Hogs Defense Make Timely Plays

LITTLE ROCK -- Arkansas defensive tackle Ernest Mitchell doesn't care that Mississippi State piled up 501 yards, which was more than Tennessee put together last Saturday.

He shrugged off the fact Bulldogs quarterback Wesley Carroll threw for a career-high 421 yards and four scores.

When Arkansas' 45-31 win against Mississippi State was complete, the senior said the only statistics that mattered were the Bulldogs' five turnovers and 80 rushing yards.

"Any time you win, you feel great," Mitchell said. "So we feel great. That's all I'm going to say."

Arkansas' defense bounced back from a poor performance at Tennessee -- sort of. The Razorbacks gave up yards, first downs and touchdowns to a team not known for its offensive firepower, but also knocked the Bulldogs out of their comfort zone, forced mistakes and made big plays in the win.

Arkansas' plan against Mississippi State wasn't unusual -- stop Mississippi State running backs Anthony Dixon and Christian Ducre. But its approach was.

The Hogs opened the game with a five-man front, putting lineman Fred Bledsoe on the field instead of linebacker Elston Forte in hopes of frustrating Mississippi State.

"We knew they were going to try to run the ball and we were going to try to get some bigger guys in there to stop it," linebacker Weston Dacus said.

Mississippi State had little trouble moving the ball and converting on third down its first two possessions. Its first drive stalled because of a fumble forced by Mitchell and its second resulted in Carroll's 4-yard touchdown pass to receiver Jamayel Smith. But the Razorbacks eventually buckled down and MSU stepped out of its two-back offense.

"We didn't want to get into a situation where we had to throw the football every down," MSU coach Sylvester Croom said. "But it didn't take us long to realize that they were going to overplay our base sets."

Carroll had thrown for just 801 yards and four scores entering Saturday's game. The freshman found gaps in the secondary, finding Smith (10 catches, 208 yards, 2 touchdowns), Jason Husband and Tony Burks.

But he also threw four interceptions. Carroll had tossed one interception in his previous 158 attempts before Saturday.

One of the biggest came in the fourth quarter with the Razorbacks leading 38-24. Defensive end Antwain Robinson stepped in front of a screen pass and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown. It was his second score this season and the third touchdown return of his career.

Not bad for a player that wasn't listed on Arkansas' depth chart -- or the roster card -- before the game. Nutt said rumors had circulated that Robinson left the team before the game, but said afterward they were inaccurate.

Either way, Arkansas' defensive effort wasn't flawless against Mississippi State. But the Hogs said it was more than enough to help them win an important game.

"I think he had a pretty good game," Dacus said. "We got it done. A win is a win."

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