October 29, 2011

Last-minute heartbreak

NASHVILLE, Tenn.--Vanderbilt's Carey Spear missed a 27-yard field goal in the final seconds that could have sent the game to overtime, as the Commodores blew a double-digit second-half lead in a 31-28 loss to Arkansas on Saturday afternoon at Dudley Field.

The Commodores out-gained Arkansas 462-388, but made crucial errors that cost themselves a chance to win. It's the second-straight time the 'Dores have seen a conference game go down to the final seconds and lost.

"That was a tough loss. That was a very, very tough loss. When you play a really good team, you can't make mistakes. Turnovers, missed opportunities, penalties - you can't beat yourself," coach James Franklin.

For most of the day, this one seemed to be the Commodores' for the taking. Vandy led 28-20 early in the fourth quarter, but the Commodores' normally sure-handed Zac Stacy dropped a handoff on a second-and-goal play from the Arkansas 3. The Razorbacks' Jerry Franklin picked it up and rumbled 94 yards for the score, and a 2-point conversion pulled Arkansas even for the first time all day.

A Zach Hocker field goal with 6:53 left put the Razorbacks ahead for good.

Still, Vandy had a chance. The Commodores' Jordan Rodgers led his team on a potential game-winning drive, starting at the VU 10 with 3:03 left.

But the drive stalled, and the right-footed Spear's attempt from just inside the right hash mark went wide right.

Rodgers threw for a career-high 240 yards, and Stacy ran for 28 and caught passes for 51 more.

The 'Dores led 21-7 with five seconds left in the first half, but UA's Tyler Wilson hit Jarius Wright with an 11-yard pass to the right corner of the end zone.

Wilson finished the day with 316 yards passing for the No. 8 Razorbacks.

Vandy's Jordan Matthews caught six balls for a career-high 151 yards and a score, which came on the game's first possession.

Rodgers had a pair of second-quarter touchdown runs that put VU up 21-7 with 1:39 left in the second quarter.

But Wright's score just before the half pulled UA closer, and a 36-yard Hocker field goal early in the third quarter cut the lead to four.

Stacy's 62-yard gallop put the 'Dores up 11 again. A Hocker 50-yard field goal was the Razorbacks' answer, but a 44-yard Rodgers-to-Stacy pass early in the fourth quarter had the Commodores knocking on the door for more.

But Stacy couldn't handle the handoff, and Franklin rumbled down the right sideline untouched behind a convoy of blockers.

Hocker's eventual game-winner at the 6:53 mark capped a nine-play, 40-yard drive for Arkansas.

Two weekends ago, the Commodores also ended up on the wrong side of the scoreboard with the ball deep in opponent territory in the game's final seconds. Both players and Franklin said that they were disheartened by the loss, but vowed to keep their heads up.

"We had a bunch of guys fight till the end today, so it's going to be a tough one to swallow, but we made strides today. We showed that we can play with anybody on any Saturday. It's the No. 8 team in the country and we had them up against the wall the majority of the game," Rodgers said.



 

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