Mississippi State wins low-scoring slugfest against Arkansas

Published 4:32 pm Saturday, October 21, 2023

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — A quarterback change didn’t exactly ignite a spark in Mississippi State’s offense, but the new guy did lead them to a victory.

Mike Wright threw for 85 yards and a touchdown, and he added 60 yards rushing in his first start of the season to help Mississippi State beat Arkansas 7-3 on Saturday.

Mississippi State (4-3, 1-3 Southeastern Conference) was without starting quarterback Will Rogers because of a shoulder injury suffered in the fourth quarter of its previous game against Western Michigan. Wright, a Vanderbilt transfer, had a second-quarter touchdown pass to Jo’Quavious Marks.

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That was plenty for the Mississippi State defense.

Arkansas’ offense, ranked 118th in the FBS in yards per game, struggled worse than usual, especially in the first half. The Razorbacks (2-6, 0-5) had just four first downs and 78 yards. The three first-half points came courtesy of a 26-yard field goal from Cam Little that capped a 29-yard drive after Arkansas started at the Bulldogs’ 35 following an interception on Mississippi State’s first series.

Five of Arkansas’ six losses this season have been by a touchdown or less. Coach Sam Pittman bemoaned his offense’s inability to add just a bit more to turn those into wins.

“Not very good,” Pittman said. “We’ve got good kids. We’ve got guys who try hard, but we’re just not very good right now. Got a lot of figuring out to do between now and Florida. A lot.”

The Razorbacks appeared to take the lead midway through the fourth quarter when a bad snap resulted in a fumble recovery returned for a touchdown. But a flag was thrown, signaling the play never counted due to a false start by Mississippi State. The Bulldogs punted and Arkansas went three-and-out from deep in its own territory, walking off to a chorus of boos.

Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson went 19-of-31 for 97 yards with an interception, and he ran for 38 yards on 16 carries. Jefferson’s Hail Mary attempt from about 60 yards was batted down at the goal line.

“We did a good job of limiting his yards in scramble situations and quarterback-designed runs,” Mississippi State coach Zach Arnett said. “I think our guys knew that if you’re going to slow down that offense right there, you got to start by slowing that quarterback. They were ready for the challenge.”