Robbie Caldwell was tempted to stick with the hot hand. Instead, the Vanderbilt's coach and his staff stuck with their plan and turn up the heat -- on the quarterback competition.
After starting quarterback Larry Smith led the Commodores to touchdowns on their first two drives against Arkansas last Saturday, he was pulled and inexperienced senior backup Jared Funk was inserted in his place.
Caldwell said Funk, a senior, earned the chance after a good week of preparation and he left it up to his offensive coaches to decide when to go with Funk.
“That might have made Larry hot,” Caldwell said. “If somebody is going to replace you, you work a little better, work a little harder maybe. I don’t know. But I know one thing we are working at is to try to improve and we did. We made some improvement there for a little while.”
Funk’s second pass of the game went off of the hands of tight end Brandon Barden and was intercepted. Arkansas capitalized on the turnover with what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown.
Playing in his fourth game this year, Funk returned in the fourth quarter and finished with 11 yards and two interceptions on 2-for-5 passing. Smith went 4-for-12 with 25 yards.
Caldwell said Funk will play again Saturday against Florida but was prepared to be more flexible about when.
“If Larry’s thrown 10 in a row complete, I say ‘Whoa, you stay right here with me,’” Caldwell said. “Everybody is going to jump on that (decision to put Funk in at that time) I’m sure, but we weren’t playing perfectly when we scored on those first two drives. Nobody does, it is very difficult to do.
"But I know one thing it stimulated a little excitement around here in our team. That is what we want. We got a very fragile bunch and we are trying to make sure they have every opportunity. Every asset we can use, we are going to do it.”
• Defensive end Tim Fugger sustained a neck injury and had to leave Saturday's game at Arkansas. Caldwell said the MRI didn’t show any significant damage and that Fugger was feeling better Monday.
“I tried to do him like the Little Rascals, grab it and twist it to straighten it but they wouldn’t let me to do that to get him back in there Saturday,” Caldwell joked.
Fugger’s backup Johnell Thomas also got hurt. He sprained an ankle, which Caldwell said also was improved.
Caldwell added that center Joey Bailey, who has missed the last two games due to a high ankle sprain, might be able to push off his leg in practice on Tuesday. Bailey might be moved to guard if he is healthy enough to start.
• After Saturday’s home game against Florida (5-3, 3-3), Vanderbilt will have to travel once more before it ends the season with two home games.
The Commodores will play at Kentucky on Nov. 13. They then host Tennessee the following Saturday and conclude the regular season with a non-conference contest against Wake Forest on Nov. 27.
• The SEC announced Monday that Vanderbilt’s game at Kentucky will start at 11:21 a.m.