LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Big Ryan Mallett took Mississippi State’s bowl hopes and hurled them out of War Memorial Stadium.
The 6-foot-7, record-setting Mallett passed for 313 yards and five touchdowns, overcoming two interceptions to lead Arkansas to a 42-21 victory over the Bulldogs in front of 55,634 on Saturday.
The loss dropped MSU to 4-7 overall (2-5 SEC) and out of bowl contention. All that remains for Dan Mullen’s team is the Egg Bowl against Ole Miss.
“He did a good job of picking us apart today,” said redshirt freshman cornerback Corey Broomfield, who had both of Mallett’s picks and has five on the season.
Said Mullen, “I guess I sound like a broken record, but at some point we’ve got to make those, we’ll make those plays.”
Anthony Dixon, MSU’s senior tailback, had another big game, rushing for 176 yards and two TDs on 24 carries. He needs just 126 yards to eclipse J.J. Johnson’s single-season school rushing record of 1,383 yards.
But it was Dixon’s fumble at midfield that set up a huge touchdown drive for Arkansas (7-4, 3-4). The Razorbacks capitalized when Mallett hit Greg Childs from 11 yards out for a 35-21 lead with 12 minutes, 35 seconds in the game.
That did the Bulldogs in.
Dixon had made it a seven-point game earlier in the half with a 70-yard touchdown run.
“It’s not all on Anthony on that play,” Mullen said of the fumble. “It’s our same deal with turnovers right there. It seems we’ve found a way to make some critical turnovers at key moments of the game.”
A quarterback change didn’t help MSU. Chris Relf played the entire second half in relief of Tyson Lee, who was sacked four times and lost a fumble all before halftime.
Relf was 4-of-7 passing for 27 yards, and he rushed for 68 yards on 12 carries. Sophomore Robert Elliott had a 62 yards on seven totes.
MSU finished with 376 total yards, 327 of that on the ground. Arkansas had 396 total yards and converted on 6 of 11 third downs.
“The offense and defense did a good job of looking out for one another,” said Mallett, who completed 18 of 34 passes. “When one wasn’t getting the job done, the other stepped up and made some big plays.”
Mallett had thrown a school-record 142 consecutive passes without an interception until Broomfield picked off his second throw of the game. That led to a 1-yard Arnil Stallworth touchdown run for a 7-0 MSU lead.
Mallett and Arkansas struck right back, with the sophomore hitting Joe Adams for a 39-yard touchdown strike.
Mallett later showed off his arm strength in a couple of different ways. He nailed Cobi Hamilton for a 58-yard touchdown strike early in the second quarter; it put Mallett over the 3,000-yard mark for the season.
Later in the period, retreating from pressure, Mallett fired a laser to Jarius Wright in the back of the end zone for a 5-yard score and 21-7 lead that held until halftime.
MSU opened the second half with its longest scoring drive of the season, covering all 94 yards on the ground. Dixon had 51 yards on the drive and ran it in from 5 yards out.
But Mallett struck again, hitting Hamilton on a third-down slant for a 64-yard score.
Arkansas played without senior tailback Michael Smith, a 1,000-yard rusher last year. He’s lost for the season with a hamstring injury.
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal