STARKVILLE, Miss. — Arkansas improved to 7-4 overall and 3-4 in SEC play with a 58-42 victory at Mississippi State. It was the Razorbacks’ first win over the Bulldogs since 2011.
Here is a quick look at how the Hogs graded out in the victory.
From the very first drive of the game, it was apparent that Saturday in Starkville would be quite different than the Hogs’ performance a week earlier in a home loss to LSU. Rawleigh Williams III had more than 100 yards after just 4 carries and finished with a career-high 205 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Williams also threw for a touchdown on a nifty jump pass dialed up by offensive coordinator Dan Enos near the goal line.
Austin Allen returned to form after a rough couple of weeks, throwing for 303 yards and 2 touchdowns.
And perhaps most impressively, Arkansas’ offensive line was tremendous. The Hogs’ O-line didn’t allow any sacks (!) and opened big holes for Williams and Devwah Whaley to run through. As a team, Arkansas rushed for 357 yards and 5 touchdowns.
After Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald rushed for two first-quarter touchdowns, it started to feel like we might be in for a shootout. Then, the Arkansas defense made adjustments and held the Bulldogs scoreless in the second quarter.
But MSU scored 14 points in both the third and fourth quarters, and the Bulldogs ended up with 533 total yards of offense. It’s the sixth time this season Arkansas has allowed more than 500 yards.
MSU also rushed for 205 yards, which surely won’t help the Hogs abysmal national defensive rankings.
At least the Hogs are free of Fred Ross, the star MSU receiver who has tortured Arkansas the last three seasons, including Saturday night.
Major problems still exist on the Arkansas defense. Heck, with the way Missouri is playing offense, it shouldn’t surprise anyone next week if the Tigers put up big numbers on the Razorbacks.
Special teams: C
Toby Baker didn’t have to punt at all Saturday, so that affects this grade in a perhaps unfair way.
But Adam McFain missed a very makeable 40-yard field goal, and none of the Razorbacks’ 10 kickoffs were touchbacks.
The return game was weak like it’s been all season. Why is Deon Stewart still returning kicks?
If Bret Bielema shakes up his staff this offseason, the expectation — and hope — of many Razorback fans is that he will make a change at defensive coordinator.
But maybe he should also look at adding a special teams coordinator.
Mississippi State fans definitely brought it with the cowbells early, but once the game got out of hand, they headed for the exits. Thousands of MSU fans left at halftime, making the second half — when the Bulldogs mounted somewhat of a comeback — decidedly less loud.
The soaring offensive grades are somewhat muted by the defense’s performance.