Jim Harris: Mississippi State at Arkansas Live Blog


Mississippi State at Arkansas Live Blog

The Mississippi State at Arkansas Live Blog powered by Jim Harris is here. The stage is set. It is Razorback game day as the Hogs take on the Bulldogs in Little Rock at War Memorial Stadium.

Hit refresh often throughout the game to keep up with Jim’s latest comments, thoughts and analysis; and feel free to add your own in the comments section below.

Join us today as Jim Harris tracks the action from the field in Little Rock. Kickoff is scheduled for 11:21 a.m. and will be televised on the SEC Network.

3:39 p.m. post-game — Mississippi State won for the first time against Arkansas inside the Natural State. The closest the Bulldogs had come was a 13-13 tie in Little Rock in 1993, thanks to a missed UA extra point during the beginning of the Danny Ford era.

Ford was the first of three Hog coaches to beat the Bulldogs in overtime in Starkville, with Houston Nutt and Bobby Petrino also notching OT wins. This was the first time the teams had played an overtime game in Arkansas.

Damian Williams, thrust into the game after Tyler Russell was knocked out late in regulation, rambled 25 yards on the quarterback follow right through the middle of the Arkansas defense. That was often the story of the day, Mississippi State’s ability to get yardage past Arkansas’ second level if they could penetrate the defensive wall.

Bret Bielema, Arkansas’ first year coach, simply couldn’t resist doing something ridiculous and tricky with the lead (not necessarily with the momentum, as MSU had begun to exploit the Hogs’ defensive problems), as he called for a run by the punter on fourth-and-2 “if it was there.” They thought it was there, having seen MSU in certain punt return alignments, but Bielema said after the game the key to the play’s ruin was a missed block on MSU’s Denico Autry, a defensive tackle. The turnover at the Arkansas 40 gave the Bulldogs a short field they covered in three plays to tie the game late in the first half. The Hogs were fortunate to not trail by a touchdown at halftime when they immediately fumbled the ensuing pooched kickoff.

Tied at 17, Arkansas was primed to take the lead with the ball sitting at the Bulldogs’ 12, but Alex Collins’ try for extra yardage resulted in MSU’s gang tackling and a strip of the ball by Nickoe Whitley, who just ripped it away from Collins at the 9 yard line. In hindsight, Collins would have been better served not allowing himself to be gang-tackled on a simple run up the middle that late in the game (5 minutes left). Arkansas could have gotten a first down at the 3 or kicked the go-ahead field goal. MSU was desperate and stripping the ball was part of the defensive plan.

Bielema said that things had happened so fast late in the game and in OT, it didn’t appear everything had settled over the Hogs in the post-game locker room but he expected them to be heartbroken about it. No doubt. This team because the first Arkansas squad to lose 8 games in a row and, with a likely loss next Friday in Baton Rouge, will be the first Hog team to go winless in its conference.

This one they handed away — no two ways about it.

2:41 p.m. — 24-17 Mississippi State, final — On fourth down, after three plays had netted just one yard, Brandon Allen tried for the right sideline for a first down to Julian Horton, but Taveze Calhoun swiped it and ran out past midfield before being tackled or falling down. That’s the game. On the previous snap, Arkansas tried a shovel pass to Jonathan Williams that netted 0. First down got a 1 yard, and Allen missed a well-covered Herndon on a deep throw to the end zone.

For the first time ever, Arkansas loses to Mississippi State in an overtime game. Hogs were 3-0 in OT vs. MSU.

We’ll return after a trip to the post-game mess.

2:36 p.m. — Arkansas wins the toss and will go on defense to start. Really big here is that MSU is now without Tyler Russell, who was knocked out of the game by Trey Flowers on the last series.

And before I can finish typing that sentence, Damian Williams keeps in the quarterback draw, goes left and cuts back to the middle and rambles in for the score, 25 yards. The PAT is good.

That was ridiculously easy. Now Arkansas has to tie it up.

2:32 p.m. 17-17, end of regulation — Devon Bell, kicking from the right hashmark, is just a little wide with the field goal that would have given MSU the win. Arkansas takes a knee to run the clock out and we’ll go overtime.

2:31 p.m. — Nice short pass out to Jameon Lewis on the right side with some blocking set up to gain 15 yards and reach the Hogs’ 25. That will  call for a 42-yard field goal if they try it. It’ fourth and 18. Arkansas cxalls time with 23 seconds left.


2:27 p.m. — Now there is a really, really, really stupid play. MSU’s De’Junnya Wilson pushes off the cornerback obviously and it’s 15 yards, pushing the Bulldogs back to the 40. This kid ain’t kicking a 57-yard field goal. Bulldogs are in four-down territory instead, so secondary and pass rush much step up

And it does, as Russell is crushed by Trey Flowers as he lets the pass go. He’s down.

2:25 p.m., 17-17 — What do they call this? Dying by little knife cuts, one by one by one. Painful for Hogs and Hog faithful. Mississippi State now at the Hogs 20, after reaching the 17 on a slant pass to a wide open Malcolm Johnson. I guess the previous run was to set up the field goal kicker from the left hashmark and take two shots for a touchdown. There are 56 seconds to play. Ooops, a false start by MSU. They don’t need to push to far back, kicking into this wind.

2:17 p.m. 17-17 — Mississippi State pushes out from in front if its goal line, with Tyler Russell keeping for a first down on the QB draw, then he passes 12 yards to Jameon Lewis to the MSU 35. Time out MSU, 3:34 to play.

2:12 p.m. 17-17 — Just when you think, “Here come the Hogs,” the Razorbacks turn it over at the MSU 9 yard line. Freshman Alex Collins had the ball just ripped right out of his hands by the Bulldogs D-back, Nickoe Whitley and the Bulldogs take over at the 9. Collins had started the big march with a 22-yard sprint around the left side, and tight end Jeremy Sprinkle was left uncovered on a 44-yard pass play to the Bulldogs 12.

But on the very next snap, struggling for extra yardage, Collins couldn’t maintain his grip on the ball.

2:10 p.m. 17-17 — Arkansas’ linebackers aren’t making plays in the running game, so tackle Darius Philon decided to do it himself, and his big stop at the line of scrimmage on first down from near midfield may have been the turning point in slowing MSU’s drive. Two incompletions later and the Bulldogs had to punt the Hogs back to the 16.

1:59 p.m. 17-17 — Not sure I understand the reasoning, but on second-and-6 from the Arkansas 37, the Hogs split squatty fullback Kiero Small way wide left like he was a wide receiver, outside of Hunter Henry. Then he headed downfield as Brandon Allen threw to the left, I suppose intended for Hunter Henry, with Small to block the safety covering Henry. The ball was thrown nearly into the stands.

Allen has to run on third down, so Arkansas punts it away from its 40 – no fake punt here, better to fail it in the first half, and MSU takes over on its 18 with 10:43 to play.

1:52 p.m. 17-17 — MSU finishes its drive with a third-down conversion, marching 75 yards in 11 plays. The Bulldogs only had one third down in the drive and converted it on a 5-yard toss in the right flat from Tyler Russell to Jameon Lewis. It was too quick a toss and catch for safety Eric Bennett to get there in time.

1:46 p.m. 17-10 Hogs, end of third quarter — Mississippi State will snap it from the 5 when the fourth quarter begins. Lots of missed tackles by the Hogs are aiding the Bulldogs on this drive. The missed tackles are spread throughout, no one particular area.

Arkansas has still not solved that pass down the middle between the safeties and the linebackers. The middle linebacker is very late dropping back into coverage and the safeties are giving up 25 yards. One play gained 20 yards for the Bulldogs to the Hogs’ 29, but the Bulldogs have rushed for 28 yards on the drive. Its the yards after catch after missed tackle that is hurting, however.

Arkansas was also fortunate that Fred Scott dropped a deep pass that probably is a touchdown or a completion to right in front of the goal line earlier in the possession.

Today’s attendance is announced as 45,198.

1:37 p.m. 17-10 Hogs — Arkansas gets back into a good mix of pass and run and marches 57  yards to the go-ahead touchdown following Jared Collins’ first interception of the season. Alex Collins and Kiero Small were running well, Keon Hatcher gained big yardage on a reception, and senior flanker Julian Horton made probably his biggest play in his four-year Hog career, racing around left in on Jim Chaney’s bread-and-butter, the reverse. This one went 22 yards with Horton diving the final couple into the end zone.

This the first time this season Arkansas has had the lead, saw it get away, and regained it since the Samford game in this same stadium.

The wind may have shifted or died some, but Hocker boots this kickoff four yards deep into the end zone for no return.

Arkansas covered the 57 yards in six plays. The first was a 13-yard pass to Keon Hatcher, setting up the running game and putting the Bulldogs on their heels.

1:30 p.m. — So, for the last four minutes we’ve all been watching some sideline stadium personnel man tended to by medical folks. He’s up now. An the game referee then tells us Collins’ interception is under further review. You’ve had 4 minutes guys.

It’s confirmed. Interception.

1:26 p.m. — What an absolutely terrific read, close and play by Jared Collins on an out route pass at the UA 43.

1:22 p.m. — A procedure penalty on Hunter Henry force Arkansas into a difficult 2nd-and-13 after getting one first down, and the next to play calls were awfully safe and not very well conceived — a basic pitch and carry over left tackle, and then a bubble screen to Hatcher that was not set up fast enough for MSU’s front seven speed. Sam Irwin-Hill gets off a nice punt into the wind, starting the Bulldogs on their 20.

1:15 p.m. — Dan Skipper gets his first field goal block since the Florida game (he also blocked one versus Rutgers), and Alan Turner recovers the kick for Arkansas at its 27, denying the Bulldogs a scoring chance after they reached the Hogs’ 10. Yes, finally, a Hog tried to scoop and score, but the Bulldogs were all over him.

A possible momentum shifter here.

1:10 p.m. 10-10 — Was halftime the right amount of time? Man, they’ve gotten this thing started back fast. And MSU is already down to the Arkansas 27.

Again, I’ll say that there is a very real possibility Bielema knew he had to keep the football, that the dam was about the break on his defense, and they had to convert the fourth-and-2. But why snap it back to the little punter 13 yards deep. You’re a smasn-mouth team, then smash mouth them the two yards. Or punt it away. Quit with the cutesy stuff (a lot of this was discussed by myself, Harry King and Bo Mattingly at the half; that’s probably where all the time went).

MSU is pretty much going smash mouth down the field now, and Alan Turner helped the Bulldogs with a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. That’s not nice. Bulldogs are now at the Hogs 10.

12:52 p.m. 10-10 halftime — Arkansas got off the field without punting to end the half. This is a huge halftime for Bret Bielema, because a coach can really lose the faith of his guys if he doesn’t have a great way to get them to forget his boneheadedness in trying a fake punt at the situation Arkansas attempted it. The Hogs are lucky they are tied at this point after leading 10-0 at one point.

Mississippi State leads in total yards, 213-171, but the Hogs have 124 rushing yards against a potent rush defense. MSU has just 39 rushing yards, but of course the Arkansas pass defense has managed to make the poor passing Bulldogs rev it up with 174 yards through the air. Tyler Russell, coming off a shoulder injury against Alabama, is 8 for 10 passing for 155 yards.

Brandon Allen is 5 for 9 passing for 47 yards. He has convinced me he can’t throw it accurately down the sideline deep. The rushing is fairly evenly divided among five backs, with Jonathan Williams playing just the second quarter but gaining 39 yards. Alex Collins has 11.

12:41 p.m. 10-10 — This has gone from the ridiculous to the sublime. MSU is doing the same pooch kickoff mess Arkansas did when it was going into the wind. Walkon tight end Mitch Loewen decides he’s doing to do something with this one and gets it knocked out of his hands by a MSU helmet and the Bulldogs recover at the Hogs’ 34.

But the Razorbacks are bailed out on the lip of the goal line four plays later when Derrick Milton loses the handle inside the 5 yard line and Rohan Gaines recovers for Arkansas at the 1 with 32 seconds left in the half. MSU has all its timeouts, so Arkansas will have to punt before the half runs out unless the Hogs gain a first down.

Let’s also not let this opportunity to pass without noting that Tevin Mitchel’s replacement at cornerback, D.J. Dean, made an awful whiff after pass completion at the right sideline that turned into a 25-yard catch and run by Robert Johnson to the Razorbacks 5. None of these guys in the defensive backfield can tackle consistently. The coaches knew all along Mitchel was the best they had, but his confidence had fallen to ZERO in the past few weeks with his missed tackles that turned into touchdowns. Of course, there were other D-backs who could have helped him on a couple of those plays but were nowhere to be found. It’s just be a total joke in the back seven all year.

12:35 p.m. 10-10 — Well, Ladarius Perkins will feel that one, though he also scored a touchdown on a 30-yard pass from Tyler Russell. He took a leap into the end zone and met Eric Bennett with one of Bennett’s biggest hits of the season.

OK, so let’s review how this happened. MSU needed just three plays to cover the 40 yards that Bielema gave them with the failed fake punt. On first down from the 30, with the Hogs in cover 2, Arkansas’ poorly skilled linebackers covered the curl or hook areas and not the middle of the field, where Perkins ran right down the middle with the safeties playing 25 yards deep. Easy pickings.

If I were to give Bielema the benefit of the doubt on the fake punt, I’d say he knew that Mississippi State would hit them right down the middle with passes against that abysmal pass defense, whether they started on their 25 or the Hogs’ 40.

12:30 p.m. 10-3 Hogs — Really, another fake punt with a 10-3 lead on your end of the 50?Mississippi State had TEN guys within five yards of the line of scrimmage. Is anybody up in the pressbox screaming NO NO NO? On the previous play, which I guess was geared to “set up” the fake punt, Arkansas ran the draw again, which, to be honest, is not Alex Collins’ best play in which to run him on. Korliss Marshall, yes? Collins wants to make his yardage with moves, not jetting right up through a hole. It gained 6 yards and made it fourth-and-2 from the UA 44.

Really a stupid call all the way around. If it worked, it’s still dumb. It was dumb the second we all saw Irwin-Hill trying to run. Mississippi State did not have momentum. Now it does.

12:24 p.m. 10-3 Hogs — After the two plays totaling 64 yards put the Bulldogs at the UA 11, the Razorback pass defense finally rose up. Giving credit where it’s due, safety Alan Turner made a great knock away on the post slant in the end zone. And little cornerback Jared Collins broke up a lob in the back of the end zone to the taller De’Runnya Wilson (6-foot-5), forcing the Bulldogs to settle for Devon Bell’s 24-yard field goal with 5:08 left in the half.

12:16 p.m. 10-0 Hogs — Hocker’s 54-yarder is his career long, and it’s the longest UA field goal since Kendall Trainor nailed a 58-yarder against Miami in 1988.

Being down 10 points is probably the best thing to happen to MSU and worst for Arkansas, as the Bulldogs have decided to open it up. First, Arkansas safety Eric Bennett does what he’s done all year and lets Jameon Lewis get behind him for a 35-yard completion from Tyler Russell, who is back into the game. Then the Hogs middle in front of the scared safeties is wide open (as a good playcaller would expect) for Robert Johnson to catch a Russell pass and rumble to the Arkansas 10 before he loses the ball. It appears the ground caused the fumble, not a Hog defender. The fans hate the overrule, as it was ruled a fumble on the field, but it is the correct call. The play is a 29-yard gain. Two plays, 64 yards. That quickly. Alan Turner, the Hogs’ other safety, missed a tackle on Johnson upfield too.

12:12 10-0 Arkansas — Zach Hocker kicks a hard line drive with the win through  the uprights from 54 yards out to push the Hogs’ lead to 10, the first time they’ve led anybody by 10 points since Rutgers.

12:11 p.m. — Bad call against the Hogs. Hunter Henry was ruled to be covered up by the wide receiver on the left side after a 5-yard catch, but the receiver was on the 34 yard line. He was not on the line of scrimmage or even in the neutral zone. The catch was wiped out. The drive stalls, bringing on Zach Hocker.

12:08 p.m. — After yet another third-down conversion on a nice throw and catch from Allen to Julian Horton, the Hogs run an unbalanced line  to the right and ran that side, with Jonathan Williams getting loose, waiting for more blockers and gaining 25 yards to the 32.

12:06 p.m. — Jonathan Williams in the game now and has two good runs, including a 9yard pick up for a first down for Hogs at the UA 30.

12:02 p.m. — We know Arkansas has struggled mightily with its pass defense all year, but it was the poor run stopping that allowed the Bulldogs to push off their goal line at the midfield before their drive died there. Arkansas isn’t getting much out of its middle linebacker position in the run-stopping end. Kid’s decent at being in the right place for the pass, so we know that’s why he’s out there more than others. One thing we’re certain of, the back seven players who return for spring will be getting a full dose of Ben Herbert’s strength and conditioning during the offseason. The defensive backs are giving ground on tackles to receivers, such as MSU’s Robert Johnson, who picked up one of the Bulldogs’ first downs on the possession.

Arkansas will start on its 16 after the change of possession.

11:53 a.m. 7-0 Arkansas, end of the first — MSU brings in Damian Williams to quarterback and you can see his first play coming before the snap, a quarterback draw that is stuff for a loss of a yard to the 3. The teams trudge their way to the south end of the field. With this wind, I can understand why there are much fewer people in the south end zone seats than in the north end, which is not far from being filled. What’s interesting, and I suppose they are student seats, is that section 1, in the main part of the stadium in the northeast corner, is sparsely filled too. I grew up in and around those seats, way up high. Maybe it was section 2. But that was back in the day when it seemed like thousands of people were standing outside without a ticket, when the Hogs were playing the likes of Southern Cal and Texas A&M.

11:50 a.m. — Arkansas stalls at the MSU 32, but with this stiff wind out of the north, Bielema calls on a punt. A “pooch” punt, of course, and, after MSU declines an intentional delay of game penalty on the Hogs, Sam Irwin-Hill delivers with a kick that’s downed at the Bulldogs’ 4.

Mark Edwards, sitting with me in the press box, suggests Sam Irwin-Hill for the Hogs’ MVP this season. Hey, it would be as good as anyone.

11:45 a.m. — Arkansas has converted four of four third downs, and the Hogs are on the move again on their second possession. After a third-down swing pass to fullback Kiero Small for a first down to the Hogs’ 48, Korliss Marshall on second down gets loose for a big game on the delay for 19 yards to the MSU 34.

11:38 a.m. — Arkansas’ defense has a nice series with only one glaring mistake that allowed the one MSU first down. Jared Collins misplayed a sideline pass  on third and long and gave up a completion from Russell to Robert Johnson for 24 yards to the UA 44. Hogs are playing hard defensively, particularly seniors Jarrett Lake and Chris Smith.

11:35 a.m. — D.J. Dean gets the start at Tevin Mitchel’s cornerback spot and immediately, on second down, does a great job of press converage on the receiver. Russell can’t find anybody on his first look and is creamed by end Chris Smith for a 10-yard loss. Smith, by the way, is wearing Robert Thomas’ No. 98 today.

11:12 a.m. — Don’t know what to make of it, whether it’s a metaphor for Arkansas’ season or not, but a few minutes ago the War Memorial Stadium press box power went out, then was restored. Now the stadium lights, which have been on all day, blinked off.

It’s an overcast day here, but it’s not a dark overcast, just a winter-like day with a stiff cold breeze out of the northeast and a temperature of 44 degrees.

Arkansas is pulling some interesting uniforms out of the mothballs for today: the full anthracite (charcoal) look from head to knee, with red and white trim. If I remember the Ole Miss game here last year correctly, the Hogs blended their red helmet with anthracite jerseys and pants. And lost 30-27 in a pretty exciting game.

I see Zach Hocker of Arkansas providing the winning margin at the end of this, by 27-24.

The Crowd is light. A good turnout has filled much of the sides, but the south end zone is only a third full at best. Everybody is bundled up pretty good. Tailgating, the big fixture at these games in Little Rock, was also light today. Those 11:21 a.m. kickoffs will do that to you.

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