FAYETTEVILLE – Those Mississippi State Bulldogs last week captivating college football setting SEC passing records and upsetting reigning national champion LSU became upset victims for Arkansas snapping its 20-games SEC skid.
First-year Coach Sam Pittman’s now 1-1 underdog Razorbacks stopped the 16th-ranked now 1-1 Bulldogs and MSU Coach Mike Leach’s renowned Air Raid offense, 21-14 in Saturday night’s SEC West game at State’s Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Miss.
“I’m really happy for the state of Arkansas, the kids and the coaching staff,” Pittman, Arkansas returned as head coach after from 2013-2015 coaching Arkansas’ offensive line, said postgame. “We hired some really good coaches and we inherited some good kids and some good football players certainly tired of losing SEC games. That’s a ranked team, they beat.”
A ranked team at home.
For these Razorbacks, with seniors on board when the SEC skid started during Coach Bret Bielema’s final three games of 2017 then two 0-8, 0-8 SEC seasons under the Chad Morris’ regime and this season’s opening loss to nationally No. 4 Georgia, it was especially sweet snapping the streak at Starkville.
Mississippi State embarrassed the Hogs, 52-6 their last Starkville visit in 2018.
Junior linebacker Bumper Pool, 20 tackles this Saturday, and then new Arkansas Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek wince remembering 2018 in “Stark Vegas.”
“We were here two years ago and we got beat really bad,” Pool said. “And Mr. Yurachek said it would never happen again. And for it (winning) to happen here tonight, it was just awesome!”
Yurachek apparently thought so, too. ‘For he was in a giving mood.
“Hunter Yurachek gave me the game ball, so that’ll be with me forever,” Pittman said.
They need to get another one for Arkansas defensive coordinator Barry Odom.
After Mississippi State quarterback K.J. Costello torched LSU’s aggressive man to man defense for a SEC record 623 passing yards with five touchdowns, Odom only rushed three and dropped eight back in zones. Odom’s patient scheme denied the deep ball that Costello threw so spectacularly against LSU in Baton Rouge, La.
Instead Costello had to dink underneath with Arkansas relying on linebackers Pool and Grant Morgan and safety Jalen Catalon, a combined 48 tackles, preventing big yards after short catches.
Costello compiled nice numbers, 43 of 59 for 313 yards, but with only one touchdown a 17-yarder to receiver Javonta Payton capping a 15-play drive tying it 7-7 in the first quarter.
Costello’s impatience having to throw underneath instead of long likely led to him throwing three interceptions.
The first, picked off by Arkansas nickel back Greg Brooks, set the game’s tone returned for a 69-yard touchdown and 7-0 lead on the game’s first series.
“It was such a big momentum change early in the game,” Pittman said. “They were driving a little bit. We said, ‘Hey, he’s going to get impatient and hopefully he’ll throw us some.’ And he did, and Brooks took it to the house.”
If there was any doubt sticking with Odom’s game plan, Brooks dispelled it.
“We were so prepared,” Pool said. “This was the most prepared game I’ve ever played in. Everybody going into it knew that we were going to do what we did tonight.”
Safety Joe Foucha’s two interceptions thwarted two Mississippi State second-half drives.
The Bulldogs were down 21-7 when they scored on running back Dillon Johnson’s 6-yard run completing a 14-play 76-yard drive with 6:50 left in the game.
Arkansas secured four turnovers on three interceptions and Deon Edwards’ recovery of MSU’s Jaden Walley’s fumbling a punt.
Additionally, Morgan and Foucha stopped MSU running back Jo’quavious Marks on fourth and two from Arkansas’ seven with 3:50 left in the game.
“Well, you look at the fourth-down that we stopped them late in the game,” Pittman said. “That was, to me, that was a turnover.”
Though the pregame quarterback spotlight shined on Costello,
Arkansas’ Feleipe Franks quarterbacked the winning game.
Contrasted to Costello’s three picks, Franks never turned it over while completing 20 of 28 for 212 yards with 19 and and touchdown passes of 19 yards to wideout De’Vion Warren, 4 catches for 100 yards, and 12 yards to tight end Hudson Henry.
“Yeah, I mean, it’s wonderful,” Franks, the graduate transfer former 3-year starting Florida Gators quarterback said of winning. It’s just a start, man. It’s a great win. We’ll celebrate and then the same time next week we’ll be prepared to go out and get another one.”
Preseason All-SEC running backs Rakeem Boyd, 8 carries for 28 yards Saturday, for Arkansas and Mississippi State’s Kylin Hill, 1 carry for yards, both were injured during the first half and did not return.
Sophomore wide receiver Treylon Burks, 7 catches for 102 yards in the 37-10 loss to Georgia, exited injured in Starkville after one 10-yard catch.
Morgan and Pool among other Hogs were injured during Saturday’s game but resurfaced.
“We had a few injuries,” Pittman said. “The number of guys we had on the plane, we might have needed them all. We might have played them all.”
Pittman presumes he’ll need them all again next Saturday. At 3 p.m. on the SEC Network they visit in Auburn, Ala. some angry Auburn Tigers, ranked No. 7 upon beating Kentucky two weeks ago but losing, 27-6 to Georgia Saturday night at Athens Ga.