STARKVILLE, Miss. — Arkansas beat Mississippi State 58-42 Saturday night inside Davis Wade Stadium, continuing the Razorbacks’ odd back-and-forth trend of wins and losses this season.
The win was the Hogs’ first in the series since 2011 — Bobby Petrino’s last season as Arkansas’ head coach.
With the win, Arkansas improved to 7-4 on the season and 3-4 in SEC play.
We’ll have plenty more coverage from the game on SECCountry.com/Arkansas, but for now, here’s a quick recap of what happened and how it happened.
Rawleigh Williams III blew past the Mississippi State defense for a 72-yard touchdown on the second play from scrimmage. Halfway through the first quarter, Williams had 3 rushes for 119 yards and 2 touchdowns.
But early on, it seemed like we might be in for another nailbiting shootout between these two teams. Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald rushed for a 58-yard score on the Bulldogs’ first drive of the game, and at the end of the first quarter, the teams were tied at 14.
RWIII’s big night
Williams had a career game Saturday, finishing with 16 carries for 205 yards and 4 touchdowns.
The rushing yardage total set a new career-high for Williams, besting his 180-yard performance against Ole Miss last month.
But he also made an impact in another way.
In the third quarter, quarterback Austin Allen handed off to Williams, who threw a 1-yard jump pass touchdown to Austin Cantrell. That score put the Hogs up 44-21.
There was talk of Williams gunning for Darren McFadden’s all-time, single-game rushing record, but Mississippi State made adjustments after halftime that slowed him down some.
True freshman Devwah Whaley also had a big night, rushing 19 times for 112 yards and a score.
Allen bounces back
Austin Allen has struggled since the Hogs’ embarrassing, Oct. 22 loss at Auburn, and for much of the first half, he continued to struggle, missing some wide-open receivers.
But in the second half, he seemed to calm down and return to the Allen we’ve grown accustomed to throughout most of the season. He finished with 303 passing yards and 2 touchdowns.
Arkansas had its Senior Night ruined last weekend in Fayetteville, when the Hogs lost 38-10 to rival LSU.
So apparently, the Hogs decided to have a big night on somebody else’s Senior Night.
The Bulldogs honored their football seniors before the game. Unfortunately for Mississippi State, the loss Saturday means that it won’t be bowl eligible. It’s the first time Bulldogs won’t go bowling since 2009 — coach Dan Mullen’s first season on the job.
Fitzgerald plays well
Fitzgerald — Mississippi State’s sophomore quarterback — rushed for 131 yards and 4 touchdowns on 17 carries. He also completed 23 of 33 pass attempts for 328 yards and 2 touchdowns.
The Razorbacks’ run defense was only marginally better against Mississippi State than it has been most of the season. This is still a major problem that is going to have to be addressed in some way during the offseason.
All told, Mississippi State racked up 533 total offensive yards in defeat. It is the sixth time this season Arkansas has surrendered more than 500 yards of offense.
Good riddance, Ross
Mississippi State senior receiver Fred Ross has recorded more than 100 receiving yards in each of the last three seasons against Arkansas.
Saturday night, he caught 10 passes for 171 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Over the last three seasons combined, Ross has caught 24 passes for 432 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Arkansas won’t be sad to see him go.
What we learned
On Saturday, we learned that the SEC is even more confusing than we thought. Arkansas smoked Florida on Nov. 5, then was smoked by LSU a week later.
Then Saturday, Florida won at LSU.
Mississippi State beat Texas A&M a couple weeks ago, which beat Arkansas by 3 touchdowns in September.
Arkansas hasn’t won consecutive games since beating TCU and Texas State in back-to-back weeks in mid-September. Does that change next week?
Speaking of next week, Arkansas plays at Missouri next Friday at 2:30 p.m. ET. The Tigers are 3-8 and 1-6 in SEC play.