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Saturday, October 29, 2011
Arkansas pulls out another close one

By Edward Aschoff


Arkansas did it again.

After another slow start gave the Razorbacks another game with a halftime deficit, Arkansas pulled together another second-half comeback to get the 31-28 win against Vanderbilt.

It was a back-and-forth game all day. There was Vanderbilt's early 14-point lead and then Tyler Wilson's perfect half-ending drive to make it a one-score game. There was turnover after turnover from both sides. And finally when it seemed like Vanderbilt was going to send this game into overtime, Carey Spear missed his only field goal attempt of the day -- a 27-yarder with eight seconds remaining.

For most of the day, the new Vanderbilt that coach James Franklin has raved about played better than the 10th-ranked Razorbacks. But the Vanderbilt of old reared its ugly head at critical times and it cost the Commodores.

There was running back Zac Stacy's fumble inside Arkansas' 5-yard line that was run back 94 yards for a touchdown by Razorbacks linebacker Jerry Franklin. That made it 28-26 Vandy, and the Hogs then converted a two-point conversion to tie it.

Vanderbilt's defense held strong all day, but there were about four interceptions dropped by Commodore defensive backs. Two would have surely been returned for touchdowns.

Then there was that last drive in the fourth quarter. Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rodgers, who did his best impression of big brother Aaron all day, drove the Commodores 80 yards. Thanks to some clutch catches by Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt was staring Arkansas' end zone right in the face. But the clock ticked down and down and there wasn't much of a sense of urgency out of the Commodores. It looked like Vanderbilt was playing for overtime before Rodgers took some shots to the end zone when he got to Arkansas' 10.

Finally, there was the kick. It was never on target and stayed right the entire time.

Arkansas escaped once again and improved to 7-1. The Razorbacks outscored Vandy 17-7 in the second half and watched a much more efficient Wilson in the second half. With Arkansas' running game nonexistent again, Wilson threw for 316 yards and a touchdown Saturday. Jarius Wright continued to be his favorite target, catching 10 passes for 135 yards and Wilson's only touchdown throw.

The Razorbacks' defense even bent as much as it could, giving up 462 yards, including 222 rushing. Still, the Hogs managed to pull out another close call. These slow starts have to really worry coach Bobby Petrino, but they somehow end in wins, which is a credit to Arkansas' resiliency in the second half.

South Carolina is next and LSU is waiting. Starts like this might not end so well against those teams. The Hogs have been fortunate in the past two weeks, but continuing this style of football could be hazardous.