For the second time in as many weeks, the Vanderbilt Commodores orchestrated a come-from-behind victory late in the fourth quarter, defeating the Arkansas Razorbacks 28-24 Sept. 9.
The last time Vanderbilt logged consecutive victories was in 1999, when the ‘Dores beat Ole Miss and Duke. Like this year, both victories came on the road.
For a game with such a climactic finale for the Black-and-Gold, things started out poorly. Fourth-year head coach Bobby Johnson saw his Commodores give up 10 quick points and saw little promise for offensive effectiveness. Quarterback Jay Cutler managed only a total eight total yards on the ‘Dores first two possessions, both of which were three-and-outs.
However, the defense that gave up 175 yards in the first 14 minutes of the game suddenly seemed invigorated and managed to keep the Hogs out of the end zone on a dramatic fourth-and-goal stand.
Following the tangible turn in momentum from the Hogs to the ‘Dores, the Commodore offense regained its form from the previous week in Wake Forest on its third possession, moving the ball convincingly to the Arkansas one-yard line and eventually into the end zone on a one-yard run by Cutler. The drive, marked by a balance of rushing and passing attacks, was twice resuscitated by defensive penalties on third-down.
The ‘Dores’ defense then forced the Razorbacks into a three and out. The Commodores would score next – a 23-yard field-goal by freshman Bryant Hahnfeldt to knot the game at 10, where it would stay at the half.
The ‘Dores took the lead on their first possession of the second half. Hahnfeldt managed his second field goal of the night, this one from 28 yards. The Razorbacks regained the lead on the possession on a Robert Johnson seven-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Monk, taking the score to 17-13.
Following Cutler’s second interception of the season, the Razorbacks managed back-to-back touchdowns, rallying the score to 24-13. Showing senior leadership much like he did in Winston-Salem, N.C., last week, Cutler responded with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Marlon White, capping a seven-play, 70-yard drive. Down by five with 12:44 to go in the game, Cutler again found White in the end zone to complete the two-point conversion, taking the score to 21-24.
Hahnfeldt had a chance to tie the game with 2:46 left in the game, but the 43-yard attempt fell short and the Hogs had the game in their hands with a boisterous majority of the 68,215 in attendance behind them.
However, a three-and-out for the Hogs opened the door for the ‘Dores. For the second consecutive week, Vanderbilt had the ball and a chance to come from behind to win the game with fewer than three minutes left to play. With 1:46 on the clock and facing a fourth and 10 on their own 34-yard line, Cutler gunned a 19-yard bullet to Erik Davis. On the next play, he scrambled to buy time and hit a diving Bennett on the Hogs’ 34. He hit Dustin Dunning and then he hit White.
An overthrown pass in the end zone followed by a pass-interference call brought the ball to the Hogs’ six-yard line. Cutler threw to White again, this time to take the lead with 26 seconds to play.
Fans celebrate VU’s 28-24 victory.
An interception by senior Moses Osemwegie sealed the ‘Dores’ second consecutive win, a first since 1999. It was Osemwegie third career intercepion.
With his two touchdown passes, Cutler is atop the list with former quarterbacks Greg Zolman and Whit Taylor (41). He also threw a career-high 45 attempts, completing 23 for 278 yards in the air. He rushed for a negative one yard, for 277 combined yards. The ‘Dores were five for five in red-zone scoring opportunities.
Receiver Erik Davis had a career-high seven receptions for 110 yards. Sophomore linebacker Jonathan Goff had a game-high 14 tackles. Moses Osemwegie and Kelechi Ohanaja each had eight tackles; and Kevin Joyce and Andrew Pace had seven.
Fullback Steven Bright left the game in the fourth quarter with a leg injury.
The game was the first time the Commodore football team played in Fayetteville. The teams had faced one another five times before. But the meetings had taken place in either Nashville or Little Rock.
The ‘Dores start a five-game home stand next week when they face the Ole Miss Rebels at 11:30 a.m. CT.