NASHVILLE, Tenn.-Vanderbilt coach Robbie Caldwell started his day by telling his players he wouldn't be back as Commodore coach next year, and ended it with an embarrassing blowout loss to a Wake Forest team that entered Saturday on a nine-game losing streak.
A litany of mistakes, missed opportunities, and poor s plagued Vanderbilt, as the Commodores dropped their season-ending game to Wake Forest by a 34-13 score.
The Demon Deacons blocked two punts that led to 10 points, picked off a Jared Funk pass that led to three more, and the Commodores missed a pair of field goals, allowing Wake an easy victory even though VU out-gained the visitors, 443-299.
Funk, making a senior day start for VU, completed 27-of-61 passes for 277 yards and one touchdown, and rushed 15 times for 70 more. But the one score, which went to Jordan Matthews, came after VU was down 34-6.
"It's been a rough day. The game didn't turn out like we wanted," Caldwell said. "We played hard. we continued to shoot ourselves in the foot, and didn't score points."
Vanderbilt Stadium, which holds 39,770 fans, was filled to approximately one-fourth of its capacity as the night begun. It didn't take too long for fans to begin filtering out as things got bad early, and turned worse throughout the evening. Just a few hundred remained when the fourth quarter started.
The Demon Deacons led 14-3 at the end of the first quarter, and 24-6 at half. Wake Forest had failed to gain 300 yards in its previous four games coming in, but already had 212 at the half, including 184 on the ground.
Ryan Fowler started the game with a 31-yard field goal for Vandy, but Josh Harris had a 15-yard touchdown run on WFU's next possession to give the Deacons a 7-3 lead.
Funk threw a pick on the next drive, and Wake took over on the Commodore 31. WFU kicker Jimmy Newman converted a 32-yard field goal from there.
Josh Adams added an 11-yard TD run with 10:09 left before half, putting the Deacons up by 14.
Wake's Gelo Orange blocked a Richard Kent punt late in the second quarter, and the Deacons recovered at the VU 11. Tanner Price scored on a 4-yard quarterback keeper three plays later.
Midway through the third quarter, Wake blocked another Kent punt and took over at the VU 27. Newman tacked on another field goal, and Wake led 27-6.
Chris Givens added a fourth-quarter scoring run for the visitors.
Funk hit Matthews with a fourth-quarter scoring pass, marking the fourth game in a row the duo has connected on a fourth-quarter scoring play.
It was the last day at VU for Caldwell, the nine-year Commodore assistant who was promoted to head coach with the abrupt departure of coach Bobby Johnson this summer, and Caldwell said he'll miss being on the sidelines in Nashville.
"I hated to leave those players in the locker room. But, you know, I told them my uniform colors may change, but my loyalty to them will always remain the same.
"I love every one of them. It's a tough time. Anytime you make a change, it's tough, but it's part of life."
The easy-going Caldwell was able to find humor after the end of a long day, as has been characteristic throughout the year. First, he joked that he might "try a 9-to-5 job," and even claimed he told the game's officiating crew he'd consider becoming one of them.
"I told them I'm a perfect fit. My eyesight's bad, I'm out-of-shape and fat, and you've got the best seat in the house, and you get paid for it," Caldwell cracked at the post-game press conference.
Matthews, who looks like an emerging star, didn't share Caldwell's post-game light-heartedness. The emerging freshman was recruited by Caldwell, and took Caldwell's departure hard.
"It was almost like we got punched in the face. I take it [really] personally, because coach Caldwell was my recruiting coordinator. He actually got me here, when a lot of colleges wouldn't take that chance.
"So, it was a very solemn feeling, very quiet, and very reflective. ... It's kind of sad in the locker room, and I'm kind of still in disbelief."
Earlier in the day, Vanderbilt Vice Chancellor David Williams held a press conferene announcing a "mutual" parting of ways between VU and Caldwell. VU started the season 2-3, but lost its last seven games by an average of almost 27 points.