Mississippi State survives Arkansas in Week 12 thriller
Mississippi State survived a wild Week 12 contest in Fayetteville, giving Arkansas a dose of its own medicine with a thrilling, late 51-50 win to give the Bulldogs their program-best fourth-consecutive victory over the Razorbacks. Dak Prescott outdueled fellow quarterback Brandon Allen — who tied an SEC record with seven touchdown passes — as the two signal-callers combined for a staggering 914 yards and 12 touchdowns. In the end, however, the game came down to the last play and a walk-off blocked field goal attempt moved Mississippi State to 8-3 (4-3 in the SEC), while snapping the Hogs’ (6-5, 4-3 in the SEC) four-game win streak.
Here’s a breakdown of Mississippi State’s 51-50 win over Arkansas in Week 12.
- Record-breaking Prescott: The Mississippi State sports information department’s postgame notes highlighted 21 accomplishments by Bulldog players in the win over Arkansas, 10 of which belonged to Dak Prescott alone. It’s becoming impossible to keep up with the records that fall weekly to Mississippi State’s senior quarterback. Prescott became the fourth player in college football history with 60 career passing touchdowns and 40 rushing TDs, joining Dan Lefevour of Central Michigan, Colin Kaepernick of Nevada and Florida’s Tim Tebow — the latter of which also played under current Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen. Prescott finished with a career-high and program-record 508 passing yards and now holds 38 program records. The seven touchdowns Prescott was responsible for against Arkansas gives him 107 for his career, supplanting Peyton Manning and Chris Leak (101 touchdowns responsible for) for most in conference history.
- Big man Brown: Beniquez Brown followed up his 11-tackle performance last week against Alabama with a career-high 12 against Arkansas, including 1.5 for loss. The junior came up with arguably the play of the year for Mississippi State, blocking Cole Hedlund’s potential game-winning 24-yard field goal attempt with 39 seconds remaining.
- Stopping the run: This game can be described as many things, but a defensive struggle isn’t one of them. In a game that saw 1,110 yards of combined total offense, however, the Mississippi State front seven deserves some credit. Arkansas tallied 50 points, but none of them came courtesy of Hogs’ superstar running back Alex Collins. The Bulldogs held Collins to 53 yards on 19 carries and kept the SEC’s third-leading rusher out of the end zone. It was just the third time a team has held Collins below 100 yards and it was the first time in five games he hadn’t reached 100, dating back to when Alabama limited him to 26 yards on the ground on Oct. 10. The Mississippi State defense confined Arkansas’ stellar rushing attack, which averages 203.3 YPG, to just 73 rushing yards as a team.
- Big-time comeback: Mississippi State’s win wasn’t ensured until there were 39 seconds left to play, but if history is any indication, perhaps the Bulldogs had the game in the bag the entire time. Since taking over in 2009, Mullen’s program is 49-1 when leading at the half, which the Bulldogs did (31-21) against Arkansas. The 51 points scored by Mississippi State were the most in program history in a true SEC road game as the Bulldogs won in Fayetteville for the first time ever. The team’s 11-point fourth-quarter comeback is the sixth-largest in school history and marks the maroon-and-white’s fourth road win this season, the most since 1994.
- On the receiving end: With Dak Prescott throwing for 508 yards, someone had to benefit. Per usual, that someone was De’Runnya Wilson. Prescott and Wilson connected on a 10-yard pass with 6:58 to play to put Mississippi State up 44-42. It was the 18th time the duo teamed up for a touchdown, breaking the program mark previously held by the tandem of QB Tyler Russell and WR Chad Bumphis. Wilson collected 93 yards on a career-high 10 receptions to go along with the score. Prescott also targeted Fred Ross 10 times for 154 yards and two touchdowns. It’s the sixth 100-yard performance between Prescott and Ross and third-straight for the junior, who is now second on the Bulldogs’ single-season leaderboard for receptions with 69 catches. Just like Ross, RB Brandon Holloway (101 yards) and Gabe Myles (69 yards) also collected career highs against Arkansas for receiving yards.
- Offense: (A-plus) – Mississippi State posted 631 yards of total offense, the third-most in program history and the most the Bulldogs have ever laid on an SEC opponent.
- Defense: (D-plus) – The 479 yards of offense and seven passing touchdowns to Brandon Allen were hard to overcome. There was plenty of shoddy tackling, allowing for plenty of yards-after-catches, particularly to Arkansas tight ends Hunter Henry and Jeremy Sprinkle, who combined for 176 yards and five touchdowns.
- Special Teams: (A-minus) – The Mississippi State special teams weren’t called on to do much, closing out with one field goal (Westin Graves from 21 yards), one punt (Logan Cooke, 35 yards) and one punt return (Fred Ross, 7 yards). Brandon Holloway (56 yards) teamed-up with Malik Dear for 100 yards of kickoff returns. But the Bulldogs came up with an enormous blocked field goal attempt to preserve the win, and that meant everything.
- Coaching: (A) – Take away the third quarter and Dan Mullen’s squad was poised and had an answer for every Arkansas score.
- Overall: (A) – Mississippi State proved its mettle with a character-building, signature road win to build momentum heading into next Week’s Egg Bowl with Ole Miss.
The game plan is a bit more complicated than simply letting Dak Prescott do whatever he wants on the field, but it’s not so far off. Dan Mullen’s offense is designed to strike quickly and the Bulldogs accomplished that thoroughly throughout the first half, scoring on their first five possessions to take a 17-point lead. When the offense faltered in the third quarter because of three turnovers — including Prescott’s third interception of the year (on a tipped pass) — that margin vanished fast. Mississippi State was able to hang with Arkansas despite having the ball for close to 8.5 fewer minutes than the Razorbacks. Mullen wasn’t afraid to mix it up, especially in big moments, attempting a pass from wideout Gabe Myles to Prescott in the corner of the end zone on third-and-1 with roughly 7:30 remaining in the game and Mississippi State trailing 42-38. It was Mullen’s decision on the Bulldogs previous score, a 3-yard rushing touchdown to pull Mississippi State with five points, however, that raised some eyebrows. Rather than go a two-point conversion to bring his squad within a field goal, Mullen opted to kick the PAT. That was fine until place-kicker Westin Graves missed the PAT on the next Mississippi State score, which subsequently left Mullen’s squad up by two points late in the game.
- Dak Prescott, Sr., QB – 508 passing yards, 5 TDs, 2 rushing TDs
- Beniquez Brown, Jr., LB – 12 tackles, 1.5 TFL, blocked FG, FR
- Fred Ross, Jr., WR – 154 rec. yards, 2 TDs
- Tolando Cleveland gingerly walked off the field on his own power with trainers at his side in the second quarter. The junior cornerback was able to return to the game and finished with 5.0 tackles while forcing a fumble.
- Will Redmond, the team’s co-interception leader, who is out with an ACL tear suffered in late October.