LITTLE ROCK - And this too shall come to pass.
Junior quarterback Casey Dick was 14-of-17 passing for 199 yards and threw a career-high 4 touchdowns and Darren McFadden threw one of his own as the University of Arkansas downed Mississippi State 45-31 before 55,185 fans at War Memorial Stadium.
"I have never been prouder of a team that has just given us nothing but great effort and a real heart," embattled Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt said. "They were a lot of great things that happened out there today and we beat a very good team that had won a lot of games and had been on a roll. I thought our guys came to play today."
Dick had scoring tosses of 30 yards to Farod Jackson, 35 to Marcus Monk, 19 to Robert Johnson and 57 yards to Darren McFadden and no interception for the normally run-oriented Razorbacks.
"It was a tremendous day to be on the offensive side," Dick said. "They gave us an opportunity to go out there and make plays and we made plays all over the place," Dick said. "...It was everything today, the offensive line did a great job of pass protection, receivers caught balls and it was just execution all day."
McFadden threw a 24-yard bullet to Johnson for a touchdown in the fourth quarter as the Razorbacks (7-4, 3-4) passed for 223 yards and ran for 206 in the last in-state game this season.
Junior defensive end Antwain Robinson, a Little Rock native, salted the game away with a 30-yard interception return with just under 7 minutes left in the game to put his team up 45-24.
The win came with boxer Jermain Taylor and country singer Joe Nichols both on the sidelines with Taylor sporting a McFadden jersey.
McFadden showed Taylor the love after a touchdown by mimicking his bull impression that he does before a bout.
It ended a tumultuous 24-hour period when Nutt's job status has been a major topic and the end of his era at Arkansas pronounced by some - including ESPN's Mark May.
"When I got to that meeting Friday night, got to the hotel Friday night and everything was going crazy," Nutt said, "a lot of things were being said that weren't true, a lot of people making guesses and - I tell you what - a lot of them ought to be ashamed of themselves.
"But I have some guys that love their team, love their state and coaches who love their team and love their state and their was an unbelievable heart of a lion out there today," Nutt added.
He chastised the media for saying he wouldn't be back.
"It wasn't true yesterday, and it's not true today. And it's not right to do that - to make statements like that to your team - unless you have a real source from either that athletic director of that school or me. And you don't," Nutt said,
"So you make up things. It's not good business. I haven't talked to one athletic director except for (Arkansas' Frank) Broyles and Chancellor (John) White."
Nutt said he felt the love from his team.
"The team rallied behind me and I love them for that," Nutt said. "I got a text from RoJo this morning that said 'We're gonna get this one today, Coach.'"
Dick said the team just brushed that stuff off.
"It was discussed among everybody, between the players and coaches, but nobody really knew," Dick said. "That's just people being haters and people wanting to start rumors. But that is just part of football. We just put that in the back of our mind and took care of business that we needed to take care of today."
Senior offensive lineman Robert Felton chimed in.
When you want him gone, that's kicking us (players) in the face. I can't believe anybody would say that or start any kind of rumors like that," Felton said. "Coach Nutt is a good man."
Felton continued by addressing the fans.
"A lot of fans are just trying to divide us right now, and I can't believe that," Felton said. "To the fans who are not behind us, get out of our way and don't say anything."
Nutt said now was not the time to be talking about this.
"All I want to do is coach this season," Nutt said. " Again, we have an evaluation time at the end of each year with the athletic director, this time it will probably be with Jeff Long. At that time, I wouldn't predict (what will happen). Stop predicting and stop making up rumors."
And as for May going on ESPN on Saturday to say that this is likely Nutt's final season with the Razorbacks?
"Unless he's talked to Jeff Long, I don't know how somebody can get on the air and make a statement like that and then use the incredible word 'my source,'" Nutt said. "Unbelievable."
Nutt gave his team miniture bats on Thursday night at a team meeting in an effort to impressed them to bring the wood to the game.
"I ran off the field holding a baseball bat because I feel like we brought the wood," McFadden said. "...We all felt like we came out soft last week, but we had a hard week of practice and we were able to come out here and play much better."
Arkansas (7-4, 3-4) rebounded from its 34-13 humbling at Tennessee last week while while Mississippi State (6-5, 3-4) could not carry over the momentum from last week's victory over Alabama.
"It was business," Nutt said. "They came out here with a business attitude and wanted to win and the seniors wanted to go out the right way in Little Rock, Arkansas. We had a great crowd and there was some great effort out there and great execution and we beat a very good team that has beat Alabama, has beat Auburn, beat Kentucky and beat a lot of good teams.
"...We had no turnovers and we were very focused," Nutt added.
Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom was impressed with what he saw from Arkansas.
"Houston did a great job in getting his team ready for the game," Croom said. "We stayed with it and played hard all the way through, but we just couldn't get it done today."
McFadden had 88 yards rushing on 28 carries and Peyton Hillis added 11 carries for 65 yards against a Mississippi State run defense that has traditionally been tough on the UA.
Felix Jones, injured last week in the Tennessee loss, saw limited action and caught one pass for negative yards.
Arkansas wideout London Crawford actually had 52 yards rushing on a pair of reverses.
"They came in with that little West Virginia offense and our game plan was to stop McFadden," Croom said, but number 22 (Hillis) made some great runs and the reverse they did earlier in the game worked well against our defense. We just gave up too many big plays."
Bulldog quarterback Wesley Carroll had a big yardage day with 29-of-51 for 421 yards and four touchdowns, but had four costly picks.
Mississippi State opened the scoring on a 4-yard pass from Carroll to Jamayel Smith, a play that capped an impressive 15-play, 80-yard drive.
Smith had 10 catches for a whopping 208 yards on a day when Mississippi State had 501 yards total offense.
Adam Carlson's PAT had the Bulldogs ahead 7-0 with 3:58 left in the opening quarter.
Arkansas responded with 24 second-quarter points, beginning with Alex Tejeda's 39-yard field goal that cut it to 7-3 just five seconds into the quarter.
The Razorbacks then marched 79 yards in 7 plays, the last 30 covered when Jackson caught a pass in the flats and headed to the house.
He got a key block from Hillis to finish off the play and Tejada's boot put Arkansas up 10-7 with 10:44 left in the second quarter.
It grew to 17-7 when Dick hit Johnson on a 35-yard pass on which the receiver made a great adjustment and Tejada tacked on the PAT at the 5:01 mark.
Dick then put one up to Monk, who made a spectacular catch in double coverage for a 19-yard touchdown and a 24-7 lead with just 43 seconds left in the half.
"Look what we have been missing without Marcus Monk," Nutt said. "He turns his head away from the ball, but it's a ball that hung up there perfectly and he goes and gets six points when we really needed that one."
Mississippi State actually had a chance for at least a field goal at the end of the half, but the clock ran out when Smith tried to get extra yards after a catch.
He was tackled at the Razorback 8 as the last second ran off before intermission.
Mississippi State scored first after the break on Carlson's 25-yard field goal with 10:25 remaining in the third quarter.
Arkansas answered right back as Dick dropped a pass off to McFadden and he raced 57 yards for the score.
"The whole beginning of the play the linebacker was right there with me and then at the last second he just ran off and Casey was still scrambling and just dumped it down to me," McFadden said.
Dick said he went through his progression before McFadden just popped open.
"I don't think they will ever forget that play," Dick said. "He was the last one in the progression for us and we checked down and they kind of forgot about all about him. He showed his speed there toward the end by just outrunning everybody."
Tejada's PAT boosted it to 31-10 as 9:33 remained in the third quarter.
Matt Hewitt's interception stymied one visitor drive, but MSU did cut it to 31-17 when Carroll hit Tony Burks for a 35-yard TD pass.
McFadden's 24-yard rope to Johnson early in the fourth quarter put Arkansas up 38-17.
"We had been running the radar play a lot and I just they just bit down on it," McFadden said. "I just popped up and threw it to him."
But Mississippi State answered right back with Carroll hitting Smith on an 80-yard TD with 9:26 left to cut it to 38-24.
Robinson's return gave Arkansas it's three-touchdown lead back, but Carroll's 80-yard touchdown pass to Smith cut it right back to 45-31 two plays later.
Arkansas will finish its regular season schedule with a game at No. 1 LSU on Friday afternoon.
"We have to go right back to work tomorrow and play the number one team in America," Nutt said.
Photos by Marc Henning
Darren McFadden runs away from Mississippi State linebacker Dominic Douglas to complete a 57-yard screen pass for a touchdown.
Antwain Robinson intercepted this pass and took it back for a 30-yard score.
Marcus Monk hauls in a touchdown pass in double coverage on Saturday.
Kevin Woods gets one of Arkansas' four interceptions on Saturday as his double coverage with Matteral Richardson (9) pays off.
Casey Dick threw four touchdown passes on Saturday.
London Crawford picks up big yardage on one of his two reverses for 52 yards.
Jerell Norton makes a tackle before having to leave the game with an injury.
Darren McFadden fights for some of his 88 yards.
Houston Nutt and his team celebrate the win over Mississippi State.
Arkansas 45, MSU 31
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