Better late than never the University of Arkansas' youth movement is in full effect with a trio of true freshmen leading the way.
Tailback Darren McFadden scored two touchdowns while rushing for 165 yards and topping the 1,000 yard rushing mark, Casey Dick passed for 124 yards and two scores and Felix Jones returned a kickoff 100 yards as the Razorbacks hammered Mississippi State 44-10 before 55,712 at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
Sophomores Peyton Hillis and Marcus Monk combined for 8 catches for 101 yards with each hauling in a 15-yard touchdown.
"I'm really proud of our defense, our special teams, our offense for the first half," Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt said. "We played extremely well, played hard and I am just real proud of them. You just have to commend the effort of every facet of the team that was out there."
"I also really appreciate the fans in Little Rock," Nutt added. "To buy every ticket - it says a lot and we really appreciate that."
Monk's 15-yard one from Dick 30 seconds before intermission put Arkansas (4-6, 2-5) up 41-3 at halftime en route to its second SEC win in as many games.
The big part of that was a 27-point second quarter where Arkansas played its best quarter of the season.
"It probably is the best quarter of the year with everybody playing where everything was hitting on all cylinders and everybody was playing extremely fast," Nutt said.
The Razorbacks offense - which had not score more than 28 points in an SEC game this season - piled up 379 yards total offense with McFadden's 165 yards on 21 totes giving him 1,054 this season and Jones' 10 carries for 71 yards (655 this season) helping the home team rack up 247 yards on the ground.
McFadden went over 1,000 on one of his typical long runs, this one a 64-yard jaunt early in the fourth quarter to the Mississippi State 7 that set up the Razorbacks' final score - a field goal by Chris Balseiro.
He became the first freshman in Arkansas history to do so and only the eighth freshman in the history of the SEC to top 1,000 in his rookie season.
"Darren McFadden is a big-time tailback," Nutt said. "I love his humbleness and his work ethic. And you can't forget about Felix Jones. He is not too far behind him. They are two outstanding, outstanding freshmen and I am glad they are on the same team. They could start for a lot of people."
Dick, making his third start of the season after not getting a snap until the eighth game of the season, was 12-of-23 passing with two touchdowns and a pair of picks after hitting his last 12 passes in a 28-17 win at Ole Miss last weekend.
Dick, who came out passing on the first three plays of the game, also led his team to 5 scores in 5 times in the Red Zone in the first half during a contest in former starter Robert Johnson and redshirt freshmen Alex Mortensen also played.
"We're still learning and still growing, but the thing he (Dick) gives you is you are not afraid to get him in shotgun, get him in four wideout, get him in three wideouts and let him see the field," Nutt said. "We have got to protect better...but he gives you the confidence to be able to throw the ball down the field."
The Razorback defense - which will only lose 2 starters next season - also played well while limiting Mississippi State (2-7, 0-8) to -11 yards in the first quarter and 44 yards and just two first downs in the opening half.
Arkansas had seven sacks on the day.
Mississippi State freshman quarterback Mike Henig - making just his second start - was forced into a 11-of-27 passing day for just 77 yards.
The Razorbacks scored early and often in the first half, taking their first two possessions of 72 and 56 yards to the house and jumping out to a 14-0 lead on McFadden runs of 1 yard and 21 yards.
That second score came after Dick threw the second interception of his career, but the Arkansas defense responded when Little Rock native Marcus Harrison first sacked Henig and then picked up the fumble and ran it back 17 yards.
That lead grew to 20-0 when Arkansas scored on its next pair of possessions as well with Balseiro kicking field goals of 23 and 36 yards to send early on in the second quarter.
In between the two field goals, Arkansas defensive end and Little Rock native Jamaal Anderson sacked Henig and Keith Jackson jumped on his fumble.
When Dick hit Peyton Hillis on a 15-yard scoring strike and Balseiro added the PAT, Arkansas stunningly had taken a 27-0 lead with 6:25 remaining before intermission.
After a big 53-yard run by tailback Jarius Norwood that got his team out of negative yardage, Mississippi State's Adam Carlson drilled a 39-yard field goal to get his team on the board and cut it to 27-3.
Arkansas quickly regained the momentum when Jones took in the kickoff at the goal line and returned it for a score for the Razorbacks' first kick return for a score since Lawrence Richardson did so in 2000.
That made it 34-3 and then Dick hit Monk on a 15-yard touchdown pass with 30 seconds left before halftime to boost the lead to 41-3 when Balseiro tacked on the PAT.
Mississippi State did score first in the second half on a Demarcus Johnson 2-yard run that cut it to 41-10 with three minutes left in the third quarter.
Arkansas will finish its regular season next Friday with a 1:30 p.m. game at LSU, who will be trying to clinch a berth in the SEC Championship game with a win if they defeat Ole Miss later tonight.
"We have got a great opportunity and we have to take it one day at a time," Nutt said. "We've got a short week and we've got to get ready to go."
Arkansas 44, Mississippi State 10
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