The Mississippi State defense wraps up Arkansas running back Jonathan Williams (32) on Saturday. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
The Mississippi State Bulldogs were in bad need of a victory, and they got one in convincing fashion on Saturday.
The Bulldogs rallied from behind to defeat the Arkansas Razorbacks 45-14 at Davis Wade Stadium to stop a three-game losing streak and a three-game losing skid to the Razorbacks.
"It was a great win for our kids," MSU head coach Dan Mullen said. "We made some plays that we just hadn't been making with creating turnovers."
Turnovers were key for the Bulldogs (8-3, 4-3), as they forced five against the Razorback (4-7, 2-5) and really limited Arkansas offensively in the second half.
MSU took an early 7-0 lead by taking the opening kickoff 75 yards on 15 plays. Junior quarterback Tyler Russell found junior tailback LaDarius Perkins on a wheel route for a 13-yard passing score.
Perkins missed last week's game against LSU due to an injury of his right quad.
"It feels real good," Perkins said. "I was talking to the team about that. It feels good to be back out there. When I scored, it felt great."
Arkansas answered back with a 30-yard passing score from Tyler Wilson to Cobi Hamilton to tie the game at 7-7 with 4:24 to play in the opening quarter.
The Bulldogs were forced to punt on their next drive and the Razorbacks took advantage.
Wilson found Dennis Johnson for a 7-yard passing score to make it 14-7 in favor of Arkansas with 12:17 remaining in the second quarter.
The Razorbacks had five punts, three fumbles, two interceptions and one turnover on downs the rest of the game.
The Bulldogs didn't get much on their next possession and were forced to punt again. Arkansas muffed the punt and linebacker Benardrick McKinney recovered it to give the Bulldogs the ball at the Razorback 28-yard line after an unnecessary roughness call on the Hogs.
"That was a huge play (on the fumbled punt return)," Mullen said. "Especially at that time of the game, because they had some momentum. From that point on, we played well and just kept battling."
The Bulldogs only managed to get a 39-yard field goal off of the Razorback fumble. They trailed 14-10 with 9:38 before half.
The MSU defense stepped up and gave the ball back to the offense.
"After the poor start early, I thought we made a lot of plays," Mullen said. "Give our staff credit, they hung in there. They overcame me and I'm rough duty to deal with on game day. They did a good job, made some slight adjustments and stuck a lot with our game plan."
Russell found senior wide out Chad Bumphis for a 6-yard passing score to make it 17-14 Bulldogs with 4:48 left in the second quarter.
MSU was looking to add to its halftime lead, but a fumble by receiver Arceto Clark ended the threat and the Bulldogs held a three-point lead at the half.
"We were kind of frustrated because we knew we didn't play our best first half," Bumphis said. "Coaches made adjustments and we just really needed to execute better."
The Bulldogs came out with a lot of emotion in the second half. Jamerson Love picked off a Wilson pass and MSU took over at the Razorback 47 with 13:37 remaining in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs drove down the field, but faced a fourth-and-one from the Arkansas 4-yard line.
"We knew we were going for it," redshirt freshman quarterback Dak Prescott said. "It was just a matter of what play we were going to call."
Prescott came back out on the field and took the handoff up the middle for the 4-yard rushing score to make it 24-14 Bulldogs.
Senior linebacker Cameron Lawrence recovered a fumble on the next Arkansas possession.
Russell then found Perkins again on a wheel route for a 22-yard strike to make it 31-14 with 1:31 to go in the third quarter.
"(We) got him versus a linebacker a couple of times," Mullen said. "You have an opportunity to get man coverage and Tyler made two great throws. That's executed about as well as you would hope because it's hard to simulate that look in practice. In practice, we're a little bit more open than that."
The next Arkansas possession, MSU linebacker Christian Holmes forced a fumble and defensive lineman Preston Smith pounced on it with 58 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Russell found Bumphis again for a 22-yard passing score. The Bulldogs scored one more time when Nick Griffin busted a 60-yard run with 12:22 to go in the game.
MSU picked up 505 yards on offense to Arkansas's 359. The Bulldogs had 24 first downs while the Razorbacks only had 19.
Russell finished the game completing 19-of-32 passes for 274 yards and four touchdowns.
Wilson was 23-of-29 for 225 yards, two scores and two interceptions.
Perkins had 91 yards rushing on 17 carries. He also had three catches for 40 yards and two scores.
Lawrence led the MSU defense with 11 tackles. Smith and Denico Autry each had a sack.
The Bulldogs are back in action next Saturday when they travel to Oxford to take on Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. and can be seen on ESPNU.
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