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Botched Fake Punt, Fumble Doom Hogs

Two costly mistakes against Mississippi State unraveled the Razorbacks' best chance at a win since the Rutgers game.
The last thing Razorback fans wanted to see at the start of Saturday's Mississippi State game was running backs Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins standing on the sideline when Arkansas' offense took the field after the opening kickoff. Head coach Bret Bielema explained after the game that the pair had been late to some weight training sessions the previous week.

"(They) just had a lot of reoccurring issues," Bielema told reporters. "Just being a little bit late for things. Needed to make a stand and let everybody know how we're going to do things for us to get to where we want to be. Details matter."

Bielema's disciplinary measures appeared to give the team a lift. Freshman Korliss Marshall returned the opening kickoff 44 yards. A few plays later receiver Javontee Herndon crossed the goal line on an end around play and Arkansas had a 7-0 lead.

"We ran that a lot in practice," Herndon explained. "Coach felt pretty comfortable with it so he told us before the game that he was going to run it and it worked out for us."

In the second quarter Zack Hocker nailed a career long 54 yard field goal and for the first time since the Rutgers game the Razorbacks had a two possession lead.  The visitors quickly countered a Devon Bell 24 yard field goal and then tied the game just before halftime a few plays after a botched fake punt by Arkansas' Sam Irwin-Hill. Instead of a dressing room lead Arkansas entered the break tied with Mississippi State at 10-10.

"We thought that we had a very, very good look," Bielema explained. "It was the look that we wanted and we gave it a green light go. We missed a block on number 90 (MSU's Denico Autry). On a kicking formation you can't cut block but if you're running the ball you can. Dan (Skipper) tried to do it an obviously missed it. If I had to to do over again, obviously I wouldn't do it."

Arkansas did overcome that mistake regaining the lead 17-10 in the 3rd quarter on the same basic end around play that had produced Herndon's touchdown. Of his 22 yard touchdown run receiver Julian Horton said, "It was the blocking. The offensive line did a good job. Everyone did their assignment, executed the play well and (we had) speed from the receivers, we just got around. It was a good play, everything was open, so good touchdown."

The Bulldogs tied things back up early in the 4th quarter in a five-yard catch by Jameon Lewis from quarterback Tyler Russell. Arkansas had a golden opportunity to retake the lead for a third time following a 44 yard pass to the Mississippi State 12 yard line from Brandon Allen to Jeremy Sprinkle. However, on the next play Bulldogs safety Nickoe Whitley snatched the ball out of Collins' hands at the MSU nine.

"It's tough when things like that happen but the guy made a good play on Alex and that's just kind of how it bounced for us," Allen recalled.

The game eventually went to overtime with MSU quarterback Damian Williams scoring on a 25 yard run for a 24-17 lead. Allen then suffered his 9th interception of the season to end the game.

Bielema insisted afterward that Allen is making progress in his first season as the starter telling reporters, "He's a quarterback that gets better with his opportunities and is going to be a kid that, I think, gets rewarded. I'd love for it to be next Saturday but it's going to be in the short term future."






 



 

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