FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) – Nick Fitzgerald threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Deddrick Thomas with 17 seconds remaining, and No. 17 Mississippi State survived a lackluster performance and four fumbles to earn a 28-21 win over Arkansas on Saturday.
The Bulldogs (8-3, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) won at least eight games in a season for the fourth time in coach Dan Mullen’s nine years with the victory. They had already earned bowl eligibility for a school-record eighth straight season.
The Razorbacks (4-7, 1-6) led by a touchdown in the fourth quarter, but Fitzgerald tied the game with 4:07 remaining with a 37-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Todd.
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema then went for it on a fourth-and-two from the Razorbacks own 44, and the Bulldogs held. Nine plays later, Thomas scored to earn Mississippi State’s fifth win in six games over Arkansas.
Fitzgerald accounted for three touchdowns and totaled 254 yards in the win, finishing 12-of-23 passing for 153 yards and rushing 22 times for 101 yards. The junior threw for a pair of touchdowns and rushed for another.
David Williams led Arkansas with 75 yards rushing on eight carries, while quarterback Austin Allen completed 11 of 17 passes for 119 yards.
Bielema is now 29-33 overall in his fifth season with the Razorbacks, 11-28 in the SEC.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs lost 31-24 a week ago to No. 1 Alabama, doing so in heartbreaking fashion when the Crimson Tide scored in the final minute to secure the victory. Mississippi State played like it was still recovering from the emotional fallout of that loss throughout on Saturday, losing three fumbles – including one on a botched punt return – after they had run four offensive plays. Despite the early struggles, Fitzgerald accounted for 178 of his yards in the second half for the comeback win.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks entered the game last in the SEC while allowing an average of 6.57 yards per play on defense, but they held the Bulldogs to only 130 yards in the first half while earning a 14-14 tie. Arkansas defensive end McTelvin Agim was at the forefront of the defense’s stellar performance, finishing with 9 tackles, 2 ½ tackles for losses including a sack and two forced fumbles.
Mississippi State hosts Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl on Thursday.
The Razorbacks close out the regular season by hosting Missouri on Friday.
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