluster self in the first half when Vandy jumped to a 21-7 lead. There were missed tackles at linebacker and in the secondary.
Vanderbilt scored only once after intermission, but Franklin denied there were any true adjustments at the break. The only visible change was Elton Ford taking over at free safety for Tramain Thomas, the second time the senior has been benched for missed tackles this season.
"Adjustments?" Franklin said. "Naw. We just tackled better in the second half. It was not very good by the linebackers and secondary in the first half. I thought the defensive line played good the whole game. They were doing their job.
"I told our guys at halftime that it was on the back seven, not the front four. The back seven wasn't tackling. I know I missed some. We just tackled better.
"We are 7-1 and that's good, but this is not how we want to play. This is not the way we want to start. We don't want to play like that in the first half. That's not how we are supposed to play." Defensive coordinator Willy Robinson called it a "disappointing day." He said the key to the second half improvement was to read the formations.
"We had (worked repetitions) over and over on what they do and it's based on formations and alignment," he said. "We are doing that in practice.
"It's things we recognize in meetings and on video and in practice, but then we don't in games. We see it from the sideline so that's on me that I'm not getting it through to them where they can react to those formations in games.
"It's on me. You keep seeing those things and realize they aren't recognizing those formations. Maybe I'm giving them too much to try to recognize. I just know that what's happening shouldn't happen and that's on me.
"We were erratic all day. We couldn't create a pass rush with four. Honestly, I'm still searching for something."
Even when the defense made plays, they didn't always work out. Robinson said Jerico Nelson broke one of the cardinal rules when he lost the ball at the end of his fumble return just after Franklin's scoop and score.
"The rule is, when we get a ball back it's going to be ours when the whistle blows," Robinson said. "He fumbled it back. That breaks the rule. You have to have it when the play is over. That's what we emphasize."
Defensive end Jake Bequette said, "We are very fortunate to be 7-1. Definitely, this was not very satisfying today. I think 7-1 looks good on paper, but it's very frustrating to play like this. We were lucky they missed the kick. If there was anything we did right, it was holding firm after they hit that long pass near the end. "All I can tell you is that we haven't played well and when we do play well, it's going to look pretty awesome."
Tyler Wilson broke the school record for consecutive passes without an interception. His streak (176 straight) goes back to the pick six against Alabama in the second quarter. It's the sixth longest in SEC history. He was 27 of 43 for 316 yards, but when told of the mark he could only chuckle.
"I'm just glad we got a win," Wilson said. "I guess (the record) is a positive, but they dropped six (interceptions).
"Their secondary is good, very aggressive. They make you guess. You are not sure what they are going to do sometimes. Some teams are very disciplined in their coverage, but they give their guys the freedom to roam and try to make plays."
There are some open areas on the field. Jarius Wright found them behind Casey Hayward for some big plays and there were a couple of near misses as he beat the Vandy corner.
"They were giving us that play and we almost got them quite a few times," said Garrick McGee, the UA offensive coordinator. "That was the spot on the field we were going after."
Wright said, "It's a coverage where the corner tries to get a hand on you and slow you down. But I got by him quite a few times. He tipped a couple away at the last instant. But I didn't get him some."
Wright had 10 catches for 135 yards. Joe Adams added six for 45. Tight end Chris Gragg had five catches for 62 yards.
"We knew that Chris going to be a big part of today," Wilson said. "He was very good at reading the option routes all week in practice and we were able to work that today."
McGee said Wilson made some critical plays to help the Hogs, but he missed some others.
"What I can say is that Tyler is Tyler and he keeps battling," McGee said. "He finds a way to win. He had some bad progressions today, but he also performed with the game on the line. He showed poise in some big situations. He keeps playing. "Really, that's what we did best today, keep trying to compete. We were resilient. We kept fighting."
While some were disappointed, frustrated and called it a lucky win, Jarius Wright wasn't buying any of it.
"It was not our best performance, but it was good enough to get a win," Wright said. "We are going back to Arkansas happy. "We can't get frustrated. We expect to play way better, but the goal is to get a win.
"I think we are a real good team. It's just tough in the SEC. We are very good. We are resilient. We never gave up and we know what we are capable of doing when we play at our best."