Mississippi State football: Air raid grounded by Arkansas

mississippi state football

The Arkansas Razorbacks grounded the air raid attack of No. 16 Mississippi State football in a 21-14 loss for the Bulldogs. Arkansas won its first SEC game in 35 months, ending a 20-game SEC losing streak. Its last win was a 38-37 win against Ole Miss back on Oct. 28, 2017.

K.J. Costello struggles

Mississippi State quarterback K.J. Costello looked “hungover” after a historic performance a week ago. Costello threw for just 313 yards on 43 completions, an average of 7.3 yards per pass.

Turnovers by Costello almost allowed LSU to come back last week, and they lost the game for the Bulldogs this week. Costello was unable to overcome his turnover bug this time as he threw three interceptions, including another pick-six in the first quarter to Arkansas cornerback Greg Brooks Jr. Costello’s interceptions were ugly as many of his intended targets were surrounded by multiple Razorback defenders causing lots of head-scratching by head coach Mike Leach. Costello committed seven turnovers through two games.

Costello regularly missed open receivers and seemed impatient against Arkansas’ rush three, drop eight look on defense. Arkansas defensive coordinator Barry Odom called almost exclusively zone against Mississippi State, which forced Costello to hold onto the ball longer and be patient in finding open receivers, which he failed all game to do. Costello regularly had a ton of time to throw but could not find receivers down the field if his life depended on it. Odom and the Razorbacks succeeded drive in and drive out against the air raid even forcing Mississippi State to inevitably gain more yards on the ground than Arkansas, something no one would’ve guessed Mississippi State doing against anyone all season.

RBs step up for Kylin Hill

All-American running back Kylin Hill came off the field on the first drive of the game for the Bulldogs after a hard hit to the head. Hill remained on the sideline for the rest of the game and watched without shoulder pads for the second half.

Even without Hill, the lone bright spot for the Mississippi State offense was the running backs. The freshmen duo of Jo’Quavious Marks and Dillon Johnson combined for 161 total yards. Marks led the team in receptions with 10, and Johnson scored his first career touchdown on a crucial fourth down run to bring Mississippi State within one score.

Going off of Leach’s use of his running backs, Hill was most likely expected to be a big factor in the game plan for the offense this week and him going down early most likely affected the game heavily. It could have been a huge game for Hill and a completely different game for the Mississippi State offense as a whole if he was able to stay in the game.

Final thoughts

Freshmen wide receiver Jaden Walley was having a standout game for the Bulldogs up until the 2:35 mark in the fourth quarter. Walley finished the game with six receptions for 56 yards and had a late 20-yard punt return, but his biggest play of the game came when he muffed a punt late in the fourth quarter attempting a fair catch, essentially sealing the upset victory for the Razorbacks.

Arkansas quarterback Feleipe Franks looked like a poised veteran throwing for 212 yards and two touchdowns. Franks finished the game with eight rushing yards due to three Mississippi State sacks, but Franks had a number of huge first down runs. The Franks to De’Vion Warren connection burned the Mississippi State defense all game connecting for four catches for 100 yards and a touchdown.

Cornerback Joe Foucha was the standout for Arkansas on defense intercepting two of Costello’s passes.

Mississippi State’s defense did whatever it could to give its offense a chance to at least tie the game late. Linebacker Aaron Brule recovered a fumbled handoff by Franks, but the Bulldogs would end up failing to score twice in the red zone in the fourth quarter.

What’s next?

There’s no rest for the weary as Mississippi State football will pack its bags and travel to Lexington, Kentucky next Saturday to face off against the 0-2 Kentucky Wildcats. The game will be televised on SEC Network at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Photo courtesy of MSU Athletic Communications