STARKVILLE, Miss. – Junior Lucas Miller had a career game for the Arkansas football team with 10 catches and an 87-yard touchdown but despite his efforts and those of the Razorbacks, Arkansas fell to the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Davis-Wade Stadium in Starkville, Miss., on Saturday afternoon, 31-28.
Miller had a connection with quarterback Nathan Dick who started his first career game for the Razorbacks as he posted career highs for both catches (10), yards (201) and matched his career best for touchdowns with one. Miller’s effort was just the second time in Arkansas history that a player had more than 200 yards receiving and Miller was just three yards shy of the Razorback school record set by Mike Reppond against Rice on Nov. 6, 1971.
Stepping in behind center for just the second time in his career, Dick had a solid day as he completed 23 passes for 333 yards and two touchdowns. Dick engineered scoring drives in his first two drives of the game, but a tough Mississippi State defense clamped down on the Arkansas attack at the end of the first quarter and the Razorbacks were only able to put 10 points on the board the rest of the game.
The Razorbacks didn’t waste any time taking the early lead in the contest as they scored on their first drive of the game. Opening the effort on the 30-yard line, Arkansas faced a third-and-10 after two incomplete passes but a 19-yard run by Michael Smith got Arkansas’ gears in motion. Seven plays later, Smith ran the ball straight up the gut for 15 yards to pay dirt and gave the Hogs the early lead with 10:17 left in the first quarter. On the drive, Smith ran the ball five times for 45 yards and starting quarterback Nathan Dick completed two of his four passes.
Arkansas’ second possession didn’t last long, but came away with the same result as Arkansas’ first drive. The Hogs started at their own 10-yard line and a rush up the middle by Smith for three yards was followed by a fantastic pass from Dick to Lucas Miller who caught the ball just shy of the 50-yard line and ran it into the end zone for Arkansas’ second score. The play was the longest from scrimmage this season by the Razorbacks and was a career long for both Dick and Miller.
Undeterred by its early deficit, Mississippi State came back on the next drive to post a score of its own. Using a steady dose of short passes, the Bulldogs marched down the field and punched it in on a misdirection play from the one-yard line. The converted extra point made it a 14-7 contest.
After a stalled drive by the Razorbacks, Mississippi State made it two scores in a row when they went 73-yards to tie the game at 14. The scoring effort was capped off by a 10-yard touchdown run off right tackle.
The Bulldogs scored on their third consecutive drive with a 32-yard field goal by Adam Carlson. After the Razorbacks missed a 44-yard attempt, Mississippi State moved the ball down field and converted on a key fourth-and-three play on a quarterback draw to keep the drive alive. The field goal would be the final score of the first half and the teams would go into the locker room with the Bulldogs leading by three, 17-14.
The third quarter saw a back-and-forth struggle between the two defenses as neither would break, but late in the quarter Anthony Dixon ran wild for 63 yards around the left side to give the Bulldogs a 24-14 lead. The run put Dixon over the 100-yard mark for the game.
Arkansas made it a three-point game again at the end of the third quarter when Dick and the rest of the Razorback offense moved the ball 75 yards over three and a half minutes culminating in a 22-yard touchdown pass from Dick to tight end D.J. Williams. Arkansas’ worked out of a pair of long third-down plays which included a sterling grab from Miller across the middle and around a defender on a third and 11 play. Dick completed passes to three receivers in the scoring effort to make it a 24-21 contest.
Following the Arkansas kickoff, the game moved into the fourth quarter and Mississippi State answered the Razorback challenge by scoring on a 10-play drive. The Bulldogs were very efficient in their drive as they marched the ball 70 yards and scored on a nine-yard pass to Dixon who scored his third touchdown of the game.
The Razorbacks scored late on a one-yard touchdown pass to Ben Cleveland, his first catch of the season to once again make it a three-point game. A valiant aerial attack by Dick and the Arkansas receiving corp left just enough time for the Razorbacks to attempt an on-side kick which they recovered but a 46-yard field goal with time expiring sailed wide right and the Hogs fell to the Bulldogs.
The Razorbacks conclude their regular season next Friday in Little Rock, when they take on the LSU Tigers. For more information regarding Razorback football or University of Arkansas athletics please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.