Arkansas nips Vanderbilt, 21-19

Jared Hawkins (VM/Stan Jones)

NASHVILLE, TN – Playing at home for the first time this season, the Commodores dropped a nail-biter to the Arkansas Razorbacks 21-19.

Down by two late in the fourth quarter, the 'Dores faced a fourth-and-long situation that would have effectively ended the game if not converted, However, a scrambling Commodore quarterback Chris Nickson chucked the ball toward wide receiver George Smith, who wasn't open but managed to win an athletic jump ball for the first down to keep hope alive. Later that drive, sophomore Bryant Hahnfeldt's 48-yard field goal attempt into the wind to take the lead with 60 seconds on the clock fell about one foot short of the crossbar, ending the game.

Nickson ended the day 12 for 26 for 124 yards and one touchdown pass, and running for two touchdowns.

For the first time this season, the 'Dores established a strong running game in the first quarter. Nickson capped the convincing opening drive –nine plays for 87 yards – with a six-yard touchdown run. After Arkansas tied the game on a 56-yard touchdown pass from Mitch Mustain to Marcus Monk, running back Cassen Jackson-Garrison caught a nine-yard touchdown, his first career catch for a touchdown. However, a botched snap on the ensuing point-after attempt left the score 13-7.

Jared Hawkins recorded his career-long run early in the first quarter on a 41-yard off-tackle run, netting 76 yards on three carries. Cassen Jackson-Garrison led the 'Dores on the ground with 90 yards on 21 carries and two receptions, including one for his first receiving touchdown.

The Commodore defense did a good job of containing one of the best running backs in the country, limiting Darren McFadden to 71 yards. On a fourth-and 16, Commodore cornerback Darlron Spead made his first career interception with a 26-yard runback. Other defensive superlatives include team-high seven tackles from both Joel Caldwell and Jonathan Goff as well as a sack by Curtis Gatewood.

A pivotal point on the game came in the final three minutes of the third quarter when Arkansas quarterback Mitch Mustain attempted a pass to McFadden. The pass was ruled incomplete. However, the ball instead appeared to be a fumbled lateral, which was recovered by Vanderbilt and would likely have been run back for a touchdown. The Razorbacks scored a touchdown three plays later.

Today's attendance was 32,202.

The Commodores (0-3) return to action in Vanderbilt Stadium next Saturday when they face the Tennessee State University Tigers. It is the first time for the two universities, both located in Nashville, to face each other. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. For tickets, call 615-322-GOLD or visit VUCommodores.com.


Photo by Stan Jones.

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