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.
Sports on 11/19/2017
Print Headline: One call wipes out a day of good fortune