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STOP: There is no Quarterback Controversy; Larry Smith should be Vanderbilt’s Starting QB

Content provided by Vanderbilt Sports Line.

I don’t care that Jared Funk led the Commodores down the field for their only touchdown in the second half. He is not as good as Larry Smith. I know Vanderbilt fans have been frustrated with Smith’s play at times, but he is not the reason this team isn’t winning games. From what I saw, he’s the guy playing the hardest and trying to make the most happen on the field. Does he hold the ball too long? Sometimes. Does he miss throws he should make? No question. But he is unquestionably Vanderbilt’s best option under center. Disagree? Tell me why.

Who Should be Vanderbilt’s Starting Quarterback?customer surveys

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Vandy’s Changes On Offense Only Lead To More Questions

Last week, Vanderbilt head coach Robbie Caldwell decided that changes were necessary on the offensive side of the ball.  Play-calling duties were stripped from Jimmy Kiser and given to new offensive coordinator Des Kitchings.  Heading into a game with an Arkansas squad that had given up more than 1000 yards in its previous two games, expectations were high for the Commodores.  More carries for Warren Norman and Zac Stacy were expected.

Here’s how things played out in Fayetteville:

Vandy’s first drive — 0-0 tie
Warren Norman rush for 2 yards
Warren Norman rush for 51 yards (15 yard Arkansas penalty)
Jonathan Krause 21 yard touchdown run on a reverse
Vandy 7, Arkansas 0

Vandy’s second drive — 7-6 Vandy lead
Larry Smith run for 7 yards
Zac Stacy run for 4 yards
Larry Smith incomplete pass
Larry Smith run for 13 yards
Larry Smith pass complete to Tray Herndon for 6 yards
Larry Smith run for 4 yards
Larry Smith incomplete pass
Larry Smith incomplete pass
Warren Norman run for 6 yards
Larry Smith pass complete to Brandon Barden for 12 yards
Vandy false start (-5 yards)
Larry Smith touchdown pass to Brandon Barden for 8 yards
Vandy 14, Arkansas 6

Not a bad start.  Two series, two touchdowns.  And then the Commodores lifted Smith to give backup quarterback Jared Funk some playing time. 

Result: An interception on his second pass which gave Arkansas the ball on Vandy’s 20… along with all the game’s momentum.  The Commodores gained 140 yards on their first two possessions.  They gained 13 total over the game’s final three quarters.

Final score: Arkansas 49, Vandy 14.  And for all the talk of giving more touches to Norman and Stacy, the two finished with a combined 17 carries.

To be honest, the Razorbacks likely would have picked apart Vandy’s secondary eventually anyway.  But the coaches’ decision to toy with a good start won’t be a highlight of their season-long audition.

You can bet that a lot of Vandy fans and boosters were saying what we often write on this site — If the plates are spinning, don’t touch ‘em.  For a quarter, the plates were spinning for VU’s offense.  But rather than ride the flow of the game and scrap their pregame plans to give Funk the third series, Caldwell and Kitchings chose to mess with success.

The head coach defended his decision after the game, saying that Funk had earned the playing time in Series Three with good practices.

“And it might have helped Larry play better, having a little pressure on him.  Who’s to say whether it did or didn’t?”

True enough.  But who’s to say a coach can’t change his mind if things are going well for his team?

Caldwell didn’t.  He rewarded Funk for his practice work and benched a hot hand.  By doing so he cost his team all its momentum.  And he might’ve cost himself more than that.

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Funky Move Swings Momentum

Content provided by The Slophouse.

It only lasted three plays, but its effect lasted three quarters in Arkansas’ 49-14 win over Vanderbilt Saturday night.

Leading 14-13 on the road against a ranked opponent, the Commodores uncharacteristically switched quarterbacks. Despite leading Vanderbilt on a pair of touchdown drives to begin the game, Larry Smith was sidelined for a series in place of Jared Funk.

“We hadn’t seen that back-up quarterback until the end of the game situations,” Arkansas defensive coordinator Willy Robinson said. “Maybe that was one of their thoughts was to have a two-quarterback rotation.”

Presumably the move was made to change the pace – a frenetic one the Commodores had used to rack up 130 yards of total offense in the first 13 plays of new offensive coordinator Des Kitchings’ tenure in the role. Instead, it changed momentum when Razorbacks safety Rudell Crim intercepted Funk’s third down pass and returned it to the Vandy 20.

Ryan Mallett hit Jarius Wright for the first of two 15-yard scoring strikes shortly thereafter to give Arkansas a 20-14 lead and the rout was on.

Jerry Franklin stripped Smith in the endzone for a safety on the next play from scrimmage to make it 22-14. Lance Ray returned the ensuing kick 66 yards to the Vandy 25 and Mallett needed only three plays to hit Wright for another touchdown to make it 29-14.

When it was all said and done the No. 19 Razorbacks had scored 23 points in the span of 6 minutes, 59 seconds.

Arkansas would go on to give up just 23 more yards the entire game.

“The defensive line was doing a great job,” Franklin said. “They were getting sacks and putting a lot of pressure on the quarterback tonight.

“After those first couple of series we got everything together, started running to the ball and making plays.”

Smith and the Commodores never found the same offensive groove they enjoyed in their first two offensive drives. Vanderbilt’s final 11 plays of the first half went for minus-13 yards as Arkansas recorded three sacks in the second quarter.

The Razorbacks defense scored nine points in the game. In addition to Franklin’s safety, Jerico Nelson returned an interception 39 yards for a score in the fourth quarter. Nelson’s interception also came off Funk, playing his second series of the evening.

“It felt great,” Franklin said. “I think that was our first time to score on the defensive side of the ball this year. It’s always a good feeling when you can help the offense out.”

Arkansas needed little help, offensively. Mallett broke his own school record with 409 passing yards and 3 touchdowns, while Knile Davis rolled up 82 yards and a pair of scores on the ground.

After trailing 14-6 at one point, Arkansas scored 43 unanswered points to end the game and earned bowl eligibility for the second consecutive season.

“We have a lot of confidence in our offense,” said tight end D.J. Williams, who won the Crip Hall Award for most outstanding senior on Homecoming. “Ryan did a great job of delivering the ball and Knile rushed the ball well to balance it out a little bit. We didn’t start off the way we wanted to on our first drive but got rolling after that for the rest of the game.

“I want to say it was the most complete game we’ve played as a team. The special teams gave up a couple of big plays on kickoff, but did well in the other phases. We got points from the defense. As a team we clicked well tonight.”

For more visit You can follow Matt Jones on Twitter @NWAMatt.

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