Mississippi State had to find a way to win on Saturday at Arkansas or their season would be over on Thursday night's Egg Bowl in Starkville. The Bulldogs (5-6, 2-5) did just that with a tough 24-17 win in overtime in Little Rock against a feisty Arkansas (3-8) team looking to spoil their season.
MSU came out flat defensively and in special teams as the Razorbacks started their opening drive from their own 44. They would convert two third downs on their way to a 56-yard drive on eight plays that led to a touchdown. Josh Herndon took the pitch on the left side and into the endzone for the 7-0 lead with 11:44 left in the first.
The Bulldogs took over after the kickoff and after Russell was sacked for a loss of 10, Tyler Russell hit Robert Johnson for a 21 yard gain and a first down. MSU got nothing else and punted away. Arkansas would move the ball down the field converting two more third downs but the Bulldog defense held and forced a punt that was downed at the three.
MSU started their second drive and the second quarter with true freshman Damian Williams at quarterback. Williams would push the ball down the field with three completions in four attempts but the Bulldogs would stall at the Arkansas 49 and punt it away to their 16. They again drove the ball right down MSU's throats heading 47 yards down the field on eight plays before the Bulldogs would hold and force a 54-yard field goal from Zach Hocker which was good for the 10-0 lead with 6:53 left in the first half.
The Bulldogs quickly answered as Russell his Jameon Lewis for a big gain into Arkansas territory. He then his Malcolm Johnson for 29 more yards down to the Arkansas 11. But the Bulldogs again struggled to punch it in and went three plays and out from there. Devon Bell would hit the 24-yard field goal and the Bulldogs were on the board closing the gap to 10-3 with 5:08 left in the second quarter.
The Bulldogs forced a quick three-and-out and Arkansas went for the punt which they faked. MSU was ready for it and Denico Autry sniffed it out giving State the ball at the Razorback 40. Back to work the Bulldogs went as Ladarius Perkins took two carries for 10 yards then, on a play action play,caught a wide open pass across the middle and dove into the endzone for a touchdown. He was banged up on the play but the Bulldogs tied the game at 10 with 1:42 left in the half.
It would not be over for MSU as on the immediate kickoff Tolando Cleveland forced the fumble and it was picked up by Beniquez Brown. State took over at the Arkansas 34. Russell faced a third down where he hit Robert Johnson for a curl route that turned into a 25-yard gain. MSU was in business at the Razorback five, but Derrick Milton coughed it up and gave Arkansas the ball at the two with 32 seconds left in the half and would run the clock out.
State started the second half with a bang as Josh Robinson made his first appearance of the day with a 23-yard gain. Artimas Samuel caught a nine-yard catch, Robinson rushed for nine of his own and Ashton Shumpert ran for nine to get the Bulldogs down to the Arkansas 10. But the Bulldogs would stall again and kick the field goal. Bell would have that 28-yarder blocked and the Razorbacks took over at the 20.
MSU would get a defensive stop and convert a first down offensively but Russell would loft a ball up to Brandon Holloway that was intercepted by the Hogs at their own 43. Arkansas would make the Bulldogs pay with a six-play 57-yard drive as Horton scored his second touchdown on the exact play he scored on earlier, this one from 22 yards out. Arkansas re-took the lead at 17-10 with 3:28 remaining in the game.
State came out with a quick pass to Joe Morrow that he turned in to 13 yards and a first down. A Robinson rush for nine yards and Russell rush for four more yards got another first down. On second down, Russell went down field and hit Lewis for 20 yards followed by a nine-yard completion to Robinson. Williams came back in at quarterback and converted a first down to again get the Bulldogs inside the 15. Robinson ended the third quarter with a big first down run for 11 yards to get the ball inside the five. To start the quarter, MSU picked up just three yards on two carries and faced a third and goal. Russell would find Lewis on the roll out and put the ball in the endzone for his second TD of the game. MSU tied it at 17 with 13:35 left in the game.
MSU's defense came back with a big defensive stop and forced a punt taking over at their own 23. Robinson began to tote the rock carrying the ball four straight times for 29 yards down to their own 47. The Bulldogs would stall, however and punt the ball away getting nothing. Arkansas took over at their own 17.
Alex Collins started things off with a big run down to the 40 yard line and had Arkansas in business with another six-yard run. They then hit a big pass play with a 33-yard pass down to the redzone. That's when Nickoe Whitley stepped up stripping the ball away from Collins and giving MSU the ball inside their own 10 with five minutes remaining.
MSU moved the ball for a first down on two carries by Robinson and then Russell down to the 23. On second down, Russell hit Lewis on a slant for 13 yards and another first down to the 35. Lewis hauled in another six-yard catch on the next play with 3:29 remaining. On the next play, Robinson bounced it outside for another big gain to get MSU into Arkansas territory and followed it up with an eight-yard reception down to the UA 32. On third down and two, Robinson took the second effort for three yards and another set of downs with 1:18 remaining in the game. Russell would hit Malcolm Johnson for 15 yards and had MSU in the redzone again. Russell took a shot to the endzone and found De'Runnya Wilson for the catch but he was called for pass interference pushing MSU all the way back to the 40.
Russell took a big hit on a throw on 2nd and 32 and was taken off the field for Williams. Lewis would pick up some of that yardage back getting to the 25 where Bell would attempt the 42 yard kick for the win into a stiff wind. It went wide right and the two teams went to overtime.
MSU started overtime offensively with Williams at quarterback. Williams immediately hit the hole on the read option and took it into the endzone from 25 yards out giving the Bulldogs their first lead of the game at 24-17. The defense held on the first three plays and then Taveze Calhoun stepped in front of a fourth down pass to seal the victory for MSU with his third interception in two weeks.
State was led by Robinson who did all of his impressive work in the second half with 17 carries for 101 yards. Perkins' limited work was good for six carries and 32 yards and two catches for 38 yards and a touchdown. Lewis led all receivers with six catches for 94 yards and a touchdown.
Russell put up a memorable performance in what could have been his final game as a Bulldog depending on his injury status. He was 18-28 passing for 263 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
Whitley led the way defensively with 10 tackles and a forced and recovered fumble.
The Bulldogs had lost 25-consecutive games when losing after three quarters with that win. They now get set for a season-making ball game against Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl on Thursday. The win will make MSU bowl eligible. The game is set on Thanksgiving primetime on ESPN.