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September 16, 2006

Close not good enough, as Vandy falls to Arkansas

NASHVILLE-A gust of wind. A dropped interception. A missed extra point. A missed call on a lateral that was ruled an incompletion.

All played a part in costing Vanderbilt (0-3) its first win of the season, as Arkansas (2-1) defeated the Commodores 21-19 at Dudley Field on Saturday.

The death knell sounded when Vandy's Bryant Hahnfeldt missed a potential game-winning 48-yard field goal with just under a minute to play, allowing Arkansas to escape with its first SEC win.

Vandy coach Bobby Johnson thought Hahnfelt had hit the game-winner.

"Believe it or not, actually, the wind picked up right before he kicked it, "said Johnson. "I swear, it picked up. You can't plan on that. You can't control that. I wish I could. I'd be undefeated."

On the final VU drive, the Commodores had converted a miracle fourth-and-6 deep in their own territory when Chris Nickson, under heavy Arkansas pressure, heaved a ball towards the sidelines to George Smith, who caught it for a first down.

The VU defense had just stopped Arkansas as quarterback Mitch Mustain threw a ball right to Vandy safety Reshard Langford, who dropped a sure touchdown when the ball hit him in the hands before he dropped it on a third-down play.

Those weren't the only bad breaks the Commodores caught. Earlier in the third quarter, a Mustain lateral to Darren McFadden was ruled an incomplete pass. Vandy's Jonathan Goff picked up the ball and had clear sailing towards the end zone, but officials blew the play dead. Later in the drive, Mustain found tight end Ben Cleveland to give the 'Hawgs a 21-13 lead.

But the Commodores answered that score early in the fourth, when Nickson capped a 10-play, 69-yard drive with a 15-yard scramble around the right side for a touchdown.

Because of a bad snap cost them an extra point earlier in the game, the Commodores needed a two-point conversion for the tie. The play failed when Nickson's pass hit a Vandy lineman, and the score remained 21-19.

Vandy opened the scoring when Nickson ran for a seven-yard touchdown on the game's opening possession. Later in the half, he added a nine-yard scoring strike to Cassen Jackson-Garrison.

Arkansas countered VU's first score when Mustain hit a wide-open Marcus Monk for a 56-yard score. The Razorbacks took the lead for good when Mustain caught the Commodores in a blitz and lofted a swing pass to Felix Jones for a 21-yard score with 3:42 left in the first half, which put them ahead for good.

The game, played in front of 32,202 fans, was VU's home opener. Vandy faces Tennessee State in Nashville next Saturday at 6 p.m.


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