FAYETTEVILLE – New Mississippi State Bulldogs SEC record-setting quarterback K.J. Costello presents a new challenge to Arkansas that’s already literally up Hill and likely will be again Saturday in Starkville, Miss.
Mississippi State senior running back Kylin Hill rushed 231 yards when the Bulldogs, up, 38-10 at half, routed the Razorbacks, 54-24 last year in Fayetteville.
The 1-0 Bulldogs and 0-1 Razorbacks clash in Saturday night’s 6:30 SEC West game at Mississippi State’s Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville televised by the SEC Alternate Network.
Last Saturday with graduate transfer quarterback via Stanford Costello totaling a SEC record 623 passing yards stunning reigning national champion LSU, 44-34 in Baton Rouge, La.,
Hill accounted for 158 of them with a touchdown among his eight catches while running just seven times for 34 yards.
So now Arkansas’ secondary, already concerned about Bulldogs receivers Osirus Mitchell, 7 catches for 183 yards and two touchdowns against LSU while JaVonta Payton caught 6 for 122, fret about Hill receiving and juking them out of the backfield and still know they must always be ready in run-support against him.
A truly up Hill combination, Arkansas veteran cornerback Montaric Brown of Ashdown remarked Tuesday night after practice of what new Bulldogs Coach Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense and Costello have added to Hill’s game.
“This year I see him being more versatile,” Brown said. “Catching ball out of the backfield. Last year he didn’t do that. He ran the ball on us last year and he’s being more versatile this year and we got to stop that. Kylin Hill has got good speed and good vision.”
And Costello played out of sight against LSU. Costello’s good enough already “taking shots,” Brown said of deep ball big plays and Leach’s scheme makes him all the better.
“Yeah it’s a lot of crossing,” Brown said. “They try and get people out of their positions. You know running deep.”
Simeon Blair, the ex-walkon third-year sophomore safety from Pine Bluff getting his first career start on his recently awarded scholarship in the 37-10 loss last Saturday against Georgia, says Leach does not game-plan like a lot of passing teams.
“They’re probably not going to want to take the dink and dunk, the short throws,” Blair said. “They’re a team that wants to get big chunk plays. He (Costello) has a great arm.”
Regarding Hill, Blair said, “ just make sure that we really get to the ball every time we find him out of the backfield. Run and hit.”
Despite the 37-10 final score, deceptive since Georgia scored one touchdown on a pick-six theft of a Feleipe Franks pass, plus tallied two points on a safety and were rewarded great field both by its punter and Arkansas lapses in special teams coverage, the Razorbacks defensively come to this game with well earned confidence.
The Razorbacks led, 10-5 into the third quarter at Fayetteville with the defense executing new defensive coordinator Barry Odom’s game plan.
“I feel like Coach Odom is going to have us in the right spots,” Blair said. “As long as we do our assignments and play as hard as we can, I feel like we’re going to have the result we want.”
Arkansas’ secondary adds depth with DB’s Jarques McClellion and Devin Bush returned after missing the Georgia game and safety Joe Foucha, for whom Blair started, also unable to practice last week until the Thursday before the Georgia game.
“Those guys are going to provide depth and rotate with the corners and help us a lot in the Mississippi State game,” Brown said.
Offensively, the Razorbacks hope the rest of their receivers can attack the Bulldogs press coverage Saturday like sophomore receiver Treylon Burks of Warren did against Georgia, Burks logged 7 catches for 102 yards including a 49-yard touchdown.
Head Coach Sam Pittman praised Burks as the one receiver consistently getting open in Arkansas offensive coordinator Kendal Briles plan against Georgia’s superb, press coverage defense,
“I just felt like attack it the way that Coach Briles had game-planned and everything worked out to the best of my ability,” Burks said after Tuesday night’s practice. I feel like against Mississippi State, we’ve been working on it. We’re just going to attack.”
Arkansas’ offensive line comes into the week vowing to generate the running game behind running back Rakeem Boyd, 1,133 rushing yards last year but swarmed by the Bulldogs for just 21 yards on 11 totes, but also knowing that Mississippi State’s pass-rush recorded seven sacks against LSU.
“Their (Mississippi State vs LSU) D-line had a great game,” Arkansas redshirt freshman starting offensive guard Brady Latham said Tuesday. We’ve been scouting them. Coach (Brad) Davis (Arkansas’ offensive line coach) has got a great plan for us in pass pro and in the run game. I think all of the guys are locked in so we’ll be ready for that on Saturday. I think the whole unit is locked in and we’re ready for the challenge.”