Arkansas came up with a miracle win earlier this season against one of the SEC’s two Mississippi teams, but couldn’t close out the other in yet another thrilling ending.
Dak Prescott completed 38-of-50 passes for a career-high 508 yards and No. 25 Mississippi State rallied past Arkansas 51-50 Saturday night before a crowd of 71,936 fans at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
That was enough to end a four-game winning streak for the Razorbacks (6-5, 4-3), who lost despite a record-setting performance from senior quarterback Brandon Allen as he completed 30-of-43 passes for 403 yards and a school-record seven touchdowns.
Arkansas, which scored over 50 points for a school-record fourth time this season, had the chance to win the game at the end, but a missed block at the line of scrimmage allowed Beniquez Brown to swat away a 29-yard field goal attempt by Cole Hedlund with 39 seconds left.
“We’ve been through a couple of heartbreakers since coming here to Arkansas, but that might be at the top of it,” Razorback head coach Bret Bielema said, “just to be that close and that type of game and to walk out empty-handed.
“To put in all the work they did during the course of the week, to put together everything they had after being a 1-3 team and battling back to where we need to be and fall short a few plays is very disappointing.”
Brown was not even supposed to be in on the play.
“I felt like I needed to carry the game on my shoulders,” Brown said. “I wasn’t supposed to be in on that play. I asked Coach if I could go in and he agreed.
“I was on the left side and I shot through the gap. I managed to get my right hand on the ball. We knew that Arkansas’ kicker kicks low, but their line is strong.”
Arkansas was coming off a 53-52 win at Ole Miss and 31-14 road beat down of LSU that had made the Razorbacks bowl eligible and had not lost a home game in November in two seasons.
“I doubt think this group will have any problem bouncing back,” Bielema said. “It sucks, it hurts, it stings, it bites. Just put this one on me and I will do everything I can to do better at those critical moments.”
It was certainly a great win for Mississippi State (8-3, 4-3) and head coach Dan Mullen on a night when his team had a 631-479 total yardage advantage.
“Wow, what a football game that was,” Mullen said. “One of the most impressive performances from quarterbacks in college football on both sides of the ball.
“We talked with our players about finishing all week. We stuck with the plan…We managed to block a field goal at the end and come away with a win.”
Allen - who became the school’s all-time leading touchdown passer with 63 during the game - was 5-of-5 for 56 yards on the last drive as the Razorbacks sprinted from their own 35 to the Mississippi State 19 with over a minute left.
But the Razorbacks then got conservative and called three straight rushing plays while essentially settling for a potential game-winning field goal.
“Going down to that last series and the last drive, we were going to go two minute (offense) until we got down almost inside a minute,” Bielema said. “We were going to go for the score and then we found ourself inside the 20 and we felt really good about our field goal opportunity inside the 20 yard line from the left or the left middle.
“Obviously we weren’t able to execute a monumental, easy thing that we have to be able to accomplish, which was a field goal inside the 20-yard line.
“We are a college football team and we start every practice with that and put a huge amount of emphasis on it, but obviously it wasn’t enough and that’s my fault that we didn’t prepare enough for that situation.
“I’m extremely disappointed for our players, our coaches and our fans put a lot into that this work week.
“No one us going to feel sorry for us…What’s done is done and we will move ourselves into preparation for (Friday's game with) Missouri and a short work week.”
Allen threw for over 800 yards and 13 touchdowns in the two games against Ole Miss and Mississippi State with the seven touchdowns tying the SEC record.
He has thrown for at least six touchdowns in two of the last three games after no one had throw for six in the previous 1,217 games of program history.
His 10-yard touchdown pass with 5:33 left in the game and his ensuing two-point conversion catch on a pass from Jared Cornelius put Arkansas up 50-44.
“He just continues to be very impressive,” Bielema said. “He threw some money throws today with some pressure in his face, stepped up in the pocket.
“The catch he made, too, seem to be a pretty good football play for a quarterback as well. Really just continues to impress and for all those seniors we have got to do the best we can to send them out the right way this weekend.
“I think he is really playing well, some of the throws like Hunter (Henry’s) last touchdown, that ball was a shot right over the middle of the field. He is throwing them in places that no one can get to them, as well as being very, very accurate.”
Henry had 7 catches for 129 yards and two touchdowns, Drew Morgan 7 catches for 89 yards and a score and Sprinkle 4 catches for 49 yards and three touchdowns.
Cornelius added 7 catches for 81 yards and a score while Dominique Reed had 2 catches for 59 yards.
Alex Collins was limited to 59 yards on 15 carries on a night where Arkansas the Razorbacks rushed for just 73 yards.
The Arkansas defense was gashed throughout the night except for a stretch in the third quarter as the Razorbacks were rallying from a 31-21 halftime deficit.
Mississippi State actually took a 31-14 lead late in the second quarter before Allen’s 7-yard touchdown pass to Jared Cornelius with 52 seconds and Hedlund’s PAT cut it to 31-21 by intermission.
That was the first of four straight touchdowns scored by Arkansas as the Razorbacks rallied to take a 42-31 lead with 6:56 left in the third quarter.
Arkansas forced a fumble on the second half kickoff, picked off Prescott and then forced his fumble.
That resulted in Allen hitting Sprinkle on a 3-yard touchdown pass and connecting with Henry on scoring strikes of 39 and 18 yards.
“I thought we got the score at the end of the first half that was a really big, big deal and then we couldn’t ask for a better start to the second half in all three phases.
Arkansas actually had a 4th-and-1 at the Mississippi State 26 late in the third quarter and chose to go for it, but Allen’s pass for Henry was incomplete.
It is a call that will certainly be debated - both for going for it and the play call.
“It was just a little out of our range,” Bielema said. “We didn’t feel good about our operation, it would have been a longer range field goal.
“…Obviously 4th and a short 1 and Dan thought he wanted to take a shot and obviously it didn’t happen. I would go for it again.”
Arkansas will host Missouri Friday at 1:30 p.m. in the Razorbacks’ regular season finale.