With Dan Mullen and Bret Bielema and Dak Prescott and Brandon Allen involved, there were plenty of reasons to think that Saturday's game between the Mississippi State Bulldogs and the Arkansas Razorbacks would be entertaining. It featured perhaps the two best quarterbacks in the SEC against two of its lesser pass defenses. And the coaching match-up ensured interesting things would happen, if nothing else.
Most reasonable minds, though, wouldn't have expected a 101-point, 1,110-yard offensive explosion that featured three lead changes in the last seven minutes and two quarterbacks who threw a combined 12 touchdowns. The game tied for the third largest point total in a non-overtime game between two SEC teams.tied the SEC record for the most touchdown throws in a game with seven, and became only the second player in conference history to match the mark against an SEC team. That also marked the second time he had broken the Arkansas record for touchdown passes in a game -- which once stood at five -- in three weeks. Dak Prescott checked in with 508 yards passing, the eighth-most in SEC history.
Allen and Prescott were the undisputed stars of the show. They combined to go 68-of-93 for 914 yards, 12 touchdowns and one interception (thrown by Prescott, though it wasn't really his fault). Four players on each team had at least 50 receiving yards. Each quarterback threw for more than twice as much yardage as was gained by the two running games combined. Mississippi State bottled up Alex Collins, who gained just 53 yards on 19 carries, and while Prescott ran for two touchdowns, he only gained 50 yards on 13 carries when sacks are filtered out. Brandon Holloway didn't have much better luck for the Bulldogs, gaining 63 yards on 14 runs.
Early on, the game looked more like a blowout than a shootout. After a 14-14 tie at the end of the first quarter, Mississippi State reeled off 17 unanswered points to take a 31-14 lead. A late touchdown gave Arkansas at least a chance, working the Hogs back to a 31-21 deficit at halftime.
Then, the Razorbacks took control of the game in the third quarter. In the first seven minutes of the second half, the Bulldogs turned the ball over three times, and Arkansas capitalized for a touchdown each time. Suddenly, it was a 42-31 lead for the Hogs, and it looked like Mississippi State might be the team getting blown out of the building.
But Arkansas failed to convert on a fourth down deep in Mississippi State territory, and it was the Bulldogs' turn to play catch up. Mississippi State put together a 74-yard touchdown drive, forced Arkansas into a three-and-out, and then drove 68 yards for another touchdown to take a two-point lead -- after the ball hit the left upright on the point-after attempt. Arkansas took advantage of that with its next drive, a three-play, 65-yard touchdown drive including a two-point conversion on the old reverse throw to the quarterback. That gave the Hogs a 50-44 lead. On the following drive, Prescott went 5-of-5 for 82 yards, hitting Fred Ross with a 14-yard touchdown throw (which moved Ross to 154 yards on 10 catches) and taking the lead for good. Arkansas drove back down the field with a chance to win the game, but their field goal attempt was blocked.
The win puts Mississippi State within shouting distance of a 10-win season. Beat Ole Miss in Starkville next week, and all the Bulldogs need is a bowl victory to claim double-digit wins in back-to-back season -- no small achievement for Mississippi State. That could be a double-edged sword; in a season with a number of high-profile coaching vacancies, you can expect to hear Dan Mullen's name start to crop up again.
And while NovemBERT might be over for Arkansas, they still have some goals in reach. A win against lackluster Missouri next week would give the Hogs seven, and a bowl game would set them up with a chance at an eighth victory and another tangible sign of progress for Bret Bielema's rebuilding project. That gives fans two more opportunities to see-- who came out on the wrong side of an exciting game Saturday only because one amazing quarterback had to.