Arkansas 21, Vanderbilt 19

Saturday, September 16th 2006, 4:29 pm
By: News On 6

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ A gust of wind at the wrong time for Vanderbilt helped Houston Nutt celebrate his 100th game at Arkansas in winning style.

Freshman Mitch Mustain threw for 224 yards and three touchdowns, leading Arkansas past Vanderbilt 21-19 Saturday in the Razorbacks' first road game this season.

Vanderbilt (0-3, 0-2 SEC) had a chance to upset the Razorbacks for a second straight year by scoring during the final minute. But Bryant Hahnfeldt's 48-yard field-goal attempt with 55 seconds left fell a couple yards short on fourth-and-2.

``Believe it or not, actually, the wind picked up just a little bit right before he kicked it,'' Vandy coach Bobby Johnson said. ``I swear, it picked up. You can't plan on that. You can't control that. I wish I could. I'd be undefeated.''

Nutt thought the kick was good as he watched it fly through the air. Instead, his Razorbacks got to head home with a victory.

``If he would have hit it, it would have been like last year and the defense would have lost it again,'' Arkansas defensive tackle Keith Jackson said of a 28-24 loss to Vanderbilt last year in Fayetteville. ``But I'm just happy it came up short, and we came out with the victory.''

Hahnfeldt said he guesses the wind came up a bit after Arkansas called a timeout.

``There was no doubt in my mind (it was good),'' he said. ``It was one of the better kicks I had all day. I got up, and even started celebrating, me and Mackenzi (Adams), the holder, and all of a sudden, the wind just killed it.''

That allowed the Razorbacks (2-1, 1-0) to help Nutt improve to 95-63 since taking over in 1998 and win Arkansas' first trip to Nashville since 1995.

``We are fortunate to win, but we are very, very happy,'' Nutt said.

The Commodores did their best to slow the league's best rushing team. They held the ball for more than 32 minutes and limited the Razorbacks to 170 yards rushing on 39 attempts. Darren McFadden ran 19 times for 71 yards _ a yard shorter than his best run last week against Utah State _ and he was stopped on fourth-and-1 for no gain in the third.

But Mustain, who became the Razorbacks' first freshman quarterback to win his first start last week, responded easily for Arkansas.

Mustain was 13-of-20 and drove the Razorbacks to a touchdown on their opening drive, hitting Marcus Monk on a 56-yarder, the longest of his career, tying it 7-7. He also connected with Felix Jones on a 21-yarder and a 15-yarder to Ben Cleveland capped a 93-yard drive that left Arkansas up 21-13 at the end of the third quarter.

His three TDs already tie Mustain for the sixth-best single-game performance in school history.

``Mitch had an excellent ball game, and he is only going to get better,'' Nutt said. ``He threw the ball really well today, and he was able to make all of the reads and was able to make some good adjustments as well.''

The Razorbacks could have made it less interesting if they could have moved the ball better in the fourth quarter. Arkansas had two drives taking up 5:30 before killing out the final 55 seconds.

The Commodores had hoped returning home after playing Michigan and Alabama on the road would provide the edge they needed. They wouldn't have needed the field goal if not for trouble on extra points.

They botched a kick attempt after pulling within 14-13 when the kicker tried to hand the ball to an Arkansas defender.

``It was a hard ball for our holder to handle,'' Hahnfeldt said of the snap. ``I ended up with the ball and was crushed.''

Then Chris Nickson's pass failed on a 2-point conversion that could have tied it at 21 early in the fourth after the quarterback ran 15 yards for his third TD of the day. That ruined a day in which Nickson threw for 124 yards and ran for 74. He ran for one other touchdown and threw for another.

Vanderbilt opened on the ground and matched its longest drive this season by going 87 yards. Nickson scored on a 7-yard run that was the first of his career for a 7-0 lead.

Arkansas came out throwing, and Mustain didn't disappoint. He completed his first three passes, finding Monk on the third for a game-tying TD.

``I had to come out and find where I needed to be, and I think I did that for the most part,'' Mustain said.

But the Razorbacks had their problems. They went for it on fourth-and-18 at the Vanderbilt 32 early in the second quarter after an illegal procedure call erased a 44-yard field goal by Stephen Arnold. Safety Darlron Spead intercepted on the play.

Arkansas led 14-13 after two periods thanks to Mustain going 8-of-12 for 103 yards and two touchdowns, his last just before halftime.