FAYETTEVILLE — A blocked field goal ultimately determined the Mississippi State Bulldogs’ 51-50 victory over Arkansas as the SEC’s two hottest quarterbacks sizzled on a frigid Saturday night at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Mississippi State’s Beniquez Brown blocked Arkansas freshman kicker’s Cole Hedlund’s low, 29-yard attempt wasting a Razorbacks record seven touchdown passes by senior quarterback Brandon Allen.
Allen completed 30 of 43 passes for 406 yards without a turnover, while Mississippi State senior quarterback Dak Prescott, though intercepted once and fumbling once in Arkansas’ 21-0 third quarter, completed 38 of 50 for 508 yards and five touchdowns and rushed for two touchdowns.
Both quarterbacks kept rallying their teams from deficits until the game-deciding blocked field goal leaving the Bulldogs 39 seconds to run out the clock.
“Wow what a football game that was!” Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said. “One of the most impressive performances from quarterbacks in college football on both sides.”
Obviously it ended better for one quarterback and one team than the other.
“To go through all the blood, sweat and tears to lose a game like that rips your heart out, but you have to keep pushing ourselves forward,” Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said. “I take my hat off to Mississippi State. They survived some momentum swings and we could never put them away. The kick at the end was lack of execution big time, and that’s all on me. I’ve been through a couple of heartbreakers since coming to Arkansas, but that one might be at the top of it, just to be that close in that type of a game and to walk out empty handed.”
Prescott threw an interception to nickel back Kevin Richardson and fumbled once to defensive tackle Taiwan Jonson during Arkansas’ 21-0 third quarter. That third quarter began with Arkansas’ Josh Harris jarring the football from kick returner Brandon Holloway and recovered by Jeremy Sprinkle setting up Allen’s first touchdown pass of the second half.
Arkansas rallied from down 31-14 to close the first half down 31-21 and took a 42-31 lead after the third quarter.
Prescott rallied the Bulldogs to up 44-42, but Mississippi State’s Westin Graves missed the PAT on the goal ahead touchdown.
Allen hit a 53-yard pass to Dominique Reed to set up a 7-yard TD pass to Jeremy Sprinkle and tallied a 2-point conversion pass from receiver Jared Cornelius to quarterback Allen with 5:33 for a 50-44 left.
In six plays Prescott drove the Bulldogs 82 yards and completed what would be the game-winning 14-yard touchdown pass to Fred Ross and Graves’ PAT at 3:05.
Starting its last possession from its own 11, Arkansas behind five straight Allen passes drove to the Mississippi State 19 and set up three runs to the middle of the field for Hedlund’s kick that Brown blocked to leave the Razorbacks and their fans out in the 28-degree cold.
The loss drops Arkansas to 6-5, 4-3 in the SEC West with one SEC game left to play, Friday’s finale with Missouri.
Mississippi State improved to 8-3, 4-3 SEC West and closes next Saturday vs. Ole Miss.
Other than their final possession commenced with 52 seconds, the Bulldogs scored on their every first-half possession.
Prescott was nearly unstoppable completing 21 of 27 for 308 first-half passing yards and three touchdowns and rushing for a 4-yard touchdown.\
Arkansas nickel back Richardson forced Mississippi State to settle for Westin Grave’s 21-yard field goal breaking up Prescott’s third down pass in the end zone, but Richardson dropped a possible interception in the second quarter before Prescott threw the first of two touchdown passes of 8 and 55 yards to wide receiver Fred Ross.
Ross (10 catches for 154 yards) juked would-be tackler Richardson on his second touchdown with 4:44 left in the half.
Richardson got his revenge intercepting Prescott’s pass in the second quarter setting up the Allen to Henry go-ahead touchdown for Arkansas’ 35-31 lead, the Razorbacks first lead since 7-0.
Allen, 16 of 25 for 174 first-half yards, directed first-half scoring drives of 75, 59, and 78 yards and completed touchdown passes of 20, the first for a 7-0 lead, 5 and 9 yards to Drew Morgan, Sprinkle and Jared Cornelius.
The Allen to Cornelius pass and ensuing Hedlund PAT with 52 seconds left before half narrowed Mississippi State’s lead from 31-14 to 31-21 at intermission.
Arkansas tight ends Hunter Henry, 7 catches for 129 yards, and Sprinkle, 3 catches among 6 catches, excelled as did wideouts Drew Morgan, 6 catches for 84 yards and a touchdown and Cornelius, 5 catches for 81 yards and a touchdown.
Bielema praised both quarterbacks.
“Brandon just continues to be very impressive,” Bielema said. “He threw some money throws again today with some pressure in his face. Stepped up in the pocket. I tell you that catch he made too looked to be a pretty good football play for a quarterback as well. Really just continues to impress.”
On Prescott, Bielema said of the 6-2, 230-pounder: “I had a lot of respect for Dak coming into this season going through these last two years. Then when I flipped on the film last Sunday I realized what a big jump he had made. He’s really done a nice job. The thing he always has is the ability to escape with his athleticism and his size as well.”
With the blocked kick as the difference after two 7-point squeakers over Arkansas in 2013 and 2014, Prescott escaped the Razorbacks one last time.