Quarterback Jay Cutler is well accustomed to being quizzed by the media after losses. But after Vanderbilt's 37-34 loss to Rutgers, Cutler turned the tables on reporters by asking a question of the assembled media.
"Was I over?" he asked. It was a reference to a 61-yard pass completion to Marlon White with 15 seconds left. The play was nullified by an official who ruled Cutler had crossed the scrimmage line before throwing, making the pass illegal.
"Did y'all see it?" he asked. "Right now I want to say I was behind it, but the film will tell. The back umpire made the call.
"I know their coach was going crazy. The sideline judge didn't think I was over, but... we hadn't been getting those calls all year, so why should we start now?"
Had the play stood, Vanderbilt would almost certainly had an attempt at a short field goal to send the game into overtime-- and could possibly have had one shot at a pass to the end zone for a winning score. Instead, the Commodores lost the down, had to walk back to their own 21 for a fourth-down play, and gave up a sack.
"That didn't lose us the game though," Cutler was quick to add. "We lost the game in the third and fourth quarters. We didn't execute the second half.
"We started off on fire. We came out and got a field goal quick. We keep scoring and keep scoring. We came out in the second half and scored. We were feeling good about ourselves.
"But we knew it was going to take a lot of points. Their offense was good, and they obviously didn't give up. They put us in another hole, and we couldn't get out of it."
Despite the loss, the Rutgers game was one of Cutler's finest. The highlights: a 48-yard gain on an option play in the first half; a 27-yard bomb to Erik Davis to open the second half; a 71-yard pass to Erik Davis that set up a short run for a score by Cutler. And then, there was the 66-yard pass to White in the final seconds that didn't count.
Senior captain Justin Geisinger returned to the starting lineup after missing two games with a sprained knee. The captain was in some pain most of the night, but still managed to stay in for the majority of the game.
"It definitely wasn't 100 percent," Geisinger said of his knee. "But I felt I could do the job. I think I played a solid game. The doctor says I should keep on getting better from here. It felt a little bit better than I thought it would.
While the defense was on the field, Geisinger spent time on the exercise bike to stretch the muscles and relieve some of the pain.
"It got a little bit tight on the sidelines, since it was a little bit cooler night," he said. "But I was able to play a full game, and I was pretty excited about that.
"It was an unfortunate outcome, but we just hope to move on from here and get back on the field. There's no question a loss like this one is just a huge disappointment. Coach Johnson said we really can't point any fingers. At times like this, we're just going to have to come together as a group and move on. There's nothing else you can do."
In the third quarter, Rutgers' Willie Foster broke through Vanderbilt's punt coverage and returned a punt 36 yards to the Vandy 30. It was damaging enough, as it led to the short drive that allowed the Scarlet Knights to cut the score to 27-16.
But the play was even more damaging for Vanderbilt. Punter Abtin Iranmanesh broke a knuckle on the play while making a tackle, according to Coach Bobby Johnson, and will be unable to punt for the next two weeks. Iranmanaesh should still be available for kickoffs, since the hand is not used.
Redshirt freshman Kyle Keown replaced Iranmanesh on the last two punts of the game. The first went 44 yards, which was the longest punt of the night. His second went only 21 yards after a high snap.
Iranmanesh averaged 31.7 yards on three kicks Saturday, but two of those were downed inside the 20.
Saturday's group of recruits making unofficial visits was not a large group, which is customary when the opponent is from outside the SEC. But the group did include several players whom the Commodores are high on.
The big names Saturday were Casey Hill (right), a wide receiver / defensive back from Cordova (Tenn.) Evangelical Christian School; Will Landers, an offensive lineman from Roswell, Ga.; Will Miller, a lineman from Centre (Ala.) Cherokee County; and Byron Walton, a lineman from Trinity (Ala.) West Morgan. (Click on each player's name to view his photo and Scout.com profile.)
Kickoff for Saturday's road game vs. Georgia has been moved to 11:30 a.m. CT for television. Jefferson-Pilot will show the game regionally. The next home game is Oct. 23 vs. Eastern Kentucky.