FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. –- A pass interference call set up Jay Cutler’s six-yard touchdown pass to Marlon White with 26 seconds remaining and Vanderbilt knocked off Arkansas, 28-24, Saturday.
Cutler converted a fourth-and-10 earlier in the drive and Arkansas helped out with a defensive holding penalty on the second play of the possession, enabling the Commodores to move 76 yards in 10 plays in just 1:56.
On fourth-and-10 from the 34 with 1:46 to play, Cutler found Eric Davis at the Arkansas 47 for a gain of 19. He also completed a 12-yarder to Dustin Dunning and a 10-yarder to White to move Vandy to the UA 19. Following two incompletions, Randy Kelly was called for pass interference on third down at the Hog six on a ball that appeared to be too high and uncatchable.
On first-and-goal at the six, Cutler hit White for the game winner.
“We finally settled down and Cutler made some unbelievable throws,” Vanderbilt head coach Bobby Johnson said. “He was really confident. He is the guy I want on my team in those situations. We’ve been close several times. This time we had senior leadership and we were making plays.”
Robert Johnson was intercepted by Moses Osemwegie at the Arkansas 40 with 13 seconds left, giving Vanderbilt a 2-0 mark with both wins coming on the road.
“This was a disappointing loss,” UA head coach Houston Nutt said. “We had our chances, but let some opportunities slip away. We knew we would be playing against a top-notch quarterback. We got pressure on him and hit him hard. They just made some great plays. We let one slip.”
Clinging to a 24-21 lead, Arkansas appeared to be in good shape following consecutive sacks of Cutler by Freddie Fairchild, and Fairchild again along with Desmond Sims, setting up a missed 43-yard field goal by Bryant Hahnfeldt with 2:46 remaining.
The Razorbacks (1-1) were unable to generate a first down and Vanderbilt got another chance with 2:22 left from its 24.
“I wish we could have run the clock more on that last drive before we had to punt,” Nutt said. “We’ve got to pick up and work harder to get better. There were some questionable calls, but that’s life. You’ve got to be able to overcome those.”
Johnson threw a pair of third-quarter touchdown passes to give Arkansas a 24-13 lead entering the final period, but Cutler, who was nine-of-24 for just 100 yards through three periods, was 14-of-21 in the fourth quarter for 178 yards and two touchdowns.
Cutler hit White, who finished with five catches for 55 yards, for a 20-yard score with 12:44 left, getting the Commodores within 24-21 following a two-point conversion pass from Cutler to White.
“We knew we had a shot,” Cutler said. “Our line stepped up and our receivers made some great catches.”
The Razorbacks had 20 first downs and 387 total yards through three quarters, but managed just 11 yards and failed to get a first down in the final period. The Hogs went three-and-out on all three possessions.
Despite the offensive trouble in the final period, tailback De’Arrius Howard turned in a career-high performance with 139 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.
Johnson also had solid numbers, completing 17-of-28 passes for a career-high 204 yards and the two scores. He was only 10-of-19 for 110 yards after the first quarter, but two of those later completions went for touchdowns.
Peyton Hillis had career highs of four receptions and 60 yards with a touchdown. Marcus Monk led the Razorbacks with 59 yards and a score on five receptions.
Cutler finished 23-of-45 for 278 yards with the two scores and one interception. Davis led Vandy with seven catches for 110 yards.
In the first half, the two teams took turns dominating each other in settling for a 10-10 tie at the half.
In the first period, Arkansas out-gained the Commodores 200-10, yet led just 7-0 on Howard’s 39-yard run on the game’s first possession.
VU ran six plays without picking up a first down in the first quarter.
The Razorbacks had a 79-yard drive end at the Vandy one when the Commodores held the Hogs out of the end zone three times after a second-and-goal at the one.
“Not scoring early in the game from inside the five where we were up a touchdown might have affected the game,” Hillis said. “We just simply didn’t get it done in the first half.”
In the second period, Vanderbilt out-gained UA 132-45.
Chris Balseiro’s 37-yard field goal gave Arkansas a 10-0 lead at 13:25, but Vanderbilt responded with a 79-yard drive to get within 10-7 on Cutler’s one-yard keeper at 8:39.
With 2:12 to play in the first period, Hahnfeldt’s 23-yard field goal tied the score with Cassen Garrison’s 71-yard run to the three setting up the score. Garrison was VU’s top rusher with 82 yards on seven carries.
A crowd of 68,215 attended the game with fans donating $13,260 to the Red Cross for Hurricane Katrina relief funds. Over the last two weeks, Razorback fans have donated $34,795 to the effort.