STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Darren McFadden returned a kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown and Chris Houston scored on an 87-yard interception as No. 5 Arkansas beat Mississippi State 28-14 on Saturday to win the Southeastern Conference Western Division title.
The Bulldogs shut down McFadden and the high-powered Razorbacks offense at every turn, but defense and special teams carried Arkansas (10-1, 7-0) to the SEC title game against No. 3 Florida on Dec. 2 in Atlanta.Mississippi State (3-8, 1-6) allowed McFadden to rush for 100 yards, but most of the yardage came on the team’s final drive.
Casey Dick threw two TD passes to go with the long returns as Arkansas won its 10th straight game and remained in the national championship picture.
The Razorbacks even resorted to a trick play late in the third quarter to put the Bulldogs away. With his team ahead 21-14 and Mississippi State hanging tough, Dick handed off to McFadden on what appeared to be a right sweep.
But the sophomore tailback pitched the ball back to Dick, who found Marcus Monk in the corner of the end zone for a 35-yard touchdown with 2:13 remaining in the third quarter.
The Razorbacks picked up much of their 256 total yards in the fourth quarter with the game out of reach. The team had 177 yards of offense through three quarters and McFadden and backup Felix Jones — the nation’s No. 2 rushing tandem coming into the game — had 42 yards.
Even the Wildcat formation, where McFadden lines up at quarterback in the shotgun, had no claws against the Bulldogs. The Razorbacks ran the formation seven times in the game’s first three quarters for 30 yards.
After Houston’s interception return put Arkansas up 7-0 with 2:44 left in the first quarter, Mississippi State answered with a 65-yard touchdown run three plays later by tailback Anthony Dixon to make it 7-7.
On the ensuing kickoff, McFadden took the ball at the 8 and ran up the left sideline for the score with 54 seconds remaining in the quarter. It was just McFadden’s seventh kickoff of the season.
The Bulldogs evened the score at 14-all with a 22-yard pass from Michael Henig to Tony Burks that was set up by an interception by Da’Mon Glanton.
But a poor punt and a 15-yard penalty allowed Dick to find Damian Williams in the end zone for a 29-yard touchdown with 41 seconds left to give Arkansas a 21-14 halftime lead.
The Bulldogs had two chances to score in the fourth quarter, but were stopped on fourth down and picked off in the end zone.