LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — Arkansas' long nightmare of a season got a little worse on Saturday.
The Razorbacks (3-8, 0-7 Southeastern Conference) fell 24-17 to Mississippi State in overtime, running their losing streak to eight games, the worst such skid in school history.
Damian Williams scored on a 25-yard touchdown run on the first play of overtime, and the Mississippi State defense made it stand. Arkansas gained only one yard on its first three plays, and Taveze Calhoun stepped in front of the receiver and snared Brandon Allen's pass, returning it across midfield before being tackled.
Saturday marked the first time Mississippi State has defeated the Razorbacks in the state of Arkansas, and its first overtime win over the Razorbacks. The two teams played to a 13-13 tie in 1993 in Little Rock, but Arkansas had dominated the series when at home. Arkansas had previously beaten the Bulldogs in overtime contests in 1996, 2000 and 2010, all in Starkville, Mississippi
Arkansas still leads the all-time series 15-8-1. The Bulldogs (5-6, 2-5) can become bowl eligible with a win over rival Ole Miss on Thanksgiving night in Starkville.
"Give credit to Mississippi State; they obviously did enough to win," Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said. "I thought our guys did a lot of really good things to put us in a position and get us into overtime. Obviously the first play on defense, just a little quarterback follow was very disappointing. It was unfortunate that we couldn't get a W."
Mississippi State had a chance to win the game in regulation, but Devon Bell's 42-yard field goal drifted wide right with 24 seconds remaining. That came after Arkansas failed to cash in on its own chance to take the lead late in regulation. With the score tied 17-17, Allen passed to Jeremy Sprinkle for 44 yards to the Mississippi State 12. But Alex Collins fumbled on the next play, and Nickoe Whitley recovered for the Bulldogs at the Arkansas 9.
Arkansas led 10-0 in the first half, but was unable to maintain the lead. The only game between Arkansas and its first winless SEC season is Friday's season finale with LSU in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
"I think frustrated, probably shocked," Bielema said in describing the team's mood. "I think they really prepared in a way they thought they were going to win the game. They put themselves in the position right down there at the end. Our seniors put a lot into that game, invested a lot.
"I expect them to do the same thing. We've got a short week. It's a trophy game, the first one of the year for us. Obviously no chance for postseason play, so this will be our opportunity to send those seniors off in the right way and build for something that we continue in the future."
After a first half that ended in a 10-10 tie, the Razorbacks took a 17-10 lead on a 22-yard run by Julian Horton in the third quarter on an end around. The Bulldogs answered immediately, covering 75 yards in 11 plays, as Tyler Russell connected with Jameon Lewis for a 5-yard touchdown on third down to knot the score.
The Razorbacks took the opening kick and went 56 yards for a touchdown. After Korliss Marshall's kick return gave the Razorbacks a short field, they quickly moved into Mississippi State territory. Javontee Herndon scored, also on an end around, and Arkansas led 7-0. Zach Hocker added a career-best 54-yard field goal in the second quarter to make it 10-0.
The Bulldogs countered in the final minutes of the second quarter. Bell's 24-yard field goal got them on the scoreboard with 5:08 left. Russell then found LaDarius Perkins on a play action down the middle of the field for a 30-yard touchdown to pull the Bulldogs even. That touchdown drive began when Arkansas failed to convert on a fake punt. Sam Irwin-Hill was dropped for a 4-yard loss on what was a curious call with the way Arkansas' defense was playing and having the wind at its back.
"Mississippi State runs 'punt safe' quite a bit," Bielema said. "We thought we had a very, very good look. It was the look that we wanted and we gave it the green light, and obviously missed a critical block. If I had it to do all over again, I obviously wouldn't do it."
Russell completed 18 of 28 passes for 263 yards and two scores before leaving the game late in regulation with an apparent shoulder injury. Josh Robinson had 17 carries for 101 yards. Arkansas rushed for 225 yards as a team, spread out among nine ball carriers, but managed only 114 yards passing.