RAZORBACK REWIND – MISSISSIPPI STATE 45, ARKANSAS 14
Five Keys Review
1. Improve Pass Defense
Arkansas didn’t give up scores of big plays through the air, but quarterback Tyler Russell still enjoyed a solid day against the secondary. Russell completed 19 of 32 passes for 274 yards and tied his career high with four touchdown passes.
One of the biggest came late in the third quarter, when Russell found LaDarius Perkins for a 24-yard touchdown. It gave the Bulldogs a 31-14 lead, turning a tight game in the first half into a rout before the fourth quarter even began.
2. Keep Wilson Clean
Arkansas’ pass protection during its first two possessions was the best of the season. Wilson had ample time to sit in the pocket and find open receivers, completing 11 of 12 passes with two touchdowns in the opening minutes.
The protection slowly faded from there, though. Mississippi State sacked Wilson twice and forced the quarterback to rush throws in the second half. The Bulldogs also sent Wilson limping to the sideline with a sore hip in the final minutes.
3. Redzone Success
The Razorbacks didn’t reach the red zone often Saturday. But they scored on their only attempt. Tyler Wilson’s 7-yard touchdown pass to Dennis Johnson capped an impressive second drive and gave the Razorbacks a 14-7 lead.
The touchdown pass was a third-down play. Wilson found Johnson slipping across the middle of the field and the back fought his way across the goal line.
4. No Careless Mistakes
Arkansas hurt itself again and again and again in the loss. The second half was a train wreck offensively, with the Razorbacks committing four turnovers on eight possessions. It was part of a five-turnover afternoon, which was a season high.
Arkansas will look back on the 2012 season and lament the turnovers. Careless mistakes cost the Hogs against Mississippi State and numerous other opponents.
5. Sound on Special Teams
Arkansas had a 14-7 lead and all the momentum in the second quarter. Then cornerback Kaelon Kelleybrew muffed a punt, Mississippi State recovered, kicked a field goal and began its rout of the Razorbacks.
The mistake wasn’t the only reason Arkansas lost Saturday, but turnovers on special teams rarely lead to good results. Kelleybrew hadn’t returned a punt this season and was quickly replaced by Keante Minor for the remainder of the game.
Players of the Game
Offense – WR Cobi Hamilton (7 catches, 88 yards, TD)
Hamilton finished below the 100-yard mark for the second straight game, but still had a solid outing. The senior snapped a long scoring drought with his 30-yard touchdown in the first quarter. It was the first time Hamilton had scored in SEC play. It was his first touchdown since scoring three in the Rutgers loss on Sept. 22.
Defense – DT Byran Jones (7 tackles, ½ sack)
The junior enjoyed one of his best performances of the season, finishing third on the team with seven tackles. He spent a good amount of time in the backfield early, helping Arkansas start strong defensively to help the Hogs to a 14-7 lead.
Special Teams – P Dylan Breeding (5 punts, 45-yard average)
Arkansas suffered through another rough performance on special teams, while Breeding had another solid game. The senior averaged 45 yards on his five punts. It included a 55-yarder that helped the Hogs flip the field in the first half.
3 — Number of times, since 1992, Arkansas has lost to both Ole Miss and Mississippi State in the same season. It also happened in 1992 and 2008. Arkansas has not been bowl eligible after losing to Ole Miss and Mississippi State in the same year.
4 – Catches needed by Arkansas’ Cobi Hamilton to set the school’s career receptions mark. Hamilton currently has 165 career catches and can pass Jarius Wright (168) with another solid performance in the season-ending game against LSU.
505 –MSU’s total yards in the 45-14 win. It was the most Arkansas had allowed since Sept. 29, when Texas A&M piled up 716. The Hogs had held five-straight opponents (Auburn, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Tulsa and South Carolina) below the 400-yard mark.
Arkansas (4-7, 2-5 in SEC) will wrap up the 2012 season with its annual Battle For the Golden Boot against No. 8 LSU (9-2, 5-2 in SEC) on Friday in Razorback Stadium. The game will be televised by CBS with kickoff set for 1:30 p.m.
Arkansas and LSU are meeting in Fayetteville for the first time since 1992, when the Razorbacks played their first season in the SEC. The game was moved out of Little Rock in the offseason. Ole Miss moved from Fayetteville to Little Rock.
There were national title implications last year. LSU was ranked No. 1 and Arkansas was No. 3 in the Bowl Championship Series standings. The Razorbacks raced out to a 14-0 lead, but LSU won 41-17 and moved on to the SEC title game.
“We’re playing for the seniors, playing for the guys that are leaving us that are part of your family, your brothers. ... Dog gone it, if you have any pride at all, go play for those guys and lay it all on the line,” — Arkansas coach John L. Smith, when asked what the Razorbacks will be playing for after failing to become bowl eligible this season. Arkansas closes the season against LSU on Friday.
— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau