Late block helps Mississippi State hold off Arkansas 51-50
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen has coached the likes of Tim Tebow at Florida and Alex Smith at Utah.
Even with a Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 pick in the NFL draft on his coaching resume, Mullen had little hesitation when describing Bulldogs quarterback Dak Prescott following a wild 51-50 win over Arkansas on Saturday night.
''I'd say he might be the best player I've ever coached,'' Mullen said. ''And if you look at my coaching resume, that's pretty impressive.''
Prescott lived up to his coach's praise, and then some, in twice leading Mississippi State (8-3, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) to go-ahead touchdowns in the fourth quarter on Saturday.
The senior All-American finished with a career-high 501 yards passing, and it was his fifth touchdown pass - a 14-yard strike to Fred Ross - that gave the Bulldogs their last lead with 3:05 remaining.
Prescott also rushed for two touchdowns, but the win wasn't secured until Beniquez Brown blocked an Arkansas (6-5, 4-3) field goal attempt with less than a minute remaining.
It was an unexpected finish to a remarkable back-and-forth affair, one that followed Mississippi State's 31-6 loss to Alabama a week ago and came only after the Bulldogs saw a 17-point first-half lead evaporate under the onslaught of 28-straight Arkansas points.
''That was a lot of craziness, back and forth,'' Prescott said. ''We got up big and then came out in the second half and had to fight some adversity, but we stuck together as a team and overcame it.''
As amazing as Prescott was in the win, Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen was every bit as spectacular in defeat.
The senior threw for a school-record seven touchdown passes, becoming Arkansas' all-time leader in touchdown passes (63), and he was 30-of-43 passing for 406 yards.
Allen, who broke the single-game school record of six touchdowns that he held along with Ryan Mallett and Tyler Wilson, also became the first quarterback in SEC history to throw for six or more touchdown passes in two conference games in a season.
The effort was not enough, however, to earn the Razorbacks their fifth straight win.
''I've been through a couple of heartbreakers since coming to Arkansas, but that one might be at the top of it,'' Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said. ''Just to be that close in that type of a game and to walk out empty-handed.''
Instead, it was Prescott who came out on the winning side of the shootout - topping his previous best of 453 yards passing in last season's Orange Bowl loss to Georgia Tech.
After seeing a 17-point first-half lead slip away in the second, Prescott twice led the Bulldogs on go-ahead touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
His final touchdown pass to Ross, who finished with 10 catches for 154 yards and two scores, proved enough to survive in Mississippi State's first trip to Fayetteville since 2003.
Arkansas trailed 31-14 in the second quarter and 31-21 at halftime, but it scored 21 straight points to open the third quarter to take a 42-31 lead - thanks to three Mississippi State turnovers in the first 6:01 of the second half.
It was Allen who poached on the miscues, throwing his fourth, fifth and sixth touchdowns of the game in a 5:04 span, the last of which was an 18-yard strike to Hunter Henry.
Allen tied Mallett for the most touchdown passes (62) in Arkansas school history on that throw, and he moved past Mallett with his seventh touchdown pass of the game - a 10-yard pass to Jeremy Sprinkle that put the Razorbacks up 48-44.
Allen then caught the 2-point conversion pass from wide receiver Jared Cornelius to put Arkansas up 50-44 with 5:33 remaining.
However, Prescott answered with his final go-ahead touchdown pass to Ross, and Brown sealed the Mississippi State win when he blocked Arkansas kicker Cole Hedlund's 29-yard field goal attempt.
''Wow. What a football game that that was,'' Mullen said. ''That was big-time ball. As impressive a quarterbacking performance as I think you're going to see in college football on both sidelines.''