The Tigers overcame a 17-point halftime deficit with three second-half touchdowns and shut out the Razorbacks to pull out a dramatic 28-24 Southeastern Conference win at Memorial Stadium.
Missouri coach Barry Odom said some of his players, including defensive end Charles Harris, injured defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr. and quarterback Drew Lock, had messages for their teammates at halftime.
“A lot of good things that were said, positively, because we knew we weren’t that far off,” Odom said. “We knew if we could go execute, just to try to battle them and get back in the game a little bit, we asked them to try to get it to the fourth. If we could do that, then you don’t know what’s going to happen. Tremendously proud of our seniors and this team to finish the way that they did. Learned a lot about ourselves. Learned a lot about this team. I’m proud that our seniors are able to walk out of there with a win against a pretty good football team.”
The 17-point comeback was the largest halftime deficit Missouri (4-8 overall, 2-6 in SEC play) has overcome in school history and was the second-largest overall comeback in school history.
The Tigers gained 399 yards of total offense (268 passing, 131 rushing). Lock completed 16 of 26 passes for 268 yards and one touchdown. Wide receiver J'Mon Moore caught six passes for 135 yards and recovered a fumble for a touchdown, his ninth of the season.
The Missouri rushing attack, which was without suspended freshman Damarea Crockett, gained 131 yards on 30 carries. Wide receiver Johnathon Johnson had 81 yards on two carries (along with two catches for 70 yards and a touchdown). Nate Strong stepped up after Ish Witter left with a left knee injury and gained 52 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries.
The Tigers defense was led by freshman linebacker Cale Garrett and redshirt freshman safety Ronnell Perkins, who each had 10 tackles. Marcell Frazier, a junior defensive end, had three sacks and four tackles for loss. Garrett and senior cornerback Aarion Penton each had interceptions.
Arkansas (7-5, 3-5) gained 503 total yards of offense (348 passing, 155 rushing). Quarterback Austin Allen completing 24 of 39 passes for 348 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions. Running back Rawleigh Williams III had 117 yards rushing and a touchdown on 25 carries.
“I think the thing that was very, very obvious was the tale of two halves,” Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said. “We didn’t match the intensity that we needed to in the second half to get this win. And anytime this happens in this league, I don’t care what the records are, it’s about who executes. I give credit to Missouri, obviously they responded well in the second half. They took advantage and got the momentum on their side and never let go of it.”
It took Arkansas just two plays to score on Friday.
Austin Allen connected with Keon Hatcher for a 66-yard pass on the Razorbacks’ first play. Then Williams scored on a 1-yard run.
The Tigers tied the score a few minutes later, on their second series, when Ish Witter dropped the ball before crossing the goal line on a 7-yard run and Moore recovered the fumble for a touchdown.
Devwah Whaley made it 14-7 with a 30-yard touchdown run with 4:13 remaining in the first quarter.
Missouri had a chance to tie the score a minute later but Emanuel Hall dropped what could have been a 59-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline.
The Razorbacks kept rolling in the second quarter.
The Tigers answered with a drive into Arkansas territory, with Lock finding Dimetrios Mason for back-to-back first-down conversions. But then a bad snap from Jonah Dubinski was recovered by the Razorbacks with 32 seconds left.
Arkansas attempted a 48-yard field goal as time expired but the kick sailed wide left. The Razorbacks took a 17-point lead into halftime.
During the intermission, Harris, Beckner and Lock had messages for their teammates.
“At halftime I told the guys that 20 years from now, no one wants to look back and think of everything they should have done,” Harris said. “I told them to buckle down and get the win.”
Frazier said Harris challenged guys personally.
“As a man, when someone challenges you personally, you have to react,” Frazier said. “I mean, you can’t just go out there and lay a goose egg. Charles, he challenged us personally and we reacted. Terry said a lot. He challenged a lot of guys personally. Terry’s not even playing in the game, but Terry still had the fire. He just let guys know, what are you going to do? Terry was like, if I was out there you guys know what I would do. ‘What are you guys gonna do?’ Man for man, people stepped up, people reacted to that and we got the win. We shut them out.”
Missouri opened the second half with a scoring drive, capped off by a 2-yard touchdown run by sophomore running back Nate Strong, his first of the season.
Garrett ended Arkansas’ next series with an interception near the goal line. Then the Tigers converted a fourth-and-seven situation with a 14-yard run by Anthony Sherrils on a fake punt.
Two plays Lock found Johnson down the field for a 67-yard touchdown, cutting the deficit to 24-21 with 2:07 left in the third quarter.
Lock called that touchdown pass and the turning point in the game.
“When I really felt our place come alive and our sideline come alive was right as the third quarter ended we had them jump offsides and we were going to extend that drive,” Lock said. “You could feel the energy, you could feel the momentum, shift to us, regardless of what the score was. I think we wanted it a little more.”
Missouri got another fourth-down conversion on its next series, when Arkansas jumped offsides, and the Tigers took advantage with a nine-play, 81-yard scoring drive.
Mason dropped a potential 67-yard touchdown pass with 14:54 left. Two plays later Lock connected with Moore for a 49-yard gain. Strong capped off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run with 12:48 remaining, giving the Tigers a 28-24 lead.
Arkansas had three more possessions and twice advanced inside the Missouri 10-yard line but didn’t score again.
Penton came up with an interception in the end zone, on a fourth-down pass from Allen, with 4:02 remaining to thwart another potential Arkansas scoring drive.
On the final series, with fourth-and-goal from the 20-yard line, Frazier sacked Allen.
“We just had some older guys step up,” Frazier said. “AMP (Penton) stepped up like crazy. He got the pressure on the guy when he threw the interception and then he picked one off from the guy. So AMP stepped up like crazy. J.G. (John Gibson), he always plays well in my opinion. Big Josh (Augusta) and Rickey (Hatley) did what they could. Charles, he was getting back there as well. A lot of guys stepped up. We haven’t maybe had, across the board, that many guys step up like that. It was good to see everybody step up.”
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