For the first time since 2017, the Arkansas Razorback football team won a Southeastern Conference game. The Razorbacks (1-1) upset the No.16 Mississippi State Bulldogs (1-1) 21-14 in Starkville on Saturday night.
The story of the evening was the game plan from Arkansas defensive coordinator Barry Odom. The Hogs held a team that recorded 632 offensive yards against the defending national champion LSU Tigers to 400 total yards. Junior defensive back Joe Foucha powered the defense with two interceptions on the evening.
“Joe had missed a few days of practice…and he just stayed with it,” Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman said. “He knew he was going to get in the game and he came up big.”
Arkansas struggled to move the ball offensively most of the game, but a 12-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Feleipe Franks to redshirt freshman tight end Hudson Henry gave the Hogs a 21-7 lead in the third quarter. The Bulldogs scored onced in the third, and were held scoreless in the fourth quarter.
“We had such a great plan, Coach Odom did an unbelievable job,” junior linebacker Bumper Pool said. “It was the most prepared game I’ve ever played in.”
After a rough game in Week 1 versus Georgia, Franks bounced back going 20-28 for 212 yards and two touchdowns in the air. Senior running back Rakeem Boyd left the game in the second quarter for the Hogs and was replaced by redshirt junior Trelon Smith. Smith led Arkansas with 48 yards rushing and also paced the team with five receptions out of the backfield.
“I just told (Smith), ‘keep your head in the game,’” Franks said, “because you never know when your name’s going to be called. Just staying prepared, staying ready, and Tre did a great job of that tonight.”
Mississippi State quarterback K.J. Costello took a step back from his record-setting performance in Week 1, going 43-59 for 313 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. The Bulldogs shot themselves in the foot late as freshman Jaden Walley muffed a punt that was recovered by the Hogs at the Bulldog 37-yard line and sealed the game.
The Bulldogs received the opening kickoff and drove 39 yards down the field before Costello threw a pass that was intercepted by sophomore defensive back Greg Brooks Jr. and returned 69 yards for a touchdown. The only offensive touchdown of the first quarter came on a 17-yard pass from Costello to wide receiver JaVonta Payton. That play capped off an 11-play, 75-yard drive that lasted 7:45.
Mississippi State racked up 157 total yards in the first quarter, 117 of which were through the air by Costello. Arkansas recorded 14 yards on four offensive plays in the quarter. Of the 14 yards, 10 came on two rushes from Boyd.
The Razorback offense picked up the pace in the second quarter. On the opening drive of the quarter the Hogs marched the ball 91 yards down the field, but came up short when redshirt freshman quarterback K.J. Jefferson fumbled the ball on the Bulldogs 1-yard line.
Midway through the second quarter, Franks completed a 19-yard touchdown pass to redshirt senior wide receiver De’Vion Warren to break the tie and give the Hogs a 14-7 lead with 5:27 remaining in the first half.
Arkansas’s defense had its second impressive first half of the season, holding the Bulldogs to 49 yards in the second quarter. Razorback safety Joe Foucha picked off Costello’s pass at the Arkansas 39-yard line with 1:18 remaining in the half, but the offense was unable to capitalize and the Hogs took a 14-7 lead into the locker room.
During the second quarter, Franks was 9-10 through the air with 123 yards and a touchdown. Warren had an impressive quarter, catching three passes, including a 52-yarder on the 91-yard drive, for 83 yards and a touchdown.
“De’Vion does a great job of communicating with me,” Franks said. “I was able to get him the ball, he does a great job after the catch…getting upfield, making people miss…it’s wonderful for him. I’m happy for him”
Outside of the lone touchdown drive, Mississippi State struggled to find points. They failed to record more than 40 yards on any other drive in the half. Costello was 22-33 for 163 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in the half.
The Razorbacks lost key players to injuries in the first half. Boyd and sophomore receiver Treylon Burks went down within the first 30 minutes and did not see the field again. Senior Linebacker Grant Morgan and junior defensive back Montaric Brown suffered an injury in the first half, but was able to return in the second half.
“We went into camp going ‘we’re going to two-spot everything,’ so our fours are going to get the same amount of reps as our ones,” Pittman said. “We felt like it might happen because of the virus, we didn’t necessarily think it would happen because of injuries, but it did tonight and the kids were ready.”