By Logan Lowery
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – For the first time in school history, Mississippi State defeated Arkansas within the Razorbacks’ own borders.
But it was not easy.
The Bulldogs managed to keep their bowl hopes alive Saturday afternoon by taking down the Razorbacks 24-17 in overtime at War Memorial Stadium.
“Finding a way to win a game in overtime on the road was a big step for us,” said MSU head coach Dan Mullen.
“We don’t have a real big senior class and these young guys are learning what it takes to win under any circumstance.”
After Devon Bell pushed a 42-yard field goal wide right at the end of regulation, MSU true freshman Damian Williams scored on a 25-yard designed quarterback run on the first play of overtime.
“I love to be in those situations,” Williams said. “That’s the type of guy I am. I knew that the O-line and the rest of the guys were going to help me get through it and they did.”
Cornerback Taveze Calhoun sealed the victory by picking off Brandon Allen on the final play of the game, improving the Bulldogs to 5-6 overall and 2-5 in conference play.
Red zone problems
State accumulated 488 yards on offense but turned the ball over twice and converted only 2 of 5 red zone opportunities.
Tyler Russell completed 18 of 28 passes for 263 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Russell left the game on the final series of regulation after re-aggravating his shoulder injury.
Josh Robinson rushed for 101 yards on 17 second-half carries. Robinson did not play during the first half after missing practice earlier in the week due to the flu.
“I didn’t do anything special, I just did what I was coached to do,” Robinson said. “I just kept a low pad level, made my reads and couldn’t have done it without my O-line.”
Starting tailback LaDarius Perkins did not play another snap after suffering a rib injury when he was hit while diving across the goal line on a 30-yard touchdown catch from Russell to tie the game 10-10 with 1:48 remaining before halftime.
Jameon Lewis was the Bulldogs leading receiver, hauling in six passes for 94 yards including a 5-yard touchdown from Russell during the fourth quarter.
Mississippi State had to overcome its share of problems.
Bell not only missed a potential game-winning field goal at the end of regulation but also had a 28-yarder blocked on the opening drive of the second half.
Derrick Milton received his first carry in the second quarter since Sept. 21 against Troy. But Milton’s second attempt two plays later ended up as a goal line fumble.
“Guys turned the ball over and we made a lot of mistakes but those guys kept battling, kept fighting and found a way to win,” Mullen said. “They had 113 years of history against them out there on that field today that they refused to let stop them in the end.”
Arkansas (3-8, 0-7) finished with 339 yards of offense including 225 yards on the ground.
Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins combined for 18 carries and 111 yards. Allen connected on 10 of 17 passes for 114 yards and an interception.