State of the Hogs: Tough Again

Arkansas fell back at the end once again, losing to No. 1 Mississippi State in the fourth quarter. It was too much for senior captain Trey Flowers.

STARKVILLE, Miss. – The Arkansas plan was to stop the run and make Dak Prescott – perhaps limited with a bad foot – play like a Heisman Trophy candidate. Mission accomplished.

In the end, it was like defensive captain Trey Flowers said, the Hogs felt they deserved better after yet another close-but-no-cigar loss.

Prescott made the key plays on two touchdown drives, just enough to subdue another valiant effort by the underdog Razorbacks and keep No. 1 Mississippi State's dream season alive, 17-10, Saturday night at Davis Wade Stadium.

Prescott broke the Razorbacks' collective hearts with a 69-yard touchdown pass to Fred Ross, oh so alone behind the UA secondary, with 13:21 as State scored the game's final 17 points. Prescott hit the bomb after dashing away from a diving Trey Flowers.

Flowers broke down in the tunnel afterwards, consoled by head coach Bret Bielema as the team and media streamed past.

“Pretty tough,” Flowers said, hardly audible in the interview room. “So much work was put into it and to get so close. We work. We are going to keep on working.”

Asked if another bye hits at a good time -- this time before LSU comes to Fayetteville -- Flowers wasn't buying anything along those lines.

“It's going to take awhile for me to get over this one,” he said. “It's pretty tough.”

Flowers explained the plan.

“It's just our motto,” he said. “Dak is up for the Heisman. We wanted to stop the run and make him make plays. He made the big plays when it counted. We got to just keep working.”

On the winning touchdown play, Prescott bounced outside the pocket to the left with Flowers giving chase. He dove at his ankles just before Prescott unleashed the bomb to Ross.

"I tried to go for the ball and make a play," Flowers said. "I dove and got pretty close to his legs, but not close enough."

The Hogs seemed that close all night. They did have a masterful plan from defensive coordinator Robb Smith. Of course, they played so hard again on defense, the key to controlling the MSU run game that had been awesome all season.

Mostly in a nickel with Tevin Mitchel as the extra defensive back, Smith moved linebacker Brooks Ellis to the outside, often in the flats, and centered up Martrell Spaight, the best tackler, in the middle.

It worked to slow down the MSU attack with Prescott in the shotgun, reading ends and linebackers with the handoffs to tank-like runner Josh Robinson.

Robinson made 64 yards on 19 runs, but with a long of only 13. Prescott made 61 on 13 carries. That tandem did connect on six passes with Robinson netting 110 yards there. There was a 47-yarder down the middle when Robinson slipped behind Ellis and between the safeties.

Spaight made 15 tackles, Ellis 12. Defensive tackle Darius Philon and Flowers each had seven stops. Flowers had two stops for five yards in losses.

Down 10-0 after Alex Collins helped the Hogs cash a fumbled punt, Prescott led the Bulldogs 75 yards in 11 plays, keeping four times.

Prescott converted third-and-3 with a 4-yard run. He made 12 to the 8-yard line on third-and-10 when the field was spread with five wideouts. Arkansas was left without a linebacker in the middle when Spaight followed a back outside the hash in perhaps one of the few alignment mismatch the Hogs gave up on the night.

After going up 10-0, the Hogs had the ball five times inside State territory and didn't score. Penalties ruined a possession late in the third quarter, with Adam McFain eventually missing a 42-yard field goal with score tied.

Arkansas came up empty on their last two drives, reaching the 1-yard line but failed to gain on back-to-back toss sweeps at the 5:05 mark. Then, after Brandon Allen worked the ball to the 16-yard line on wonderful catches by tight end Hunter Henry, a fade for Demetrius Wilson was intercepted in the end zone with 15 seconds left.

“It's tough,” Allen said. “We played them four quarters down to the wire. Hunter made a couple of great catches.

“We were running out of time and I went to the fade out. The defensive back made a great play. I was just throwing it up for Demetrius to try to make a play.”

Asked if he wished he had thrown it “just a little further,” Allen said, “I wanted to give (Wilson) a shot.”

Allen completed 22 of 43 passes for 238 yards, seven each to wide receiver Keon Hatcher and Henry, tops with a career-high 110 yards. He set up the first UA touchdown when Allen found him on a 14-yard slant on third-and-10.

“We had him singled up on a cornerback,” Allen said. “He made a great catch on that slant.”

The Hogs got it in on the goal line that time. They didn't in the fourth quarter, yet again. Head coach Bret Bielema sprinted down the sideline to be close to the linesmen on the failed fourth-and-goal at the 3-yard line. He explained that he was waiting for offensive coordinator Jim Chaney to give thumbs up or down on what he saw from the booth and be ready to call for a timeout, taking no chance that the linesman could ignore the plea for a call.

“I told Jimmy that I'd call timeout if he didn't like the look,” Bielema said. “But he liked it.”

Alex Collins, on the draw, made about one foot as he tried to bounce it outside to the right.

“We had our chances,” Allen said. “We moved the ball. We were doing a lot of good things, but we didn't punt it in from the 1-yard line. We had chances, but didn't capitalize.”

Those last two chances hurt so much. The Hogs kept it for 17 plays for 72 yards and 8:16 on the fourth-quarter clock before coming up short on three plays inside the 3-yard line. Then, they fought 10 plays and 66 yards in the final three minutes before the interception to end the game.

Bielema said it was numbing, but knows the Hogs are getting closer. He referenced his emotional captain as he tried to explain the post-game locker room.

"Trey is the epitome of what we are all about," Bielema said. "He came back for his senior year to be a part of this. We preach to our guys, keep working, eventually you will break free. But it takes a toll.

"We are going to get there. I can't tell him if it is going to be the next game, next year when he's in the NFL or in five years, but it's coming and he will have been a big part in it."

Flowers said it was a simple message from Bielema when they were all alone in the tunnel.

"It's coming, it's coming," Flowers said.

It was no consolation. Flowers wanted it Saturday night when he thought the Hogs were on track to score the massive upset.

"I knew we had a great week," Flowers said. "I knew we prepared the right way. We've just put so much work in all season. We know how hard we are working.

"We continue to come up short, but I felt like we deserved better. That's what (the emotions) were about."

Cook said, "Trey embodies what we want to do at Arkansas. He cares. He played his heart out and you'll see it on film."

The Hogs put it the lap of their two fine running backs on the goal line in the fourth quarter after Allen went to his tight ends -- Henry and AJ Derby -- on back to-back plays for 12 and 6 yards.

The throw to Henry went for 12 yards to convert fourth-and-3 and give the Hogs a first-and-goal at the 9-yard line. Derby, limited with a bad knee, moved the Hogs to the 3-yard line where Chaney turned it over to the running backs.

Williams hit it inside for two yards to the 1-yard line on second down, with linebackers Matt Wells and Richie Brown turning him back in a pile.

On third and fourth down, Chaney, the second-year coordinator, chose to go wide, and try to pin the pride of the State defense, those long, big defensive ends, inside with the toss sweep. Neither play gained anything. Williams lost 2 yards on third down, with Kendrick Market and Justin Cox beating him to the outside. A.J. Jefferson and Beniquez Brown were both waiting on Collins on the draw when he went right on fourth down.

Throughout much of the third quarter, the Hogs were handcuffed by offensive penalties. There was a debilitating 15-yarder on wide receiver Drew Morgan when he came into the pile to take a shot long after the whistle when Brandon Allen had converted fourth-and-1 with a sneak.

Then, the Hogs jumped off sides three other times, ruining drives. One of them was a short-yardage play when Allen was going to sneak again, but big right guard Denver Kirkland, the man he was to follow, couldn't hear his quarterback in the amazing loudness of the cow bell ringing and jumped.

Captain Brey Cook also had a false start. The Hogs had only six penalties for 40 yards, but they all seemed big.

"Childish penalties and we keep shooting ourselves in the foot," Cook said. "We can't have false starts. We should be able to handle (the cow bells). The unsportsmanlike penalty was childish.

"We didn't catch a break at the end, but it's our own fault. Those last two drives are frustrating. We were doing what we wanted to do, but we can't finish.

"We can feel it, we can see it. We'll see it on film on Sunday. We can move the ball down the field, but we can't get it in the end zone.

"We came in here feeling we were going to win. We know we can win. But we shot ourselves in the foot.

"They had a good defensive line, like a lot of others we've played in the SEC. For the most part, they were alright in the line, big and talented. They are ranked first for a reason, but we could have beaten them."

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