Backup QB Bright finally getting his chances

For the past two games, Vanderbilt has intentionally used backup quarterback Steven Bright to spell starter Jay Cutler. So far the strategy looks like a win-win, as Bright led Vandy on a touchdown drive in his first appearance Saturday. <i>Vanderbilt (1-3) hosts Rutgers Saturday at 7 pm CT (WUPN-TV; 104.5 The Zone).

NASHVILLE-- So there was Vanderbilt, holding a 10-7 lead in the second quarter against Mississippi State. Two straight weeks, the Commodores had fought for leads, only to give them away when a knockout punch could not be delivered. Set up now on the Mississippi State 49-yard line, the Commodores had a chance to make a statement and start to pull away from a team that had as many question marks inside their helmets as the Dores did.

So who comes out to quarterback the team? Steven Bright, the sophomore who has limited game-time experience. Even at such a crucial time in the game, Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson did not hesitate to stick to his plan of working Bright into the lineup and getting him some experience.

And Bright rewarded the third-year coach immediately, leading the team on a touchdown drive that put the game firmly in Vanderbilt's corner. Bright kicked the drive off with an eight-yard keeper, then capped it by sneaking it over from the one-yard line for his first career rushing touchdown.

"It is nice to know Steven can step in if something goes wrong or if Jay needs a break," said guard Brian Kovolisky. "Steven is very capable of playing quarterback and he showed it on Saturday."

Johnson decided before the Navy game he wanted to get Bright more experience if Cutler ended up getting injured and had to miss some time. For two games, Johnson has tried to work Bright into the rotation while still recognizing Cutler is still the unquestioned No. 1 quarterback.

"Steven will be able to take over and not have to get over that jittery feeling of never being in the game," Johnson said. "We're very pleased with that. Steven did a good job."

Bright saw more action in the second half and finished 2-for-4 for 11 yards through the air and two carries for nine yards. No, the numbers are not going to blow you away, but the experience is what Johnson is after for his No. 2 quarterback.

"(We want him to get) overall command of the passing game and just being able to have the experience to look down field and go through his reads," Johnson said. "He's physically talented and he can handle everything that we ask him to do in our offense."

Bright wasn't the only offensive reserve seeing quality time against the Bulldogs. Junior Nigel Seaman stepped in for Mac Pyle at right guard after Pyle quit the team midweek. At left tackle, junior Ryan King started his second straight game in place of All-America candidate Justin Geisinger.

Even with the makeshift line, the Commodores rushed for a season-high 228 yards in the 31-13 victory, an effort that earned Kovolisky (right) SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week.

"It means a lot to me," Kovolisky said. "All the hard work the O-linemen put in during the summer time and the season. I'm very proud how we have come together and performed."

The trick for the Commodores now will be to keep it going. Oddsmakers have made the Commodores favorites again this week against Rutgers, a Big East club that has run the gamut this season. The Scarlet Knights have beaten Michigan State, and also lost to Division I-AA New Hampshire.

"We know we are not good enough to win if we do not play well," Johnson said. "We will not be taking them lightly."

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Vanderbilt (1-3) meets Rutgers (2-2) at 7 p.m. Saturday at Vanderbilt Stadium.

Bill Trocchi is Interactive Editor at Athlon Sports.


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