Dogs Celebrate Senior Day With 31-28 SEC Win

Mississippi State won the toss deferred, with Arkansas receiving and returning to their 29-yard line. After a couple of incompleted throws by Nathan Dick, back Michael Smith turned a simple draw into a 19-yard burst and first down. Dick hit Jarius Wright for 17 yards into Bulldog territory, and on third down found Lucas Miller open at the Bulldog 24-yard line.

After Dick escaped a sack for a short game, he handed off to Smith who went untouched up the middle 19 yards for the touchdown at 10:17.

Delmon Robinson hesitated on the kickoff, letting it bounce and recovered at State's 15-yard line. HB Anthony Dixon moved the chains with carries of five and 10 yards, but on 3rd-and-8 Robinson was run oujt after just six yards on the catch. Blake McAdams punted it 51- yards and good coverage put the Razorbacks on their 10-yard line.

It took just two plays for Arkansas to double their lead, as on 2nd-and-7 Miller got a step behind freshman S Charles Mitchell. He pulled in the throw at the 45-yard line and had no trouble going the rest of the way for the touchdown at 7:12. Is was Arkansas' longest play of the 2008 season.

Down 14-0 the Bulldogs were in desperate straits. Lee answered with a clutch drive of a dozen snaps, usually under pressure and often taking hits—a few seemingly late—as Arkansas' defense teed-off against the passing formations. Second-effort after the catch by Dixon got nine yards to the 38, then a flip to FB Eric Hoskins added a dozen more yards. A 3rd-and-6 catch by Robinson was spotted a foot short, so Lee crawled forward on fourth down to the Arkansas 40 to maintain possession.

WR Jamayel Smith pulled in a slant-catch for 16 yards, and Lee tried to hook up with Smith again only to have the end-zone throw broken up by contact as the ball arrived. But a shovel-pass caught the Razorback blitz perfectly and FB Arnil Stallworth scooted down to the three-yard line, with Arkansas' defense docked two more yards before the snap on a 12-man penalty. State lined up as if to run but Lee rolled right and, before taking the hit, flipped to Dixon who made an amazing snare of a behind-his-helmet throw for the touchdown at 2:41.

Arkansas failed to move on their next turn, and Smith was banged-up on a screen-pass to boot. Starting from their 27 the Bulldogs produced a first down on the first play of the second quarter as Dixon bulled for four yards, then before the chains were placed Smith caught a slant for nine more yards to midfield. Facing another 3rd-and-short, State this time lined up with multiple wideouts only to hand off to Dixon.

He not only got one yard but shed two tackles and rumbled for 39 more down to the ten-yard line. On first-and-goal Stallworth took the quick handoff , broke an arm-tackle at the five and cut into the end zone at 13:06. PK Adam Carlson's PAT evened the scoreboard at 14-14.

Carlson intentionally kicked it high and short, and the return put Arkansas in business on their 40-yard line. Smith was back and took the first handoff, only to pitch to reversing Joe Adams for a 19-yard gainer to State's side of the field. Dennis Johnson converted a 3rd-and-3, but Dick was sacked and on third down CB Marcus Washington not only broke up the sideline pass but could have picked for six. Alex Tejada hit the 44-yard attempt well but wide-left.

Starting at his 27-yard line Lee went for it all on first down and Smith had the ball in his hands at the other 35-yard line, just not long enough for a catch. But Dixon made another nifty snare and better run for 11 tough yards, and Smith netted 14 more to the Arkansas 48-yard line. A draw by Stallworth moved the chains to the 35, where on 3rd-and-3 WR Arceto Clark was hit as the ball went by.

With fourth down at the 27 State called time at 7:11, and opted not to kick. Lee made it pay off; after a quick look downfield he called his own number and slid safely at the 18-yard line for first down. Four snaps later after consecutive incompletions Carlson was given the chance from 32 yards out, and made it count for a 17-14 Bulldog lead at 5:59.

This kickoff was also high and short, but Arkansas let it bounce and got just a modest return to the 27-yard line. A third-down catch by Miller, who took a wicked if unintentional shot to the head at the end, netted a fresh set of downs before CB Jasper O'Quinn and S Mitchell separated Dick's targets from his passes on consecutive passes, and the quarterback was dropped on third down.

Taking over at their 15-yard line at 2:45 the Bulldogs suddenly became cautious, and a shovel-flip to Stallworth on third down produced just six yards. So there was 1:55 left as McAdams punted and a helpful roll reached Arkansas' 41-yard line. LB K.J. Wright had a clean shot and sacked Dick for loss of nine yards, and on second down he went long for Miller.

S Derek Pegues had his back to the play but still legally broke it up, and then came down with the carom for his second interception of the season. That left 55 seconds with State 60 yards from the other goal and two timeouts left. One of which was soon used after a Dixon draw got nine yards. Lee went long for McRae, too long at the 10-yard line, and was sacked for loss of 14 on third down. Arkansas used their last clock-stopper at 0:21 to force a punt. McAdams got it off, and with 13 ticks left the Razorbacks took no chances before halftime.

After bobbling, Pegues returned the period-opening kickoff to the 34. State was able to produce a pair of first downs, one on Dixon's counter for 11 yards. The better run was only for two yards as Lee turned a sure sack into a short gainer. He also got a big break as an over-thrown slant should have been picked, but Isaac Madison dropped it. State was stopped anyway as on 4th-and-2 Lee missed for McRae.

Which gave the Razorbacks possession at the 33-yard line. On 3rd-and-8 Nathan Dick had time and hit Wright at the Bulldog 30 for a seeming catch and fumble recovered by S Keith Fitzhugh. But review ruled no catch at all, so Arkansas punted and Pegues' 10-yard return had the Bulldogs starting in better position at their 35-yard line.

After so many attempts, Lee was finally able to connect with McRae for a pair of 12-yard gains. To the Razorback 39-yard line. On third down Arkansas blitzed hard but Lee got it away to Smith for ten yards and another first down. Incompletions left a 3rd-and-10 though and Lee lost one on a delay-keeper. This time Carlson's 42-yard try for three tailed away to the left at 7:22. It was his first miss from over forty yards all season.

Dick reversed field on a scramble and made 11 yards to the 36-yard line. But he lost six on sack and the Razorbacks burned a timeout at 5:25. The 3rd-and-15 pass was good for just four yards. The punt had State starting on their 33-yard line.

Dixon got four yards bashing the middle on first down, putting him over 100 yards for the day. His next carry was bigger and better, as he cleared left tackle and behind the sealing-block of McRae accelerated down the left sideline for a 63-yard touchdown jaunt at 3:43.

Down 24-14, Arkansas bobbled the kickoff and did well to make their 25-yard line to open the series. Dick hit Miller for ten yards, then nine yards to the 49-yard line, before a second-down holding call sent the Hogs back to their 43. Smith fumbled at the end of his carry but DE Tim Bailey had lined up off-sides; Mississippi State's first penalty all afternoon.

S De'Mon Glanton almost got the downfield interception, and State soon regretted the missed chance more as Dick hit Miller for 30 yards down to the MSU 22. On the next snap tight end D.J. Williams left LB Dominic Douglas in his wake and used the same post-route for the easy catch and run-in touchdown with two ticks left in the quarter. The PAT made it 24-21 going into the final period, with State on their 30-yard line.

Not for long, though, as Lee struck for a fast 21 yards with McRae on the receiving end. Dixon needed two to convert and powered for four, and McRae slipped open for a 12-yard pickup to the Razorback 25. Arkansas helped State's cause, too, as after Stallworth got six yards an after-whistle foul far from the action gave the Bulldogs a free ten yards, and first-and-goal at the nine.

Lee missed freshman TE Kendrick Cook in the end zone, and was stopped on a scramble. This time the Hogs knew a pass was coming, but the throw surprised them anyway as Dixon floated out of the backfield towards the flat before sharply reversing angle underneath where nobody was covering. With two blazers almost in his facemask Lee fired for the easy catch and jog to give State a 31-21 margin.

The remaining 11:15 left lots of time, but Arkansas gambled really early facing 4th-and-4 at their 44. Linebacker Wright came through his gap quickly enough that Dick had to unload behind his target. Yet Mississippi State didn't deliver the killing shot, or even burn a lot of clock, as a holding call negated Lee's scramble for a first down to the UA 33. McAdams' punt was fielded at the 11-yard line with 6:55 remaining. Arkansas used up 2:11 of that but stopped themselves with a holding call and this time punted it away on a 4th-and-20.

But the drama wasn't over at all. State played it safe and on 4th-and-1 at the 50 lined up to punt after a measurement and spot. Yet instead of letting the clock run another 20 or so seconds they quickly punted, probably fearing a block try. Indeed the Razorbacks hit McAdams, negating a nice return to State's 34-yard line…but the Bulldogs were assessed a ‘sideline infraction' on the play as well, offsetting the roughing that would have made a free first down and likely sealed the game.

Instead McAdams punted again, into the end zone. And Dick rose to the opportunity, finding receivers for steady gains including a 29-yard hookup with Miller to State's five-yard line. On third down the Dogs bit on a handoff fake and Dick easily tossed to Ben Cleveland for the one-yard score at 0:25.

State had the hands team on the field for the sure on-sides attempt, and a Dog or two made contact without gaining control. When the pile unstacked on the UA 40-yard line Arkansas had possession with 20 ticks left. Dick twice went to London Crawford, for 21 and 10 yards and the Razorbacks used their last timeout at 0:04. Tejada's kick from the left hashmark was high and long enough, but the breeze carried his 46-yard try off to the right and State could finally celebrate Senior Day properly.

The final yardage was as close as the score, with State leading 445 to 442. Of that Dixon accumulated 211 yards; he ran for 179 on 23 carries with the one long touchdown tote; and caught five balls for 32 more yards and two touchdowns. Lee aired it out 40 times with 23 completed to teammates and no interceptions, netting 219 yards and a couple of scores. Hit often, he was sacked just once. Smith had 64 yards on six grabs, McRae 63 on five.

Stallworth had 45 more yards on the ground via five rushes, as State totaled 226 rushing yards to 109 for the Razorbacks. Smith, who came in averaging 112 yards a game, was limited to 60 on 14 chances. But the younger Dick was exceptional with 333 throwing yards, completing 25-of-43 passes with the one interception and three scores. Miller was the primary recipient with 201 yards on 10 grabs.

And a week after being burned in this area, MSU punting was superior. McAdams averaged 42.2 yards on his five kicks and Arkansas managed to lose a yard on their only return try.

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