Robbie Caldwell is on the job hunt.
Caldwell, who coached his last game at Vanderbilt on Saturday night, already has an idea of what his next career might be.
“I know one thing I am definitely going to do if I can’t find work and that’s being an official,” Caldwell said. “Now that I’m no longer here, that crew tonight ... it was unbelievable. I told them I’m a perfect fit. My eyesight’s bad. I’m out of shape and fat, you got the best seat in the house and you get paid for it. So that is something I’d like to do, go into officiating.”
Right down to the end, Caldwell kept the mood light. Less than 12 hours after stepping down as the Commodores’ head coach and just minutes after Vanderbilt lost its regular-season finale 34-13 to Wake Forest, the 56-year-old tried to stay as positive as he could.
Still, even Caldwell admitted there was a sense of disappointment in what turned out to be a very short tenure. The longtime assistant coach, who spent the previous eight seasons at Vanderbilt coaching the offensive line, was named the head coach in mid-July after Bobby Johnson abruptly retired.
Caldwell, like Johnson, couldn’t produce a remarkable turnaround. Vanderbilt finished the season 2-10 for the second straight year and ended on a seven-game losing streak, which is tied for the second-longest active skid in the FBS.
On Saturday morning, Caldwell announced he was stepping down as head coach and Vice Chancellor of University Affairs and Athletics Williams said the two reached a “mutual agreement that the university and the football program needed to go in a new direction.”
“I’m sad. I hated to leave those players in the locker room,” Caldwell said after the game. “I told them that my uniform colors may change but my loyalty to them will always remain the same. I love every one of them.”
After the game, Caldwell would not say if he was told to resign by the administration. His players, however, said it wasn’t Caldwell’s choice to leave.
“Coach Caldwell made it clear to us that he was fired. He would never quit on us. Coach Caldwell is not a quitter,” wide receiver Jordan Matthews said. “That is what he wanted to keep reiterating. Coach Caldwell is not a quitter. He is not going to resign on anyone. He loves all of us and he is going fight to the very end and he is going to go down swinging.”
The Commodores showed some fight early against Wake Forest (3-9), but fizzled out by halftime.
They opened with a 31-yard field goal by Ryan Fowler for a 3-0 lead just four minutes into the game. Wake Forest responded with a seven-play, 70-yard scoring drive, which was capped off by a 15-yard touchdown by Josh Harris.
Quarterback Jared Funk, who made his first career start in place of the injured Larry Smith, then gave the Demon Deacons the ball right back as he threw an interception on third play of the following drive.
Wake Forest settled for a field goal but it was the first of several miscues for Vanderbilt.
Fowler missed two attempts – a 50-yarder fell short and a 37-yard attempt went wide right – and the Commodores’ Richard Kent had two punts blocked. The first one – by C.J. Washington – gave Wake Forest the ball at the Vanderbilt 11-yard line. Three plays later, quarterback Tanner Price rushed in for a 4-yard touchdown for a 24-3 lead with 2:28 to go in the first half. Kent also had a punt block by Chris Givens in the third quarter and it was the first time since Wake Forest played Vanderbilt nearly two years ago that it had two blocked punts in one game.
“People didn’t do their job,” Caldwell said. “They had one little special trick for us but we should have had time. I don’t know if it was cold, slow getting the ball off, whatever. I don’t know ... very disappointing though I know that.”
Vanderbilt finished with 443 total yards, including 277 passing. Funk, a senior, was 27-of-61 with two interceptions and just one touchdown.
The defense allowed just 299 total yards – well down from the usual 430.2 yards a game it allows. But the Commodores gave up 184 rushing yards in the first half, including 131 yards from Harris. He had 74 on one play in the second quarter, which set up the Demon Deacons’ second touchdown.
Yet again, it turned out to be laugher for the Commodores.
“I felt like we played very uninspired,” Vanderbilt linebacker John Stokes said. “It seemed like the wind was cut out of our sails. I don’t think they were that much better of a team than us and I was disappointed how we played and how it turned out.”
• Matthews hauled in a 17-yard touchdown pass from Funk with 12:26 left in the game. It was the freshman’s fourth touchdown of the season. He has caught all four in the fourth quarter of the last four games – all from Funk.
“I’m very pleased,” Caldwell said. “I know he was very emotional tonight. I’m very close to him and I recruited him myself. He’s a special young man and he’s going to have a great career here.”
• Funk’s 61 pass attempts were the most since Jay Cutler threw 66 against Kentucky in 2005.
• Vanderbilt has finished six of the last 10 seasons with just two victories.
• Wake Forest snapped a nine-game losing streak, which was the longest active skid in the FBS. Memphis and San Jose State have the nation’s longest current streak, with nine consecutive setbacks.
“I was really impressed. We, like Vanderbilt, have played a brutal schedule,” Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said. “We’ve had nine straight losses to bowl teams. Tonight, our guys played good football and didn’t lose focus. I was also proud of a Vanderbilt team that played through adversity losing their coach.”