Mississippi State 24, Arkansas 17 (OT)

Arkansas lost for a record eighth straight time, losing a fourth-quarter lead and giving up a 25-yard touchdown on a quarterback keeper through the middle to open overtime. Mississippi State clinched the 24-17 victory Saturday with an interception on fourth down.

LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas sported an all-anthracite uniform for the first time in its matchup against Mississippi State on Saturday.

The on-field result was the same as the previous seven games. Mississippi State handed the Razorbacks their school-record eighth consecutive loss in a 24-17 overtime decision.

Bulldogs true freshman quarterback Damian Williams broke a 25-yard touchdown run on the first play of overtime, then Mississippi State cornerback Taveze Calhoun sealed the win by intercepting Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen's last-ditch pass on fourth-and-9 from the 24.

The Hogs (3-8, 0-7 Southeastern Conference) came closer to earning a win than in any of their previous losses, holding a lead entering the fourth quarter for the first time in conference play. But, in the end, the loss relegated Arkansas to a last-place finish in the SEC West with one game left on the schedule.

I think (the players are) frustrated," Arkansas coach Brett Bielema said. "Probably shocked. They really prepared in a way that they thought they were going to win the game. Put themselves in a position right there at the end and then had it kind of wham-bammed (with) the one play by them and the four plays by us, then the game's over. I don't think it actually quite set in. These guys have obviously been through a lot."

Mississippi State (5-6, 2-5) kept its bowl hopes alive and broke a streak of 33 consecutive losses when trailing after three quarters, including an 0-25 mark under fifth-year coach Dan Mullen.

"They had a lot working against them today, a banged-up, beat-up team," Mullen said. "A lot of things didn't go our way. I think if you include the last one, four red zone possessions with three points. Guys just could have turned the ball over, made mistakes did a lot of different things. But I'll tell you what, those guys kept battling. They kept fighting. They found a win to win."

Arkansas had several bright spots in the loss, but its frustrating season continued as the Hogs dropped their third game in Little Rock in the last two years. The Razorbacks lost only two games in War Memorial Stadium between 1998 and 2011.

"I'm frustrated, yeah," Bielema said. "I had no idea the growth that we were going to have to take to get to where we need to be. It's just, unfortunately, taking longer than we want, than you want, than all of my coaches, players and fans.

"The good thing is, I do think we're moving forward. Today was no exception to that. We wanted to win today. ... But it's a positive step in the right direction. We've got to keep running this race that has several hurdles in it. As soon as we clear one hurdle, we've got to go back to the beginning. We don't ever advance it. We can't put ourself in that next phase. Today would be an example of that."

Arkansas had a chance to punch it in for a go-ahead score late in the fourth quarter after Allen hit wide-open tight end Jeremy Sprinkle for a 44-yard gain to the Mississippi State 12. But freshman running back Alex Collins fumbled and Mississippi State recovered at the 9-yard line on the next play, one of three Razorback turnovers in the loss.

Collins had sparked the drive with a run of 22 yards and finished the game with 52 yards, just two yards shy of the hitting 1,000-yard mark for the season.

Following the fumble, Mississippi State methodically moved the ball down the field and faced a first-and-10 from the Arkansas 17-yard line with the clock running down. But the Bulldogs hurt themselves with negative plays and penalties, including an offensive pass interference call on freshman De'Runnya Wilson that wiped out his potential game-winning, 25-yard touchdown catch with 49 seconds left.

Mississippi State had an opportunity to win in regulation, but Devon Bell's 42-yard field goal into a stiff wind was wide right, extending the game into overtime, where the Bulldogs won in quick fashion.

Mississippi State outgained Arkansas 488-339, including a 275-168 advantage in the second half and overtime.

Quarterback Tyler Russell completed 18 of 28 passes for 263 yards with two touchdowns and an interception before leaving the game with an apparent arm injury on the final drive of regulation. Williams, who played sparingly in the first half, stepped in and won the game with his run, finishing with 40 yards rushing and 34 yards passing.

"I love to be in those situations," Williams said. "That's the type of guy I am. I know that the O-line and the rest of the guys were going to help me get through it and they did.

Arkansas had to make several personnel adjustments of its own in the loss.

Senior defensive tackle Byran Jones suffered a lower-leg injury during the game. Cornerback Tevin Mitchel left the team Friday night to be with his mother, who had a medical issue.

DJ Dean earned a start at cornerback in Mitchel's absence, becoming the fifth true freshman to start a game for the Hogs this season. Redshirt freshman cornerback Jared Collins also earned his first start and snagged his first career interception on an athletic play on the sideline in the third quarter, while Will Hines played as the third corner.

"DJ Dean continues to impress us," Bielema said. "He's very aggressive. We think he's got a bright future in front of him. Jared Collins, he's obviously just a little bit light in the tail. So some of those tackles really become difficult for him to get them down. He needs a big offseason of strength and conditioning. And then, I thought Will, when he did get called upon, came in and did some nice things."

The Razorbacks were without Collins, starting running back Jonathan Williams and linebacker Braylon Mitchell for the first quarter after Bielema disciplined the trio for being tardy to a team weightlifting session during the week. Collins and Williams played for the final three quarters, but Mitchell sat out the entire game as he continues to rehab an injured shoulder.

"Just had a lot of reoccurring issues," Bielema said. "Guys just being a little bit late for things. Needed to make a stand and let everybody know the way we're going to do things for us to get to where we want to be. Details matter."

Williams ran for a team-high 59 yards on eight carries in the final three quarters. True freshman Korliss Marshall and sophomore Kody Walker picked up the slack with Collins and Williams on the sidelines in the first quarter, helping Arkansas jump out to an early 10-0 lead. Marshall finished with 35 yards on a career-high nine carries, while Walker had 22 yards on four carries.

"I continue to be impressed with Korliss," Bielema said. "He's a guy that's very explosive. Kody has been impressive ever since I got here. He wanted to take advantage of his opportunity he got. We knew those two guys were going to carry us through the first quarter. And they did a really nice job. I thought our offense didn't miss a beat with the way they were executing."

Arkansas took the lead on the game's first drive after Marshall returned the opening kickoff 44 yards. Marshall and Walker combined to carry five times for 26 yards on the possession, setting up senior receiver Javontee Herndon's 8-yard touchdown run on a receiver sweep less than four minutes into the game.

Zach Hocker stretched the lead to 10-0 with a career-long, 54-yard field goal midway through the second quarter.

Hocker's line-drive kick was the eighth-longest in program history and the longest since Kendall Trainor connected on a 55-yarder against Miami in 1988. The senior also passed former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow for 10th in career points in SEC history during the game.

Mississippi State didn't stay down for long.

The Bulldogs responded quickly in a wild finish to the first half. Russell completed passes of 35 and 29 yards over the middle on consecutive plays to set up Devon Bell's 24-yard field goal, which cut the lead to 10-3 with 5:08 left in the half.

The Bulldogs got the ball back in short order after the Hogs went three-and-out, then failed to convert a fake punt. Punter Sam Irwin-Hill was tackled for a 4-yard loss on fourth-and-2, allowing Mississippi State to take over at the Arkansas 40.

The Bulldogs took advantage of the field position, needing just three plays to tie the game on Russell's 30-yard touchdown strike to wide-open running back LaDarius Perkins on another pass over the middle.

Another Arkansas miscue gave Mississippi State the chance to take the lead before halftime after Razorbacks tight end Mitchell Loewen fumbled the ensuing squibbed kickoff and the Bulldogs recovered at the Hogs' 34. Mississippi State moved the ball to the Arkansas 5-yard line in the final minute of the half, but a hit by sophomore defensive Darius Philon caused a Derrick Milton fumble which was recovered by Rohan Gaines at the 2.

Arkansas picked up a first down to make it to halftime with a tie and a chance to regroup from the frenetic final minutes of the half.

"The part that we tried to suggest during the course of our preparation is that in these conditions the ball is a little more wet, a little more loose," Bielema said. "We didn't get harmed by it, but the one with the kickoff return right before halftime that we gave them. Obviously, we did a nice job taking the ball away right before the half. But in games like this, (ball security) is so critical."

Mississippi State drove down the field on the opening drive of the second half, but 6-foot-10 freshman Dan Skipper preserved the tie by coming up with his third blocked kick of the year on Bell's 28-yard field goal attempt.

Arkansas regained the lead on another receiver sweep. Senior Julian Horton took the handoff and went 22 yards down the sideline to put the Hogs up 17-10 with 3:28 left in the third quarter.

The lead carried over to the start of the fourth quarter, marking the first time the Hogs led at the start of the final period since being up 24-14 at Rutgers on Sept. 21. Like the game in Piscataway, Arkansas failed to finish.

Arkansas will try to bounce back from the tough loss in the regular season finale Friday at LSU.

"Our seniors put a lot into that game," Bielema said. "Invested a lot. I expect them to do the same thing (for LSU). We've got a short week. It's a trophy game, the first one of the year for us. And obviously, no chance or anything for postseason play. So this'll be our opportunity to send those seniors off in the right way and build for something that will continue in the future."

Brooks Ellis breaks down for an attempted tackle.

Korliss Marshall finds room on a sweep.

Trey Flowers brings down MSU's Tyler Russell.

Alex Collins looks for a cut.

Brandon Allen scans the field.

Javontee Herndon scores on an 8-yard run.

Sam Irwin-Hill runs with a failed fake punt.

Zach Hocker is congratulated after nailing a 54-yard field goal.

Photos by Jason Ivester, Hawgs Illustrated

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