No. 13 Arkansas survives late Mississippi State rally, missed OT field goal

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Arkansas proved it can run the ball, but when the big play needed to be made on Saturday night, the Razorbacks went with old faithful.

Standing with poise as Mississippi State's blitz came hard and fast, Ryan Mallett lofted a perfect 7-yard touchdown pass to Knile Davis in double overtime and Arkansas No. 13 beat Mississippi State (No. 19 BCS, No. 18 AP) 38-31 at Davis Wade Stadium.

Mallett finished with 305 passing yards and three touchdowns, but early in the night, the Razorbacks seemed content to use the quarterback's powerful arm almost exclusively for handoffs.

He finally got going in the third quarter with an 89-yard touchdown pass to Jarius Wright -- the second-longest in school history. Wright was wide open in the middle of the field, but nearly tripped over his own feet before regaining his balance on his way to the end zone.

Mallett completed 17 of 26 passes, making the big play almost every time the Razorbacks needed him. Arkansas (9-2, 5-2 SEC) won its fifth straight.

"They'd been blitzing a whole bunch," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. "The middle was open a lot and we had just missed it. So it was a play-action and Jarius knew he was going to have it in the middle of the field. I'm just glad he kept his feet."

On top of his game-winning touchdown reception, Davis rushed for a career-high 187 yards and two scores, leading the Razorbacks' potent running game. The final catch was sweet redemption since his two fumbles earlier in the game nearly cost them the victory.

"I don't like to fumble," Davis said. "I take that very seriously. But at least we won. It felt good to come up big to help out the team."

The Bulldogs had a chance to tie the game in the second overtime, but Chris Relf was hit hard as he tried to complete a fourth-down pass. Relf was 20 of 30 passing for 224 yards and rushed for 103 yards and a touchdown.

The game featured loads of offense, with the two teams combining for 974 yards. Mississippi State (7-4, 3-4) ran 100 offensive plays -- including 70 rushing attempts as its grind-it-out style nearly produced an upset win.

Arkansas had multiple chances to put the game away, but struggled with turnovers and missed opportunities. The Razorbacks took a 14-7 lead late in the first quarter after Mallett's 25-yard touchdown pass to D.J. Williams, and then MSU's Vick Ballard fumbled on the ensuing offensive play, giving Arkansas the ball deep in Bulldogs territory.

But Davis fumbled on the very next play, giving the ball back to MSU, and the Bulldogs avoided the early disaster and rallied in the second quarter for a 21-17 halftime lead.

Arkansas regained its momentum quickly, scoring 14 unanswered points to take a 31-21 lead by early in the fourth quarter. But Mississippi State kept grinding, scoring another touchdown to pull to 31-28, and then Davis' second fumble of the night gave the Bulldogs possession at their own 46-yard line with 1:56 remaining.

MSU drove downfield quickly, and Derek DePasquale booted a 25-yard field goal as time expired in regulation to tie it at 31.

Ballard rushed for 150 yards and three touchdowns for Mississippi State, which lost its second straight.

Ballard was outstanding most of the night, but will undoubtedly regret a crucial play in the first overtime, when he appeared headed for a touchdown before being hit at the 2-yard line and fumbling into the end zone, resulting in an Arkansas touchback.

"You just can't do things like that when two top 20 teams are playing and expect to win," MSU coach Dan Mullen said.

The Razorbacks couldn't capitalize, though, as Zach Hocker's 39-yard field goal attempt hooked wide left after three straight rushing attempts failed to move the football.

In the second overtime, the Razorbacks wouldn't need Hocker, relying on Mallett's arm for the win.

"We've grown a lot since last year," Mallett said. "Last year we were a young team, but now we're maturing -- we're just growing up."


ESPN Fan Shop Powered By

  • Nike Men's Arkansas Razorbacks Cardinal Football Icon Legend T-ShirtShop

  • adidas Youth Mississippi State Bulldogs #15 White Replica Football JerseyShop


  • Take your pick: Who will South Carolina start at quarterback in 2016?

    Brandon McIlwain or Perry Orth. One has an advantange in experience. The other has the talent to succeed. Which QB should South Carolina choose?

  • Ole Miss under scrutiny before Tunsil hack

    Ole Miss' football program was already being investigated before the Laremy Tunsil hacking incident.

  • 10 Pac-12 players who could hear their name called on Day 2 of the NFL draft

    Four Pac-12 players were taken in the first round of the NFL draft Thursday. Here are 10 more who could come off the board Friday on Day 2.

  • Billy Devaney lends an NFL scouting eye to evaluations at Nebraska

    In his new position, former Rams general manager Billy Devaney is bridging gaps in the talent evaluation process with the Cornhuskers.

  • Schlabach: Ole Miss not sure Tunsil texts are real

    ESPN senior college football writer Mark Schlabach explains what the leaked conversation between Laremy Tunsil and Ole Miss athletic director John Miller and Tunsil admitting after the NFL draft may mean for Ole Miss.

  • Weekly Commitment Roundup

    The following is a list of commitments to Power-5 programs from April 22nd - April 28th:ACCBoston College: QB-PP E.J. Perry (6-foot-2, 190), eval pendingDuke: OG Rakavius Chambers (6-foot-3, 275), eval pending; OC Will Taylor (6-foot-4, 280), eval pendingVirginia: RB Lamont Atkins (5-foot-11, 200), eval pending; ATH Germane Crowell (6-foot-2, 180), eval pendingVirginia Tech: TE-H Drake Deluliis (6-foot-6, 216), eval pendingWake Forest: OG Allan Rappleyea (6-foot-4, 260), eval pendingBig 12Iowa State: DE Angel Dominguez (6-foot-3, 248), eval pending; OLB Jake Hummel (6-foot-1, 210), eval pendingBig TenIllinois: Three-star WR Ricky Smalling (6-foot, 190); WR Kendall Smith (6-foot-1, 175), eval pendingIowa: DE Levi Duwa (6-foot-2, 230), eval pendingMichigan State: RB Weston Bridges (6-foot, 200), eval pending; OLB Darien Clemons (6-foot, 215), eval pendingNorthwestern: QB-PP Andrew Marty (6-foot-4, 200), eval pendingPenn State: Three-star CB D.