Zach Hocker’s career-long, 54-yard field goal in the second quarter Saturday against Mississippi State would have been good from much longer.
The low-trajectory kick went into the end-zone seats. The kick was the longest by a Razorback since a 58-yard field goal by Kendall Trainor against Miami in 1988.
Hocker, a senior from Russellville, is the career leading scorer for the Razorbacks with 345 points, including five against the Bulldogs. Hocker went into Saturday’s game as the Southeastern Conference’s active career leader in PATs made, PATs attempted, field goals made, field goals attempted, total points and points per game. Hocker was fourth among active NCAA players in field goals attempted, tied for fourth in field goals made, fifth in total points, fifth in PATs made, fifth in PATs attempted and 20th in points per game.
Two records were set Saturday — the longest losing streak in Arkansas history and the first time Mississippi State has beaten the Razorbacks in the state of Arkansas. The Bulldogs were 0-9-1 in games played in the state and 0-6-1 at War Memorial Stadium. Arkansas’ losing streak is the worst of Bret Bielema’s career as a head coach. Going into the game, Bielema and the current crop of Razorbacks were tied with the 1990 team with seven straight losses. That was Jack Crowe’s first season as coach. Crowe’s team bounced back the following season to go 6-6, including a loss to Georgia in the Independence Bowl. Arkansas travels to LSU for its season finale Friday in a game to be televised nationally by CBS.
The Bulldogs have beaten Arkansas in consecutive games in consecutive seasons for the first time. Mississippi State defeated the Razorbacks in three consecutive meetings, but those games were in 1916, 1939, and 1992. The Bulldogs went into the Little Rock game on a three-game losing streak. With Dan Mullen at the helm, MSU has never lost four straight. Mississippi State hasn’t dropped four consecutive games since losing seven in a row from Sept. 24 - Nov. 19, 2005.
Arkansas has lost three of its last four games at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. Before that, the Razorbacks had lost only two games total in Little Rock since 1998 — once in 2004 and once in 2006.
Out A Quarter
Three Razorbacks had to sit out the first quarter of the Mississippi State game for being late to a team activity. Coach Bret Bielema announced the action during a pregame radio show. Out were starting running back Jonathan Williams, his back-up, Alex Collins, and strong side linebacker Braylon Mitchell. Bielema said in postgame remarks that Williams and Collins were late for weight training. Korliss Marshall started at running back and Price Holmes replaced Mitchell.
Even with the loss, Arkansas is No 1 in the SEC in the number of sacks allowed — just seven this season and none on Saturday against Mississippi State. The sack number in the first 10 games was the fourth lowest in the country. Arkansas was allowing one sack for every 36.43 passes attempted. The starters for the past six games have been Travis Swanson, center; Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper at the guards; and Brey Cook and David Hurd at the tackles. Swanson has started every game of his Razorback career (49 games) and Hurd has 22 starts.
Back It Up
Arkansas has been penalized 47 times through 11 games and was leading the SEC in fewest penalties before Saturday’s games. Going into the Mississippi State contest, Arkansas’ pre-snap penalties stood at 17, much better than the 2012 campaign of 32 pre-snap infractions in the first 10 games.
Three more freshmen registered starts for Arkansas on Saturday. Jared Collins, a redshirt freshman from Tulsa’s Booker T. Washington High School, and D.J. Dean, a true freshman from Newton, Texas, were in the lineup at cornerback and Marshall of Osceola started at running back. Marshall is third on the depth chart but starter Williams and Alex Collins were benched for the first quarter after reporting late to meetings. That makes 11 true or redshirt freshmen to start for the Razorbacks this season. Other freshmen to crack the starting lineup are tight ends Hunter Henry and Jeremy Sprinkle; offensive guards Dan Skipper and Denver Kirkland; defensive tackles Darius Philon and Deatrich Wise Jr.; defensive end Brandon Lewis; and linebacker Brooks Ellis.
Cornerback Tevin Mitchel, did not make the trip with the team to Little Rock after leaving Fayetteville in the middle of the night because of a family health issue in Little Rock. Coach Bret Bielema said he had no details and added that Mitchel had had two good weeks of practice and had responded well to criticism for missing tackles. The junior cornerback from Mansfield, Texas, had started every game this season. Dean started in his spot Saturday.
Skipper got his third blocked kick of the season against Mississippi State with the score tied at 10. The 6-foot-10 freshman offensive guard also plays when the other team is attempting a field goal or extra point. The block came after the opening drive of the second half stalled at the 11. Skipper’s hand went up and knocked down Devon Bell’s 28-yard attempt.
Arkansas’ opponents scored on drives of 70 yards or more 25 times this season and 19 of those came when the opponent was already leading the Razorbacks. One of the six exceptions occurred Saturday when Mississippi scored on a 75-yard drive early in the fourth quarter that tied the game at 17. The other five exceptions include a 71-yard TD drive by Louisiana-Lafayette early in the second quarter of the season opener that tied the score at 7. Against Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights used a 98-yard drive in the fourth quarter to draw within 24-21, then scored on a short drive to win 28-24. Texas A&M went ahead 7-0 on the game’s opening drive of 75 yards, then went 75 yards again to break a 7-7 tie. Samford scored a on a 75-yard drive late in the first quarter to get within 14-7.
Defensive end Chris Smith wore the No. 98 jersey of Robert Thomas against the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Thomas, a senior captain, suffered a broken leg in the third quarter of the seventh game of the season against South Carolina, ending his season and career at Arkansas. Different players have sported Thomas’ numbers since that game. Coach Bret Bielema hinted early in the week that two players — one on offense and one on defense — might be wearing No. 98 against the Bulldogs, but said late in the week that plan didn’t work out. In retrospect, that likely related to Alex Collins being disciplined for being late for weight training.
The announced attendance of 45,198 for the Mississippi State was the third lowest for an SEC game played at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock and the combined Little Rock attendance of 92,546 this season is the lowest since Arkansas moved to playing two games per year in Little Rock in 2003.
JULIAN HORTON: Arkansas’ senior wide receiver from Norcross, Ga., scored the touchdown that broke a 10-10 tie on a 22-yard end-around play. He also caught a 10-yard pass from Brandon Allen in the first half.
ALAN TURNER: The junior safety from Junction City recorded a game-high 16 tackles, including six solo stops and a half tackle for loss. Turner also broke up a potential touchdown pass in the end zone for the Razorbacks.
DAMIAN WILLIAMS: The freshman quarterback for Mississippi State broke Arkansas’ back on the first play of the overtime period when he picked his way through defenders to score from 25 yards out. Williams had seven rushes for 40 yards in the game and threw four times, completing three.
TYLER RUSSELL: The senior starting quarterback didn’t put up gaudy numbers but was very efficient for the Bulldogs on Saturday, connecting on 18-of-28 passes for 263 yards and two touchdowns. He was sacked once.
JONATHAN WILLIAMS: The sophomore running back led Arkansas in rushing despite being third in number of carries and being held out of the first quarter for reporting late for weight training. He had 59 yards on eight carries.
By the numbers:
3 — Field goals blocked this year by 6-foot-10 Dan Skipper, including one early in the third quarter when the score was tied at 10.
5.2 — Average per carry by both Arkansas and Mississippi State on a total of 80 rushing attempts.
2 — Number of catches by Arkansas’ leading receivers, Keon Hatcher and Hunter Henry, while Mississippi State had five receivers with at least two receptions.
54 — The career-long yardage on Zach Hocker’s second-quarter field goal that put Arkansas ahead 10-0.
22 — Minimum yardage gained rushing by six Razorbacks, including wide receiver Julian Horton who made his on one carry.