Razorbacks Run Past Mississippi State 44-10

LITTLE ROCK -- Freshman tailback Darren McFadden and the Arkansas ground game returned to its dominant form, rolling to 247 rushing yards a week after its lowest output in more than two years.

The defense continued its stifling -- and impressive -- run through the season's second half, harassing Mississippi State quarterback Michael Henig, slowing tailback Jerious Norwood and holding the Bulldogs' anemic attack to 183 yards.

True freshman quarterback Casey Dick threw touchdown passes. Receiver Marcus Monk and fullback Peyton Hillis got into the end zone for the second straight week. And freshman Felix Jones returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown.

Arkansas hasn't had much reason to smile during its bowl-less season, which has been full of late-game shortcomings and poor performances. But it finally got a look at how promising the future could be during a 44-10 win against Mississippi State in front of 55,712 in Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium on Saturday.

The Razorbacks (4-6, 2-5 in Southeastern Conference) jumped out to a 41-3 halftime lead, turning in a complete performance against the Bulldogs (2-8, 0-7). Arkansas, which dropped its first five SEC games, now has won two straight conference games and claimed its seventh in a row against Mississippi State.

"You just wish this was the third, fourth game of the year and you're just now starting to come (together)," Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said. "But that's not reality. But we're having a lot of fun and there's nothing like it."

Arkansas cruised against the Bulldogs, feeding off last Saturday's come-from-behind win at Ole Miss. The offense, which scored three touchdowns in the second half to erase a 10-point deficit in Oxford, Miss., rolled in the first half against a Bulldogs' defense that hadn't surrendered more than 37 points this season.

McFadden, who was held to 22 yards against the Rebels, rebounded with a 165-yard, 2-touchdown performance Saturday. He went 35 yards on his first attempt and capped Arkansas' first possession, a 9-play, 77-yard drive, with a 1-yard touchdown run.

But the Hogs got into a little trouble on their next drive, when Dick was hit by Mississippi State linebacker Quinton Culberson while throwing a pass. The ball fluttered and landed in defensive lineman Andrew Powell at the Razorbacks' 21.

Arkansas' defense took charge, getting the ball back two plays later when Henig was hit by linebacker Pierre Brown and fumbled. Marcus Harrison scooped up the loose ball and ran for 25 yards before being brought down by Norwood.

"Coach dialed up blitz and I was able to come free," Brown said. "The ball popped out and Marcus Harrison recovered it. We put out a fire and basically changed the game. It gave us momentum and the offense capitalized and the rest is history."

McFadden scored his second touchdown seven plays later on a 21-yard run, the Hogs held a 14-0 lead at the end of the first quarter and the rout was on.

Dick, who completed 12 of 23 passes for 124 yards, led the Hogs to 27 points in the second quarter and threw 15-yard touchdown passes to Hillis and Monk. Place kicker Chris Balseiro also notched 23- and 36-yard field goals. Arkansas built a 27-0 lead before Mississippi State got on the board with Adam Carlson's 39-yard field goal, but Jones squashed the Bulldogs hopes on the ensuing kickoff.

The freshman, who leads the SEC in kickoff returns, became the seventh Razorback -- and first since Madre Hill in 1994 -- to record a 100-yard touchdown return.

"The wedge was very, very good, but he set it up," Nutt said. "He started out nice and slow. He hit the crease full speed. It shuts everything off. It stops them cold."

Arkansas put together 379 total yards and was 7 of 14 on third-down conversions, including 6 of 8 in the first half. The Razorbacks' 41 points were their most in a half since scoring 42 in last season's opener against New Mexico State. It also was the largest output by a Mississippi State opponent since, at least, 1991.

McFadden was a large part of the success, turning in his fifth, 100-yard performance. He topped the 1,000-yard mark on a 64-yard run in the fourth quarter, becoming the seventh Razorback and seventh freshman in SEC history to reach the milestone.

"It was defense, offense and special teams coming together finally," Arkansas right tackle Robert Felton said. "That's what we should've been doing the whole time. Things happened we just couldn't get it done, but I think that first half shows that when you put it all together, good things happen.

"Once you put it together, it's a great feeling."

The Bulldogs didn't have the same luck with their struggling offense, which entered the game ranked 115th in the nation in scoring (12 points a game) and 112th in total offense (271.8 yards), being suffocated by the Razorbacks in the first half.

Henig, a redshirt freshman, felt most of the heat in his second start, spending most of the afternoon on War Memorial Stadium's turf. Henig was 11 of 27 for 77 yards with an interception, lost two fumbles and the Hogs collected seven sacks.

The Bulldogs had minus-11 yards in the first quarter and would've stayed below zero in the first half if not for tailback Jerious Norwood's 53-yard run in the second quarter. Mississippi State had 44 yards and two first downs in the first half.

"I still haven't figured out what happened and what went wrong," Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom said. "Arkansas played really well. We had a lack of intensity and made a lot of mistakes. We didn't execute and we have to figure that out."

Norwood had 91 yards on 14 carries and went over the 3,000-yard career rushing mark in the second half. But the Bulldogs' 183 yards were its second-lowest total this season. In fact, Mississippi State gained 141 yards on three plays: Norwood's 53-yarder in the first half, Henig's 31-yard completion to Omarr Conner in the third quarter and backup tailback Demarcus Johnson's 57-yard run in the fourth quarter.

"Their defense was real good," Norwood said. "Better than I thought they were going to be. They were quick off the ball and that disrupted what we were doing."

Mississippi State finally got in the end zone on Johnson's 2-yard touchdown run at the end of the third quarter. Balseiro's 26-yard field goal, his third of the game, were the only points Arkansas scored in the second half. But it didn't matter.

The 34-point margin of victory was the second-most lopsided in the series, second only to Arkansas' 46-point, 52-6 win in 2003. It also was the sixth time the Razorbacks have beaten Ole Miss and Mississippi State in the same season.

Now, the Hogs have their sights set on their season-finale at LSU on Friday.

"We can always get better, but you're starting to see it," Nutt said. "The second half of Ole Miss at Oxford, that was really good, all three phases. (Saturday), the first half, offense, defense, kicking game, all three of them working together and that's what happens. You can explode with some points and there's not a better feeling."

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