Those of you who read my Friday morning preview of the game may remember my prediction that this would be one of the most exciting SEC games at Vanderbilt Stadium in a long time. I told you these two teams were basically evenly-matched and that it could go either way. I speculated that the winner would be the team that forced the other team into the bigger mistake.
Like a broken watch, I was finally right on the mark for once. This was a terrific game between teams equal in strength. Arkansas won the game because Mitch Mustain was able to catch a Vanderbilt defensive secondary mistake and capitalize with a touchdown pass to Marcus Monk. Vanderbilt was in a cover 2 zone (2 deep safeties split the deep routes, while the cornerbacks and linebackers cover the five underneath zones). Monk feigned a cut on an out route, and it drew Reshard Langford up for support. Monk then flattened out the route and went deep. Mustain hit him in stride, and it looked like Peyton Manning throwing to Marvin Harrison. Mustain is going to do that a bunch more before he takes a large paycheck to play in the NFL.
The freshman phenom exploited another defensive mistake in his toss to Felix Jones for another touchdown. Jones hit the seam perfectly and the Vanderbilt secondary couldn't react quickly enough. Mustain peppered the ball where it had to go.
Vanderbilt capitalized on some Arkansas mistakes early, but the Razorbacks adjusted once they were burned twice in a row. Early in the game, the Commodores capitalized on an Arkansas maneuver by their left defensive end Jamaal Anderson that left them vulnerable to a kick-out block. Cassen Jackson-Garrison broke loose for an 80-yard scamper (which was called back for a holding penalty that essentially had nothing to do with the breakaway run), and moments later, Jared Hawkins sprinted 41 yards thanks to excellent blocking by Brian Stamper and Merritt Kirchoffer.
On the screen pass for a touchdown to Jackson-Garrison, Chris Williams through a pancake block just as Arkansas was about to stop the play for no more than one yard. With the devastating block, CJG was able to waltz into the end zone. You have to wonder what Stamper and Williams would do if this was 50 years ago and teams ran unbalanced lines with an inside and outside tackle. They would make a great tandem for the old single wing power play.
Late in the game with Arkansas up 21-19 and trying to ice the game, a Commodore blitz forced Mustain to throw quickly, and the ball almost ended up in Langford's hands. He just missed being able to haul in what would have been a very difficult interception, and like the previous two games with other defensive backs, only white stripes were in his path to pay dirt.
Still, the game came down to Bryant Hahnfeldt's field goal attempt. The kick was on line, but it missed by a couple of feet. In the past, Vanderbilt has had a lot of different factors pull defeat out of the jaws of victory. Saturday, Mother Nature put the hex on the Commodores. When Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson made the decision on 4th and two to try a 49-yard field goal attempt (well within Hahnfeldt's range with no wind), the stadium flags showed the wind to be coming from the West at a light pace, maybe five miles per hour. Arkansas took a time out to ice Hahnfeldt, a move that was ridiculous, because he's not the type of person to fall for that tactic. However in the 120-140 seconds that it took between the time the field goal unit went on the field and the time Hahnfeldt actually kicked the ball, the wind changed. All of a sudden, it changed from out of the West to Straight from the South. The velocity doubled to about 10 MPH. That much wind definitely shortened Hahnfeldt's kick by enough yards to make a successful kick miss. Not until the ball reached its zenith did the wind really play havoc on its path of flight. That's why it appeared to stop at the last minute.
When sports fans, journalists, and coaches tell you that their sport is a game of inches, that cliché may be the most accurate saying when it is spoken about football. Indeed, this was a game either team could have won. This just happened to be one of the five times that Arkansas would have beaten Vanderbilt if they had played 10 times.
Vanderbilt ‘s New Season Finale Opponent
Vanderbilt and Wake Forest have entered into a seven-game series which will commence next season. The two teams will conclude their seasons through 2014 with the exception of the 2009 season.
Next year's game is scheduled for Saturday, November 24, but there is a remote chance it could be moved up a day or two in order to be televised. Coach Johnson was pleased with the agreement. "We were able to accomplish several scheduling goals with this series. We are creating an important non-conference relationship with a university that holds similar ideals as Vanderbilt," Johnson said.
Wake Forest was equally pleased with the agreement. Demon Deacon Athletics' Director Ron Wellman endorsed the series. "This is a natural series for us. Vanderbilt plays in a major conference, the SEC, and they are a similar institution to us," Wellman said. "They are also close enough for our fans to travel to the games played in Nashville. This could develop into an excellent rivalry which is the reason we signed a long contract."
This series came about after the Southeastern Conference persuaded all 12 member schools to conclude play on the same weekend. It now allows the Commodores to enjoy an open date in the 12-game schedule.
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