Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
MISSISSIPPI STATE 45, ARKANSAS 14:
Hogs (4-7) play giveaway in worst loss to Bulldogs
Arkansas Coach John L. Smith (left) reacts as Mississippi State’s Darius Slay (9) intercepts a fourth-quarter pass from Tyler Wilson intended for Cobi Hamilton (11). Slay’s 15-yard return was nullified by a Mississippi State personal foul, but Nick Griffin scored on a 60-yard run on the next play, giving the Bulldogs a 45-14 lead.
STARKVILLE, Miss. Arkansas didn’t put up much of a fight with its postseason hopes on the line Saturday.
The Razorbacks had another turnover-fest, gave up 38 consecutive points and lost by their worst margin ever to Mississippi State, 45-14 before a crowd of 54,838 at Scott Field.
Arkansas (4-7, 2-5 SEC) lost the turnover battle 5-1 to drop to minus-17 for the season, easily the worst differential in the SEC.
“I felt like in the second half if we keep the turnover battle equal or maybe even we can pick one up we’ll end up winning the game, but we end up really losing the turnover battle in the second half and that’s the story of the game,” Arkansas Coach John L. Smith said.
“That’s just kind of how we’ve self-destructed all year,” Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino said. “You can’t do those things.”
Mississippi State (8-3, 4-3 SEC) ended a three-game losing streak to the Razorbacks while posting its highest point total in the series. The Bulldogs had 505 total yards to Arkansas’ 359 and kept the Razorbacks from scoring the final 42:17.
Mississippi State turned its five takeaways into 24 points, including Nick Griffin’s 60-yard run one play after Darius Slay intercepted Tyler Wilson.
“We made some big plays that we haven’t been making, created some turnovers and took advantage of it when we did create some turnovers,” Mississippi State Coach Dan Mullen said.
Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell passed for 274 yards and four touchdowns while becoming the school’s single-season leader with 2,523 passing yards.
Tailback LaDarius Perkins bounced back from a quad injury to catch two touchdown passes on wheel routes against Arkansas freshman linebacker A.J. Turner and Chad Bumphis also grabbed two touchdown throws.
Arkansas failed to qualify for a bowl for the first time since Bobby Petrino’s first season in 2008.
“It’s very disappointing,” Arkansas defensive coordinator Paul Haynes said. “We have a tradition here of going to bowl games, but we’ve got to make sure we go out next week and do a great job for these seniors.”
Wilson, who completed 14 of 15 passes for 137 yards and 2 touchdowns in a first half that ended with Mississippi State ahead 17-14, said a no-bowl finish seemed unthinkable when the season started.
“I would have been taken aback,” Wilson said. “But you’ve got one more game as far as the seniors are concerned and it’s a meaningful one.”
The Razorbacks finish the season Friday against LSU, which hasn’t played in Fayetteville since the Hogs’ first season in the SEC in 1992.
Arkansas scored touchdowns on its first two possessions, driving 86 and 65 yards, and led 14-7 early in the second quarter. Wilson threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Cobi Hamilton on a seam route to tie the game at 7-7 after an 11-play drive.
Chris Smith’s sack squelched Mississippi State’s second possession, and the Razorbacks used a 10-play drive to take the lead. Wilson found running back Dennis Johnson on a short drag route for a 7-yard touchdown pass.
The Razorbacks held at the Mississippi State 19 on the next series, but that’s when the ball started bouncing the Bulldogs’ way. First-time Arkansas punt returner Kaelon Kelleybrew misjudged a Mississippi State punt that went off his hand to the Bulldogs’ Benardrick McKinney. A personal-foul penalty on the play gave Mississippi State possession at the Arkansas 28.
The Razorbacks’ defense limited the damage to a 39-yard field goal by Devon Bell to retain a 14-10 lead, but the Bulldogs were only getting started with their takeaway takeover.
Russell’s passes of 27 yards to Malcolm Johnson and 20 yards to Robert Johnson moved Mississippi State deep into Arkansas territory, and Russell found Bumphis for a 6-yard scoring pass with 4:48 left in the half.
The turnover nightmare cranked up in the third quarter when Wilson threw an interception to Jamerson Love on the fourth snap of the half. The Razorbacks’ defense held after that turnover, but fumbles by tailback Jonathan Williams and receiver Javontee Herndon led to quick Mississippi State touchdowns and a 38-14 lead and the rout was on.
“The second half, it’s like one thing hits and it kind of deflates all the air in the tires,” Wilson said. “That’s what we’ve got to eliminate from happening. We’ve got to play almost a flawless game in all three areas.”
Arkansas 4-7 (2-5 SEC);
Mississippi State 8-3 (4-3 SEC)
Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell threw four touchdown passes and became the school’s single-season passing leader.
Arkansas was in contact until Mississippi State backup quarterback Dak Prescott ran up the middle for a 4-yard touchdown on fourth-and-1 to put the Bulldogs ahead 24-14 with 5:51 left in the third quarter.
Arkansas lost the turnover battle 5-1 UP NEXT The Razorbacks play No. 7 LSU at 1:30 p.m. Friday at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
Arkansas 7 7 0 0 - 14
Mississippi State 7 10 14 14 - 45
Mississippi State TIME 9:32 (5:28 time of possession) SCORING PLAY LaDarius Perkins caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Russell. Devon Bell kicked the extra point.
MISSISSIPPI STATE 7, ARKANSAS 0
Arkansas TIME 4:24 (5:03 time of possession) SCORING PLAY Cobi Hamilton caught a 30-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Wilson. Zach Hocker kicked the extra point.
ARKANSAS 7, MISSISSIPPI STATE 7
Arkansas TIME 12:17 (4:14 time of possession)SCORING PLAY Dennis Johnson caught a 7-yard touchdown pass from Wilson. Hocker kicked the extra point.
ARKANSAS 14, MISSISSIPPI STATE 7
Mississippi State TIME 9:38 (:45 time of possession) SCORING PLAY Bell kicked a 39-yard field goal.
ARKANSAS 14, MISSISSIPPI STATE 10
Mississippi State TIME 4:48 (1:58 time of possession) SCORING PLAY Chad Bumphis caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Russell. Bell kicked the extra point.
MISSISSIPPI STATE 17, ARKANSAS 14
Mississippi State TIME 5:51 (4:09 time of possession) SCORING PLAY Dak Prescott ran 4 yards for a touchdown. Bell kicked the extra point.
MISSISSIPPI STATE 24, ARKANSAS 14
Mississippi State TIME 1:31 (:31 time of possession) SCORING PLAY Perkins caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Russell. Bell kicked the extra point.
MISSISSIPPI STATE 31, ARKANSAS 14
Mississippi State TIME 14:50 (1:08 time of possession) SCORING PLAY Bumphis caught a 22-yard touchdown pass from Russell. Bell kicked the extra point.
MISSISSIPPI STATE 38, ARKANSAS 14
Mississippi State TIME 12:22 (:10 time of possession) SCORING PLAY Nick Griffin ran 60 yards for a touchdown. Bell kicked the extra point.
MISSISSIPPI STATE 45, ARKANSAS 14
Sports, Pages 25 on 11/18/2012