Mississippi State head football coach Mike Leach and quarterback Will Rogers had failed the previous two years in trying to figure out Arkansas defense enough to come away with a win over the Razorbacks.
But solid first and fourth quarters Saturday in Starvkville, Miss., did the trick as No. 23 Mississippi State downed Arkansas 40-17.
Rogers was 31 of 48 passing for 395 yards and three touchdowns while setting a new SEC career completions record.
He did so with the 922nd completion of his career, eclipsing the mark set by Georgia’s Aaron Murray in 52 games while he needed just 28 games.
“I was trying to figure out what record it was,” Leach said. “First of all he’s smart, second of all he studies film all the time, third of all he’s a tireless worker with his guys throwing it in the offseason, and he’s a guy that kind of elevates even the other sides of the ball.”
Mississippi State (5-1, 2-1) won its third straight while Arkansas (3-3, 1-3), who fought back from a 21-0 deficit to cut it to 27-17, lost its third straight.
The Bulldogs had 568 yards offense – including a season-high 160 yards rushing – while the Razorbacks had 483 yards, 242 passing and 241 rushing.
“Arkansas’ a really an explosive team, we’re kind of explosive, but Arkansas was even more explosive than we were today,” Leach told the SEC Network after the game. “I thought we were a little more consistent.
“But our guys hung in there and we had our share of adversity, some we created.
“I was proud of our guys trying to hang in there and get a complete game and taking pride in what they did down to the end. It can be tough sometimes when the other guy gets those big plays in chunks. Sometimes people get discouraged but we didn’t.”
The Bulldogs started the game with a nine-play 65 -yard drive in which they the ball on six of those plays.
“The more that we can run the ball and get extra guys in the box, the more it’s going to open up a passing lane,” Rogers said. “I think that helps us be on pace.”
Arkansas was without starting quarterback KJ Jefferson and while Cade Fortin got the start, things were quickly turned over to Malik Hornsby.
Hornsby competed 7 of his first 10 passes open a day he went 8 of 17 for 234 yards with one touchdown and also had 8 carries for 114 yards.
“I thought their quarterback did an extremely good job, Leach said of Hornsby He’s harder to tackle than the other one (Fortin). So there’s no breathers there.”
Leach continue to praise Hornsby.
“I think the quarterback is really good, kind of a stud,” Leach said. “He is a guy that is really fast and can kind of get all of it if you don’t keep a lid on him and he keeps it alive long enough back there that you coverage breaks down.
“And maybe he is not perfectly accurate, but he fan throw it forever. I thought that guy played really well and I also think he opened up other things, the run and not just his, but other people;’s runs and also the passing game.
“…He might be the fastest quarterback in the conference…so good for him. He is kind of hard to tackle. I thought we could have got to him more than we did. But we did some good things.”
Hornsby had two interceptions, both after halftime.
“The Razorbacks flat out decided they were going to move the ball and they did, but the one thing is that we kept playing every play, kept battling every play, made them execute as many plays as we possibly could. And in some cases broke them and got the ball back.”