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Rawleigh Williams' career night keys Hogs' win at Mississippi State

by Matt Jones | November 19, 2016 at 9:06 p.m.
Arkansas running back Rawleigh Williams III (22) runs past Mississippi State defenders on his way to a 72-yard touchdown sprint during the first half of an NCAA college football game against in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

— Rawleigh Williams rushed for 205 yards and four touchdowns - both career highs - as Arkansas beat Mississippi State 58-42 Saturday.

Williams had 191 rushing yards and touchdown runs of 72, 42, 7 and 33 yards before halftime. He also passed for a 1-yard touchdown in the third quarter on a fourth-and-goal.

The Razorbacks (7-4, 3-4 SEC) finished the game with 661 total yards. Freshman running back Devwah Whaley also ran for a career-high, finishing with 112 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.

Arkansas had 455 yards in the first half en route to a 38-14 halftime lead.

"I think Rawleigh and Devwah are both making strides," Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said. "Obviously they're getting better blocking up-front; I thought our O-line made some strides. On the perimeter, I thought our wideouts did a good job of locking in their guys to get some of those big hits in the run game.

"It's one thing to get the first four to eight yards, but when they turn into those big hits, that's usually a result of good downfield blocking by the wideouts."

The teams went back-and-forth in the first quarter. Williams' 72-yard touchdown came on the game's second play from scrimmage to give Arkansas a 7-0 lead. He went through the line of scrimmage untouched, then broke two tackles on the second level.

"That's a play we've been practicing all week," Williams said. "We were excited to run it."

Mississippi State responded with a 4-play, 73-yard drive that was capped by quarterback Nick Fitzgerald's 58-yard touchdown run to tie the game.

Williams' 42-yard run came two offensive plays later when he stiff-armed a defender at the line of scrimmage and broke two more tackles. A second Fitzgerald touchdown run of 18 yards tied the game 14-14 late in the first quarter.

The Razorbacks outscored the Bulldogs 24-0 in the second quarter. Austin Allen had a 5-yard touchdown pass to Keon Hatcher to give Arkansas the lead for good with 12:28 left before halftime. Williams' fourth touchdown run gave the Razorbacks a 38-14 lead with 1:25 left in the quarter.

"Those holes were huge today," Williams said. "I didn't have to do much. My eyes were big every time I ran the ball."

Mississippi State's Westin Graves missed a field goal attempt on the final play of the half.

The Bulldogs (4-7, 2-5) pulled within 38-21 on a 40-yard touchdown pass from Fitzgerald to Fred Ross on the first possession of the second half, but the Razorbacks responded with a long drive.

Williams' 1-yard jump pass to Austin Cantrell gave Arkansas a 44-21 lead and capped a 12-play, 79-yard drive that took 7:05 off the clock.

Fitzgerald's third touchdown run was from 2 yards with 2:52 left in the third quarter to pull Mississippi State within 44-28.

Arkansas went up 52-28 on Allen's 10-yard touchdown pass to Hatcher early in the fourth quarter. Hatcher also ran in the 2-point conversion.

Allen completed 18 of 25 passes for 303 yards. Hatcher had 65 receiving yards on four catches.

"I thought Austin really came around this week," Bielema said. "He had unbelievable numbers in practice and I think he locked in and threw some strikes today that were big-time plays."

Fitzgerald's 1-yard keeper on a fourth-and-goal matched Williams with four touchdown runs and pulled the Bulldogs within 52-36 with 11:12 remaining.

Fitzgerald continued opposing quarterbacks' success running the ball against Arkansas and finished with 131 rushing yards.

Devwah Whaley's 4-yard touchdown with 5:29 gave the Razorbacks a 58-36 lead. The 58 points were the most scored this season by Arkansas.

"We missed tackles, had some bad fits, didn't execute clean," Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said. "When you give up that many yards it's not one thing. It's several things."

The Razorbacks snapped a four-game losing streak to the Bulldogs and won at Davis Wade Stadium for the first time since 2010. Mississippi State was eliminated from postseason consideration with the loss.

Arkansas is scheduled to close the regular season next Friday with a game at Missouri (3-8, 1-6).


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