NASHVILLE, Tenn. –- Bryant Hahnfeldt’s 48-yard field goal with one minute left was short and Mitch Mustain threw three touchdown passes as Arkansas held on for a 21-19 Southeastern Conference victory at Vanderbilt on Saturday.
Vanderbilt drove from its 28 to the Arkansas 31 in the final four minutes, setting up Hahnfeld’s kick. The kick was on line, but fell short, just past the end line of the end zone.
Mustain completed 13-of-20 passes for 224 yards and the three touchdowns with one interception. The three TD passes tie for the sixth-best single-game total in school history.
Arkansas also ran for 170 yards with Felix Jones gaining 78 yards on 11 carries, Darren McFadden 71 on 19 rushes and freshman Michael Smith 28 on five carries.
With losses at Michigan and at Alabama, Vanderbilt entered the game averaging just 61 yards rushing and 203 yards of total offense. Against the Razorbacks, the Commodores ran for 245. Cassen Jackson-Garrison had 95 yards on 21 carries, Jared Hawkins 76 on three and quarterback Chris Nickson 74 on 13.
Even with VU’s running success, Arkansas stopped Jackson-Garrison for a loss of one yard on two carries on the final drive. Nickson converted a fourth-and-four under heavy pressure when George Smith caught a jump ball over a defender at the Commodore 42.
Nickson later found Marlon White for 17 yards to the Arkansas 39, but on third-and-10, end Antwain Robinson stopped Earl Bennett after an eight-yard gain on a pass from Nickson to set up the field goal attempt.
A pass interference penalty kept an earlier fourth-quarter drive alive for the Commodores. Chris Houston was called for a penalty, giving Vanderbilt a first down and setting up a Nickson 15-yard scoring run.
Nickson’s two-point conversion pass was incomplete, keeping Arkansas in front, 21-19.
The Razorbacks scored what proved to be the winning touchdown late in the third period when Mustain guided the Hogs to their longest scoring drive of the season – 93 yards in seven plays.
Mustain capped the drive with a 15-yard scoring pass to fellow freshman Ben Cleveland. Mustain had a pair of 41-yard completions during the drive – the first to freshman London Crawford from the UA seven and the second to Marcus Monk to the Vandy 11.
Monk finished with five receptions for 124 yards and a touchdown. The 124 yards is a career high and it marks the first 100-yard game of his career.
In the first half, Arkansas missed opportunities to take control, but still managed to take a 14-13 lead at the break by answering Vanderbilt scores.
The Razorbacks took their first lead at 14-13 with 3:42 left in the half on a 21-yard dump-off pass from Mustain to Jones. Following a motion penalty on the PAT attempt, Jeremy Davis’ conversion put the Hogs in front. Mustain moved the Razorbacks 81 yards in eight plays.
That score followed a nine-yard pass from Nixson to Jackson-Garrison with 6:44 left. The conversion attempt failed, however, putting the Commodores ahead 13-7.
The only other scoring in the first half came on the first two possessions of the game.
With the help of two Arkansas penalties, Vanderbilt moved the ball 87 yards in nine plays and took a 7-0 lead on Nickson’s seven-yard quarterback draw.
Offensively, Arkansas opened the game with a nine-yard pass from Mustain to Monk. Four plays later Mustain found Monk behind the secondary for a 56-yard touchdown to tie the game. Monk’s 56-yard reception is a career best.
Arkansas missed a couple of other opportunities to have a larger lead.
On Vanderbilt’s second possession, cornerback Matterral Richardson just missed an interception inside the VU 20. If he had held on, he had a clear path to the end zone.
In the second quarter, Davis, in his first game as UA’s kicker, converted a 44-yard field goal, but a motion penalty moved the line of scrimmage from the 27 to the 32. Rather than kicking again, UA chose to run a play on fourth down and Mustain’s pass was intercepted.
Vanderbilt also fumbled on its opening drive at the Arkansas 13, but the Commodores recovered and scored two plays later.
Arkansas returns home next week to play host to Alabama at 2:30 p.m. in a game nationally televised by CBS.