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story.lead_photo.caption Arkansas coach Bret Bielema argues with official Marc Curles during a game against Mississippi State on Nov. 18, 2017, in Fayetteville. - Photo by J.T. Wampler

FAYETTEVILLE -- An odd week ended with a wacky game that seemed destined to be determined by fumbles and leave the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville the champions of Mississippi.

Instead, the game came down to a gamble that cost the Razorbacks a chance to win.

With just more than three minutes to play and tied at 21-21, Arkansas faced a fourth and two at its own 44 and went for it.

The Hogs' defense had played its best game of the SEC season, but instead of giving that unit a chance to hold Mississippi State, the Hogs rolled the dice.

They did it on the sore arm of Austin Allen, who still has little zip on the ball coming off a shoulder injury. He played a tough, gutsy game. He played hurt as hard as he does when he's healthy.

His pass was long and with 3:01 remaining the Bulldogs were just 44 yards from the end zone.

They calmly ate up all but 17 seconds of the clock and scored the winning touchdown on the ninth play of the drive, and in the process they demonstrated the proper way to convert a fourth down when quarterback Nick Fitzgerald ran for 2 yards on fourth and 1.

This time it was not better to be lucky than good, and the best team won.

So a crazy week in the UA athletic department, which featured the first firing of a Razorbacks athletic director, saw the Razorbacks turn three fumbles into three touchdowns but end the same way most games have this football season.

Bret Bielema's fate may not be sealed, but the Razorbacks cannot escape last place in the SEC West or the fact they were once again outscored in the second half to lose a game.

Bielema's future at the UA -- and who will be the next AD -- will be the hot topics this week as people forget the Hogs couldn't have been luckier standing in a field of four-leaf clovers and rabbits' feet only to go for it on fourth down in their own territory against a winning team with a veteran quarterback.

After the Hogs opened the game by going three and out, their punt hit a Bulldogs player. The Hogs recovered at the State 36, and three plays later they were leading 7-0.

The Razorbacks' second touchdown occurred when the Bulldogs fumbled and the ball bounced into the end zone where Briston Guidry, a redshirt freshman defensive lineman, fell on it in the end zone as the Razorbacks took a 14-0 lead.

In the second quarter, the Bulldogs scored two touchdowns to go into halftime tied at 14-14, but the home team had another lucky bounce coming.

On a second and 5 from the State 34, David Williams fumbled to set off a wild and frantic swarm of bodies that went after it like the last cup of slowly delivered hot chocolate at Reynolds Razorback Stadium on Saturday.

The ball flew out of the pile after an inadvertent kick and ended up on the State 1, where receiver Brandon Martin claimed the prize for the Hogs. Two plays later, Devwah Whaley scored.

Not one person in the place knew the Razorbacks luck would be replaced by what turned into a horrible play call.

State tied it on a 37-yard touchdown pass that capped a 55-yard drive, and with 3:57 to play both teams were staring at overtime, which favors the home team.

Victory was still possible and those who braved the cold, winds and rain -- about half of the 35,000 who were there for the kickoff -- were on their feet hoping for a little more luck and a victory.

Instead, they saw the better team take advantage of the final opportunity of a wild and wacky game and week.


More headlines

Sports on 11/19/2017

Print Headline: One call wipes out a day of good fortune


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  • Maumellehog59
    November 19, 2017 at 6:09 a.m.

    Between the interim AD calling a press conference to say absolutely nothing right before the basketball game at Walton Arena, and watching Bielema act like the junior high coach he is, it’s been quite a weekend for Razorback athletics. The kind of weekend expenses outweigh income.

  • Jfish
    November 19, 2017 at 6:11 a.m.

    Wally, I have to disagree, at this point in the season against a ranked team at home, you minus well roll the dice. I still don't understand the college rule on the last TD by MS. It seems to me that if a ball comes into contact with the ground at any point during a catch, it should not be complete. It probably did not affect the outcome of the game, but IMO the rule should be changed.

  • drs01
    November 19, 2017 at 9:36 a.m.

    You can look at Long's accomplishments, but Saturday's game had less than 50% of the seats filled, and many of those were repurchased for a fraction of their original cost. If 2018 tracks this trend, the Hogs could play in Little Rock to as many fans as in Fayetteville.
    The BB approach to competitive football has failed.

  • Whitpom
    November 19, 2017 at 10:48 a.m.

    Jfish, I knew there would be other opinions on the play call. I was just taught you never give the other team the ball on your side of the field. It was obvious too that late in the game Austin was struggling with anything more than 10 or 12 yards. If Steamboat hadn't been sitting out a game for disciplinary reasons we might not be having this conversation.

  • Delta2
    November 19, 2017 at 10:54 a.m.

    I'm inclined to agree with Wally. Arkansas might have been able to keep Fitzgerald penned in if they had punted, and maybe MSU would still have marched down into FG range with that much time left. Giving him 48 yards for a score, though, definitely lost the game. Easy to say in hindsight though.

  • MaxCady
    November 19, 2017 at 11:20 a.m.

    Steamboat's new nickname is Party Barge!! GO MIZZOU!!

  • wildblueyonder
    November 19, 2017 at 7:35 p.m.

    A real coach would have punted the ball, hoped for a muff or a fumble. You're tied, not behind so you don't take that kind of chance. They couldn't pick up the yardage on 3rd down, why figure you can do it on 4th down? And with an iffy pass, crazy! Bielema may be a great guy but he's not a good coach.

  • GCW
    November 20, 2017 at 5:57 p.m.

    Turnout and support was solid behind the glass. Champagne glasses tinkling is Arkansas' version of the cowbell.