LITTLE ROCK, Ark., - Mississippi State had their bowl hopes dashed Saturday as Arkansas' Ryan Mallett torched the Bulldogs secondary for five touchdowns in a 42-21 win.
The Bulldogs kept pace with the high scoring Hogs for most of the contest but ultimately were no match for the 6-foot-7 sophomore.
"He did a nice job," said MSU head coach Dan Mullen of Mallett. "He threw five touchdown passes and that's a heck of a day. Those were big plays. Five touchdown passes and 313 yards on 18 completions is a heck of a day. That's not very good in our secondary. The plays were there to be made and I know I sound like a broken record but at some point we are going to make those plays."
Mallett finished the day completing 18-of-34 passing for 313 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions as the Hogs improved to 3-4 in the Southeastern Conference and 7-4 overall.
"I think they are real efficient," said MSU linebacker Jamar Chaney. "They've got a good young quarterback. He's probably one of the best we've seen this year. If you don't do your job of disguise your coverages he's going to pick you apart."
Arkansas managed 396 yards on the day picking up 313 yards through the air and adding 83 yards on the ground.
"This was a good win for us," said Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino. "It certainly wasn't easy. We really had to fight. I don't think it was the best game we've played this year, but we worked hard and did a good job making adjustments and getting some key stops on defense."
Cobi Hamilton came up with three catches for 131 yards and two touchdowns for the Razorbacks while D.J. Williams caught four passes for 30 yards.
Dennis Johnson led the Arkansas rushing attack with 50 yards on 11 carries.
Mississippi State wasted little time putting up points following a Corey Broomfield interception on the second play of the game.
Chad Bumphis churned out a 49-yard run on the first play from scrimmage down to the 3-yard line. Arnil Stallworth plowed in from a yard out two plays later. Derek DePasquale tacked on the extra point giving the Bulldogs a quick 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the game.
It didn't take long for Arkansas to respond on the next drive. Mallett completed a pair of long gainers with the final going to Joe Adams for a 39-yard touchdown. Adams spun out of tackles by Maurice Langston and Johnthan Banks into the end zone. Alex Tejada provided the PAT tying things up.
The Razorbacks added another long touchdown pass on their first drive of the second quarter. Mallet avoided the blitz and heaved a 58-yard strike to Hamilton on a go route down the right sideline for the score. Tejada booted the point after taking a 14-7 advantage.
Arkansas added another touchdown before the half extending their lead to two scores. The Hogs orchestrated an 11-play, 79 yard drive that moved the chains five times. Mallett capped off the drive finding a wide open Jarius Wright in the back of the end zone on a bootleg pass. Tejada's extra point was up and good.
The two teams traded turnovers before the end of the first half with Broomfield picking off his second pass of the game and Jake Bequette stripping and recovering a fumble by Tyson Lee.
Arkansas attempted to add three more points before they headed to the locker room but Tejada's 52-yard attempt was wide left.
The Bulldogs got the ball first in the second half back up deep in their own territory. But they went to work on the ground with Chris Relf in at quarterback rushing for 11 consecutive plays marching 94 yards. Dixon eclipsed the 100-yard plateau stiff arming his way into the end zone from 4-yards out.
"We weren't doing a great job in the first half at quarterback," Mullen said. "We tried to mix it up. On his first drive he did a really nice job. We were at a point where we said we were going to give him a chance and we chance and see if we could make something happen."
DePasquale booted the point after pulling State within a score.
However, Arkansas responded right back with Mallett once again finding Hamilton on a 64-yard scoring strike. Hamilton broke two tackles, one by Marcus Washington and another by Chaney en route to his second score of the afternoon. Tejada's PAT extended the Razorbacks lead out to 28-14 with 8:14 in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs countered on the first play of the ensuing drive. Dixon tore off a 70-yard jaunt silencing the Arkansas faithful once more. DePasquale tacked on the extra point bringing the Bulldogs back within 28-21.
"When I broke the line I didn't know that I had it," Dixon said. "I felt like when I stiff-armed the dude I felt I had a chance if I could turn it on and get it going."
Heath Hutchins pinned Arkansas at their own 2-yard line and the Bulldog defense held getting the ball back at midfield. But a Zach Stadther forced Dixon to fumble and it was recovered by Elton Ford at the UA 47-yard line.
"That lost some momentum for us right there," Mullen said. "We had the ball at midfield down seven at that point. We had stopped them and had some momentum. It's not all on Anthony on that play. It seems we've found a way to make critical turnovers in key moments of the game. We find a way to make it at the exact wrong time."
Arkansas cashed in the extra possession as Mallett rolled right and tossed his fifth touchdown pass of the game finding [DB]Greg Childs[/db] on a crossing route in the end zone. Tejada's point after gave the Hogs a 35-21 lead with 12:35 to play.
After stopping the Bulldogs on a must have fourth down situation late in the game, Arkansas packed in one more score on a 2-yard run by Broderick Green. Tejada's PAT ended the scoring with 2:35 left.
Mississippi State managed 376 yards with 327 yards coming on the ground and only 49 yards via the passing game.
Dixon churned out 176 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries.
Relf came off the bench in the second quarter and played the entire second half under center. Relf completed 4-of-7 passing for 27 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. He also added 68 yards on 12 carries on the ground.
"I think I played real well," Relf said. "I came in and executed the offense real well. We just didn't play well on offense or on defense the whole day."
Marcus Green paced the Bulldog receiving corps with three catches for 17 yards.
Jerry Franklin led the Arkansas defense with 11 tackles. Wendel Davis made 10 tackles while Ford added nine stops including the fumble recovery. Bequette recorded three sacks on the day while Adrian Davis brought down the quarterback once.
Chaney and Pernell McPhee each had seven tackles to lead the Bulldogs defensively. [DB]Charles Mitchell[/db], Chris White and K.J. Wright added six stops each in the loss. McPhee had State's only sack and Broomfield snagged two interceptions.
The Bulldogs drop to 2-5 inside the league and 4-7 overall. Mississippi State will play its final game of the season next week hosting rival Ole Miss for the annual Egg Bowl.
"We'll play in the Egg Bowl, that will be our bowl game," Mullen said. "We're playing the school up north. Anytime you play an instate rivalry game it doesn't get any bigger than that. I'm excited for the first Egg Bowl against the school up north. I'm excited to see what it is all about. It's an opportunity for our fifth-year seniors to go out and win three of five against them and get back to .500 for our fourth year seniors against them."