2:30 PM ET, November 20, 2004
Davis Wade Stadium, STARKVILLE, MS
STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) -- Matt Jones didn't need his fleet feet to beat Mississippi State.
Held to a season-low seven rushing yards because of a gimpy hamstring, the most prolific running quarterback in Southeastern Conference history instead went to the air, throwing for 215 yards in Arkansas' 24-21 victory over the Bulldogs.
"Before the game, we knew that he could not (rush)," Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said. "He was having too much trouble with his hamstring. He has been in a lot of pain since" last week's 35-3 win over Mississippi.
Pierre Brown returned a blocked field goal 76 yards for a touchdown, and Jones -- the SEC's leading rusher among quarterbacks -- instead used his arm to dissect the Mississippi State defense.
Jones was 18-of-27 for the Razorbacks (5-5, 3-4 Southeastern Conference), who beat the Bulldogs for the sixth straight time and remain in the hunt for one of the league's eight bowl spots.
Arkansas must defeat LSU this Friday in Little Rock -- where under Nutt they are 17-0 -- to qualify for a school-record seventh straight bowl.
"We wanted the chance to play for a bowl game next week," linebacker Clark Moore said.
Omarr Conner pulled the Bulldogs to within three points with his 2-yard touchdown pass to Eric Butler with 10:44 remaining.
The Bulldogs (3-7, 2-5) got the ball back with 5:38 left when Darren Williams intercepted Jones at the Mississippi State 18. But Arkansas forced a three-and-out, then ran out the clock to snap its four-game road losing streak.
"We missed a lot of opportunities, but I am proud of our players because they fought against almost insurmountable odds," Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom said.
De'Arrius Howard added 125 yards rushing and a 2-yard touchdown for the Razorbacks, who used a big play on special teams to take control.
Elliott Harris broke through the Mississippi State line and blocked Keith Andrews' game-tying 37-yard field goal. Brown scooped it up and raced down the right sideline, making it 24-14 in the third quarter.
"I just jumped and got as high as I could," Harris said.
Jones holds the SEC's career record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 2,545, but his rushing total Saturday was 62 yards below his average and Nutt said he was only about 60 percent healthy. Jones' previous low this season was 38 yards against New Mexico State.
This time, his 1-yard quarterback sneak helped Arkansas take a 17-14 lead and erase an early 14-point deficit. His scoring run capped an 18-play, 66-yard drive keyed by three fourth-down conversions.
The Bulldogs had the ball inside the Arkansas 1 in the closing seconds of the first half, but ran out of time-outs and couldn't score.
"We have been fighting uphill all year," Croom said. "You just cannot go through an entire season with everything going against you. A whole lot of things went against us today."
Conner finished 20-of-27 passing for 214 yards and two touchdowns.
McKinley Scott had seven catches for 111 yards after switching his jersey number to No. 10 from No. 1 to honor injured teammate Ray Ray Bivines.
Jerious Norwood ran for 109 yards on 23 carries.
Conner was nearly perfect in leading Mississippi State to touchdowns on its first two possessions.
He completed his first eight passes, including a 30-yarder to Scott which set up Norwood's 4-yard touchdown. His 26-yard TD toss to Tee Milons made it 14-0.
The Bulldogs have known for weeks that their season would end next week at rival Mississippi in the Battle for the Golden Egg. They're ineligible for the postseason this year because of NCAA sanctions.
"We can't fall back on this and let it get us down," Milons said.
Chris Balseiro made a 42-yard field goal for Arkansas.
Among those in attendance were Thomas Hamill, the Mississippi dairy farmer held hostage for three weeks in Iraq.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||10-19||5-11|
|4th Down Conversions||3-6||0-0|
|TD||11:52||JERIOUS NORWOOD 4 YD RUN (KEITH ANDREWS KICK)|
Drive info: 8 plays, 80 yards.
|TD||5:14||TEE MILONS 26 YD PASS FROM OMARR CONNER (KEITH ANDREWS KICK)|
Drive info: 8 plays, 72 yards.
|FG||1:01||CHRIS BALSEIRO 42 YD FG|
Drive info: 10 plays, 55 yards.
|TD||11:07||DE'ARRIUS HOWARD 2 YD RUN (CHRIS BALSEIRO KICK)|
Drive info: 8 plays, 76 yards.
|TD||2:02||MATT JONES 1 YD RUN (CHRIS BALSEIRO KICK)|
Drive info: 18 plays, 66 yards.
|TD||4:25||PIERRE BROWN 76 YD BLOCKED FG RETURN (CHRIS BALSEIRO KICK)||24||14|
|TD||10:44||ERIC BUTLER 2 YD PASS FROM OMARR CONNER (KEITH ANDREWS KICK)|
Drive info: 12 plays, 71 yards.