RAZORBACK REWIND – MSU 24, ARKANSAS 17 (OT)
Five Keys Review
1. Be Ready For Anyone — Somewhat Accomplished
Mississippi State played the quarterback game with all three of its opens during the week, but started Tyler Russell and also used freshman Damian Williams against the Razorbacks. Dak Prescott, the team’s best quarterback who had started six games, did not dress out. Both quarterbacks enjoyed big moments against the Razorbacks despite a slow start. Russell threw for 263 yards and two touchdowns before leaving late in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury. Williams didn’t blink when it mattered, getting the 25-yard touchdown run on the first play in overtime.
2. Run Game Success — Accomplished
Arkansas offered a first quarter surprise when Bret Bielema revealed that Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins were being disciplined for being late to a weight lifting session last week. Neither running back had a great game Saturday, either. But the Razorbacks still managed 225 rushing yards from 10 different players. Javontee Herndon and Julian Horton scored touchdowns on wide receiver sweeps, while Korliss Marshall and Kody Walker handled the tailback carries in the first quarter. The one big mistake from the backfield was a costly one: Collins’ fumble at the MSU 9 eliminated what could’ve been a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.
3. Tackle the Problem — Somewhat Accomplished
The Razorbacks took a small step in the right direction with its tackling troubles Saturday, but there were still notable mistakes that helped turn minimal gains or lost yardage plays into first downs against the Bulldogs. The good news: Mississippi State’s longest plays of the day had nothing to do with poor tackling. Instead, they came from gaping holes in the middle of the field in the first half with Arkansas’ safeties shading to the outside to help the cornerbacks in coverage.
4. Stay on Top of the Turnovers — Not Accomplished
The good news: Arkansas forced two turnovers for the second straight week, collecting a fumble recovery (Rohan Gaines) and interception (Jared Collins) against Mississippi State. The bad news: The Razorbacks turned it over three times. Mitchell Loewen fumbled on a short kickoff in the first half, although it didn’t lead to MSU points. Alex Collins’ fumble at the MSU 9 was the most painful, coming in the fourth quarter of a tie game. Then there was Brandon Allen’s fourth-down interception in overtime, which officially ended Arkansas’ hopes of snapping its long slide.
5. Win the Fourth Quarter — Not Accomplished
Arkansas had trailed in the fourth quarter of every SEC game, but found itself in an unfamiliar position Saturday. It had a 17-10 lead and was ahead for the first time since the Rutgers loss in late September. Much like the Rutgers game, Arkansas couldn’t finish off the Bulldogs. Arkansas gave up a quick touchdown, which tied the game early in the fourth quarter. It had no answer on the other end, making more mistakes than the Bulldogs down the stretch in a game nobody seemed interested in winning at times. Arkansas was outscored 14-0 in the fourth quarter and overtime and has now been outscored 69-35 in both areas this season.
• Coach Bret Bielema on Arkansas’ reaction to another loss:
“I think they really prepared in a way they thought they were going to win the game. They put themselves in the position right down there at the end and to have it kind of wham-bam, the one play by them and then four plays by us (in overtime) and the game’s over, I don’t think it actually quite set in.”
• QB Brandon Allen on how RB Alex Collins was handling the fumble:
“He’s a tough kid. He’s real tough. That’s obviously a bad situation for us, but things like that happen. They have good players on their defense and things like that are going to happen. He’s young and he’s taking it hard on himself. He’s going to be a great player, that’s what I keep telling him. Things like this only make you stronger. So he’s going to get past this and he’s going to be a good player for us.”
• DE Chris Smith on Arkansas’ regular use of fake punts this season:
“I’m always happy when the coaches do that, because they trust the defense. The defense was playing well at that time … It’s a gamble. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. We just had to go out there and stop them.”
• WR Javontee Herndon on the school-record eight straight losses:
“It’s really rough because we practice so hard and we focus and we do everything that we feel like is right and we just can’t get over the hump. It’s just going to take more practice and keep continuing to get better.”
Players of the Game
Offense – RB Jonathan Williams (8 carries, 59 yards)
Williams sat out the first quarter for disciplinary reasons, but ran well when he stepped on the field. He finished with 59 yards on just eight carries, leading a 225-yard rushing effort. It included a team-high 25-yard run on his third carry.
Defense – S Alan Turner (16 tackles, pass break up)
It’s not a good sign when a safety leads in the team in tackles, but Turner did his job Saturday. Turner – who entered the game tied with Braylon Mitchell for the team lead in tackles — now has 86 stops this season and should finish on top of the chart.
Special Teams – K Zach Hocker (1-for-1 FG, 2-for-2 XP)
Hocker added to his impressive resume with a career-best, 54-yard field goal in the first half. It helped the senior improve to 5-for-7 on field goals of 50 yards or longer during his career. Hocker also moved into ninth on the SEC’s career scoring list.
2 — Touchdowns scored by Arkansas receiver Julian Horton in the past two games, which matched his career total entering the stretch. Horton, who worked his way back into the rotation, had scored 2 touchdowns in his previous 46 games. The 22-yard rushing touchdown in the third quarter was the first of Horton’s career.
3 — Field goal attempts blocked by Arkansas offensive lineman Dan Skipper. It is tied for second on the SEC’s single-season list and eighth on the NCAA list.
5 — Arkansas teams that have lost eight games in a season. The 2013 Razorbacks joined teams from 2012, 1990, 1952 and 1950 to suffer through eight-loss seasons. The current Hogs will break a school record with another loss at LSU on Friday.
998 — Running back Alex Collins’ rushing yards this season. The freshmen just missed topping the mark Saturday, fumbling at the end of a short run at the Bulldogs’ 9. His pursuit of the milestone, which would make him just the second freshman in school history to accomplish it, will continue against LSU.
Cornerback Tevin Mitchel missed the game because of a medical issue regarding his mother, according to Bielema. It’s not known if Mitchel — who had practiced well according to coaches after being challenged in the two weeks since the Ole Miss loss — will return to the Razorbacks for the final game against LSU.
Defensive tackle Byran Jones suffered a leg injury Saturday. Bielema said he didn’t know the extent of the injury, but should know more about his status today.
Cornerback Will Hines returned from a four-game absence because of a broken arm, but did not record any statistics in his reserve role. Linebacker Braylon Mitchell was disciplined in the first quarter after being late to a meeting, but didn’t play the rest of the game. Bielema chalked it up to a “dinged up” shoulder and a defensive game plan that called for two linebackers and defensive backs most of the game.
Arkansas’ 2013 season will come to an end with a road game at LSU on Friday afternoon. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. and the game will be televised by CBS.
The 15th-ranked Tigers (8-3, 4-3 in Southeastern Conference) are coming off an impressive 34-10 win against Texas A&M and are the sixth ranked team on the Razorbacks’ schedule this season. Arkansas has dropped two straight to LSU, including a 41-17 loss in Baton Rouge, La., in 2011. That game was a matchup of teams ranked No. 1 and No. 3 in the Bowl Championship Series standings.
This season’s game also will be the last Thanksgiving weekend game between the teams, who have played each other in the regular season finale since the Razorbacks joined the SEC in 1992. LSU will begin a Thanksgiving weekend series against Texas A&M beginning in 2014, while Arkansas will play Missouri.