Starkville, Miss. – After falling behind by 14 points in the first quarter, the Arkansas Razorbacks outscored Mississippi State 24-7 to come away with a 24-21 victory over the Bulldogs Saturday afternoon.
Arkansas improved to 5-5 overall and 3-4 in the Southeastern Conference. Mississippi State dropped to 3-7 overall and 2-5 in league play.
The Razorbacks conclude the 2004 regular season next Friday with a 1:30 p.m. game against LSU in Little Rock. The Razorbacks need a win over the Tigers to become bowl eligible.
Against Mississippi State, De’Arrius Howard ran for a game high 125 yards on 29 carries with a touchdown. DeCori Birmingham added 31 yards rushing on 10 carries.
Matt Jones completed 18-of-27 passes for 215 yards with an interception. Cedric Washington hauled in a career-best 101 yards receiving on five catches while Steve Harris had six catches for 71 yards.
Jerious Norwood led Mississippi State with 109 yards rushing on 23 carries with a score. Quarterback Omar Conner hit 20-of-27 passes for 214 yards and two touchdowns.
Mckinley Scott had seven receptions for 111 yards to lead the Bulldogs.
Mississippi State took the opening kickoff and promptly marched 80 yards in eight plays. Tailback Jerious Norwood capped the drive with a four-yard touchdown run that gave the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead with 11:52 left in the first quarter.
After forcing the Hogs to punt on their first possession, the Bulldogs took over at their 30. Quarterback Omar Conner scrambled for a first down to move the ball to the MSU 40-yard line. A 16-yard completion moved the ball into Arkansas territory at the 44-yard line.
Two runs and another Conner completed pass produced another first down for MSU at the Arkansas 30. On second down from the 26, Conner rolled right and fired a strike to Tee Milons streaking across the end zone for the touchdown. The extra point gave Mississippi State a 14-0 lead with 5:14 left in the first quarter.
On the Hogs’ next possession, Howard burst up the middle on second down for a 19-yard gain. An incidental face mask penalty against MSU was added on and move the ball to the Arkansas 46.
After a pair of runs, Jones hit Steven Harris for a 19-yard completion to the MSU 25. The Bulldogs stopped the Hogs on first and second down, setting up a third-and-10 from the 25. Jones’ pass to Harris was incomplete and forced a field goal attempt.
Chris Balseiro’s 42-yard attempt was good and cut the deficit to 14-3 with 1:01 left in the first quarter. The 42-yarder was a career-long for Balseiro.
Arkansas forced Mississippi State to punt on the ensuing possession and took over at its 24-yard line following a Bulldogs’ punt.
After two plays lost two yards, Jones hit Harris for a 20 yards to put the ball on the 42-yard line. Two plays netted eight yards and brought up third-and-two at the 50. Howard moved the chains with a four-yard gain up the middle.
On first down, Jones hit Cedric Washington for a 44-yard completion to the MSU two-yard line. Howard needed only one carry to cross the goal line and make it a 14-10 game with 11:07 remaining in the first half.
Arkansas held Mississippi State to three-and-out on the ensuing possession and took over at its 34-yard line. Facing third-and-15 from the 39, Jones hit Washington for a 19-yard gain to move the chains and put the ball on the MSU 43.
The Razorbacks again faced third down after two plays netted seven yards. This time, Jones’ pass was incomplete and brought up fourth down from the 35. As Jones was flushed from the pocket, he hit Marcus Monk for an eight-yard completion and a first down.
The Razorbacks again faced fourth down from with a yard to go at the 17 with 3:43 left in the half. Jones kept on a sneak up the middle to the 15 an Arkansas first down.
A pass interference call in the end zone against the Bulldogs gave Arkansas a first-and-goal at the two-yard line. An incomplete pass and a one-yard run brought up third-and-goal from the one. Jones carried the ball across the goal line on a keeper to give the Hogs their first lead of the day at 17-14 with 2:02 left in the half.
Arkansas’ go ahead drive took 18 plays, went 66 yards and took 7:20 off the clock.
With time running out in the first half, Conner hit McKinley Scott on a 49-yard gain to the one-yard line of Arkansas. A delay of game call pushed the ball back to the six, but Connner hit his tight end for a five yard gain to put the ball back at the one with 19 seconds left on the clock. A run up the middle was stuffed and, with no timeouts, the Bulldogs were unable to run another play as the clock expired.
The Razorbacks took the second half kickoff and quickly moved across midfield. On third down from the MSU 48 Jones hit Harris for a nine-yard gain and an Arkansas first down.
The Mississippi State defense stiffened on a third-and-one and forced the Hogs into a fourth-and-two at the 31. Jones’ pass to Monk was incomplete and the Hogs turned the ball over on downs.
The Bulldogs were unable to mount a drive and were forced to punt. Arkansas took over at their 21 with 9:29 left in the third quarter.
Mississippi State held Arkansas to three-and-out and took possession at its 42-yard line. Norwood carried State across the midfield to the Arkansas 42 with a burst off right tackle.
On third-and-seven from the 39, Conner hit Fred Reid with a shovel pass for a 10-yard gain and a first down to the 29.
The Razorbacks held on third down and forced a field goal attempt. The kick was blocked by Elliott Harris and returned by Pierre Brown 76 yards for a touchdown and a 24-14 Arkansas lead. It was the first time Mississippi State had a field goal blocked in the last 45 games.
Arkansas seized momentum following the block and did not allow the Bulldogs to gain a yard on their ensuing possession.
A 30-yard punt return by DeCori Birmingham put the ball on the MSU 38 with 2:58 left in the third quarter. The Razorbacks were unable to convert on fourth-and-three from the 32 and MSU regained possession.
The Bulldogs quickly marched down the field and were inside the Arkansas 20. Reid carried on second down to the Arkansas eight-yard line.
Conner kept around end to put the ball at the two-yard line. On third down, Conner hit Eric Butler for the touchdown to cut the Arkansas lead to 24-21 with 10:44 left in the game.
The Razorbacks converted a pair of third downs on the ensuing possession as the moved to the MSU 35-yard line with seven minutes left in the game.
A holding call pushed Arkansas back to the 45. A run by Jones and one by Howard brought up third-and-six from the 32. Mississippi State held Arkansas to a gain of one yard to bring up fourth-and-five with 5:52 left in the game.
The Bulldogs picked off Jones’ pass intended for Mason Templeton at the 17 and took over with 5:38 remaining on the clock.
The Razorbacks’ defense got stingy and did not allow the Bulldogs to gain a yard following the interception. MSU was forced to punt and Arkansas took over with 4:32 remaining at their 38-yard line.
Two plays netted five yards for the Hogs and they faced third-and-five at their 43 with 3:12 on the clock. On third down, Jones completed a six-yard pass to Harris to move the chains and keep the clock running.
Howard carried for a five-yard gain on second down to bring up third-and-four with 1:55 left in the game. Once again on third down, Jones hit Washington for a 13-yard pick up and a first down.
With only one timeout and 1:20 left on the clock, the Bulldogs were unable to stop the Razorbacks from running out the clock. Howard sealed the win with a 32-yard burst off right tackle, putting the ball on the one-yard line. The Razorbacks did not run another play as the clock went to zero.