Red jerseys flooded Frank Broyles Field in celebration after Mississippi State kicker Nolan McCord’s kick sailed wide left as time expired, giving Arkansas a 31-28 victory over the No. 17 Bulldogs in Fayetteville.
It was a tale of two kickers in Saturday afternoon’s contest. Arkansas freshman Cameron Little was masterful on the day, going 3-4 and hitting from 46, 48 and 51 yards, while Mississippi State’s Brandon Ruiz came up empty on two attempts and McCord missed the final kick.
“I knew he was going to miss that kick,” Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman said following the game. “I felt bad for the kid… at the end when there are zeros on the clock, all you’re concerned about is the final score.”
Arkansas started the scoring after a three-and-out on its first drive of the game, going 40 yards on nine plays. The possession ended with a 46-yard Little field goal with 7:52 left in the first quarter.
The Hogs added to their lead when sophomore running back Dominique Johnson punched it in from a yard out, making it 10-0 with 3:52 to play in the first quarter.
“He’s done that all year,” Pittman said. “We just haven’t been giving him the carries. He's better when he wears you down. The line got better as the game went on as well.”
With the Bulldogs driving early in the second quarter, senior linebacker Grant Morgan intercepted quarterback Will Rogers’ pass to give the Hogs the ball back and sustain their momentum.
Both teams traded three-and-outs before the Hogs were able to create a drive that led to a 48-yard field goal from Little that put them up 13-0 with a little over three minutes to play in the first half.
The Bulldogs, with a little help from a pass interference penalty, were able to close out the first half with a touchdown, scoring with just seven seconds left in the first half.
Mississippi State carried that momentum into the second half, scoring on its first possession to take a 14-13 lead over the Hogs with 8:15 to play in the third quarter.
“I think they’re very deserving of the No. 17 ranking,” Pittman said. “We were very fortunate to have an off week to prepare for them.”
From there, the Razorbacks ripped off 10 straight points. Junior wide receiver Treylon Burks, who became the eighth-leading receiver in Arkansas history, hauled in a 14-yard touchdown with 14:10 to play in the game to give the Hogs a 23-14 lead.
The Bulldogs then took over, scoring 14 straight for the second time in the contest. A Rogers 15-yard touchdown pass to Jo’Quavious Marks gave Mississippi State a 28-23 lead with 2:22 to play in the game.
Arkansas, needing a touchdown, drove the ball 75 yards on 10 plays, and capped it off with a 4-yard touchdown run from Johnson with just 21 seconds to play in the game.
“The offense's mindset was that we needed to score, we needed to become bowl eligible, and we did that,” Johnson said.
Johnson found the end zone again for a two-point conversion, making it a three-point game.
Mississippi State drove the ball down to the Arkansas 22-yard line to set up a potential game-tying 40-yard field goal attempt that McCord kicked wide left as time expired, and the Razorbacks secured the 31-28 victory.
Arkansas will travel to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, next Saturday to face the LSU Tigers at 6:30 p.m. in the Battle for the Golden Boot. The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network.