Hogs Use 2 Huge Plays to Avoid Embarrassing Upset Loss to Missouri State, Bobby Petrino

Jordan Domineck, Arkansas vs Missouri State
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics

FAYETTEVILLE — It took well into the fourth quarter, but Arkansas finally took the lead with an electric punt return by Bryce Stephens and avoided an embarrassing upset loss Saturday night.

After Missouri State took a two-possession lead early in the fourth quarter, the Razorbacks scored two touchdowns of 70-plus yards about two minutes apart and escaped with a 38-27 win over the Bears at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

The first score came on a 73-yard catch and run by Rocket Sanders on a shovel pass from KJ Jefferson and then, after forcing a three-and-out, Bryce Stephens returned a punt 82 yards to give Arkansas its first lead of the night.

It was still a one-possession game until Jefferson punched it in from 1 yard out to give the Razorbacks some breathing room with 1:39 left.

Here are Best of Arkansas Sports’ pregame and in-game updates…

15:00, 1Q – Arkansas 0, Missouri State 0

Arkansas won the pregame coin toss and deferred. Missouri State will receive the game’s opening kickoff.

10:34, 1Q – Arkansas 0, Missouri State 0

Jake Bates kicked the opening kickoff into the first row of the stands for a touchback, but the Bears started at the 13 because they were flagged for a personal foul.

Missouri State quickly moved the chains a few times to get near midfield. That included a third-and-10 conversion on a nice reception by Jahod Booker. However, a big sack by Zach Williams put them behind the chains and they eventually had to punt.

The Razorbacks shifted back and forth between their 4-2-5 and 3-2-6 during the drive, but started in the four-man front with Landon Jackson starting for the injured Jashaud Stewart.

9:43, 1Q – Arkansas 0, Missouri State 0

A holding penalty on Chris Paul Jr. wiped out what would have been a nice punt return by Bryce Stephens.

Starting at its own 27 instead, Arkansas opened with back-to-back runs by Rocket Sanders. On third-and-four, Jefferson’s pass to Haselwood was low and he couldn’t reel it in. The Hogs go three-and-out on their first possession.

Max Fletcher unleashed a booming punt that was fair caught at the Missouri State 20. It was a 47-yarder with excellent hang time, as one of Arkansas’ gunners was in the punt returner’s face when he caught it.

7:59, 1Q – Arkansas 0, Missouri State 0

With all six defensive transfers on the field together, Domineck notched his third sack in as many games and the Hogs forced the Bears into a third-and-long. It looked like Bumper Pool might have a shot at an interception, but he settled for a pass breakup.

Missouri State went three-and-out and Stephens had another decent return, but it was once again wiped out by a holding penalty.

7:17, 1Q – Arkansas 0, Missouri State 0

The Razorbacks opened this drive with a completion to Landers to get into Missouri State territory, but on the next play, Jefferson kept it for an 8-yard run or so — only to fumble it. Missouri State recovered.

2:47, 1Q – Missouri State 7, Arkansas 0

Arkansas’ defense nearly got the ball right back with a three-and-out, but Shelley did a nice job of scrambling and finding a receiver to move the chains on third-and-long. The Bears are no 2 of 4 on third downs.

Missouri State was behind the chains again later in the drive, but Shelley found Jordan Jones to get a first down and get the Bears inside the red zone. A couple of plays later, Jacardia Wright bounced a run outside and scored on third-and-goal from the 1. Arkansas had five defensive linemen and four linebackers on the field for the play. They got a hand on him in the backfield, but couldn’t bring him down.

For the first time this season, Arkansas trails.

0:40, 1Q – Missouri State 7, Arkansas 0

After a touchback, Arkansas starts at the 25.

Matt Landers caught a pass on third down and appeared to have enough for the first down, but went backward after catching it and was stopped short. The Hogs went quickly to the line with Jefferson under center and he fell forward to convert the fourth down.

On the very next play, Jefferson found Ketron Jackson Jr. streaking down the sideline and hit him in stride. He was drug down inches shy of the goal line. The Razorbacks handed it off to Sanders on the next play and he fumbled. Missouri State recovered in the end zone for a touchback.

END of 1Q – Missouri State 7, Arkansas 0

When play resumes in the second quarter, Missouri State will be facing third-and-5. The Bears controlled the game in the first quarter, dominated time of possession 11:20-3:40.

13:29, 2Q – Missouri State 10, Arkansas 0

Shelley hit Naveon Mitchell to start the quarter and he took it 45 yards into Arkansas territory. The Bears got into the red zone before the Hogs finally stopped them – with the help of Shelley missing an open receiver in the end zone on one play.

Missouri State settles for a 28-yard field goal by Jose Pizano.

12:08, 2Q – Missouri State 10, Arkansas 0

On the ensuing possession, Arkansas goes three-and-out for the second time in four possessions.

Missouri State gets a nice return on the punt and will start in Arkansas territory.

10:36, 2Q – Missouri State 17, Arkansas 0

On third-and-long, Bumper Pool missed an open field tackle and Jason Shelley took it to the house for a 24-yard touchdown.

Arkansas is officially on upset alert.

8:25, 2Q – Missouri State 17, Arkansas 7

The Razorbacks finally got things going offensively on an 8-play, 75-yard drive that started with chunk plays by Landers (20-yard catch) and Sanders (runs of 27 and 15). Sanders eventually capped it with a 3-yard touchdown run to get Arkansas on the board.

4:47, 2Q – Missouri State 17, Arkansas 7

The Bears convert a third-and-1 on the ground to move to 6 of 9 on third down tonight. On the next set of downs, though, Arkansas finally got a stop.

Stephens fair caught the punt at the 19.

2:27, 2Q – Missouri State 17, Arkansas 7

Jefferson immediately found Haselwood for a 30-yard gain to get out near midfield and followed it with a perfectly placed ball that went off Knox’s fingertips on what would have been another big gain.

They moved the chains, but a dropped pass by Warren Thompson put them in a fourth-and-9. Arkansas went for it, but tried running it up the middle. Dubinion was stopped several yards shy for a turnover on downs. Baffling play call.

1:20, 2Q – Missouri State 17, Arkansas 7

Arkansas used its first timeout with 1:37 remaining and the Bears facing a third-and-10. The Razorbacks got the stop and get the ball back at its own 15 with 1:20 remaining and two timeouts.

1:04, 2Q – Missouri State 17, Arkansas 14

Jefferson needed just two plays to cover the 85 yards, first hitting Landers down the sideline for a 47-yard gain and then finding a wide open Haselwood at the 15. He took it the rest of the way for a 38-yard score.

HALF – Missouri State 17, Arkansas 14

The Bears pick up a first down on two plays, but the clock is down to 27 seconds – at which point they called a timeout.

The referees picked up a flag on what would have been a questionable pass interference on the Hogs and then Domineck sacked Shelley to end the half.

FIRST HALF STATS – Arkansas vs Missouri State

  • KJ Jefferson: 9 of 15, 237 yards, 1 TD; 4 carries, 9 yards
  • Rocket Sanders: 11 carries, 70 yards, 1 TD
  • Rashod Dubinion: 2 carries, 6 yards
  • Matt Landers: 4 receptions, 97 yards
  • Jadon Haselwood: 3 receptions, 76 yards, 1 TD
  • Ketron Jackson Jr.: 1 receptions, 64 yards
  • Trey Knox: 1 reception, 0 yards

More here:

12:44, 3Q – Missouri State 17, Arkansas 14

The second half doesn’t start out great for Arkansas. With a chance to take the lead, Trey Knox tipped a pass from Jefferson on third down and it was picked off. It was Jefferson’s first interception of the season.

10:04, 3Q – Missouri State 17, Arkansas 14

A couple of penalties stalled a once-promising drive by Missouri State, putting it in a third-and-29 situation. It ultimately resulted in the Bears punting it away. Stephens fair caught the punt at the 7.

5:36, 3Q – Missouri State 17, Arkansas 17

Sanders got Arkansas out of the shadow of its own end zone with a 17-yard run on the first play. He now has over 100 rushing yards for the third straight game.

Later in the drive, Jefferson hit Trey Knox to move the sticks on third-and-4. Facing a third-and-15 a few plays later, Jefferson scrambled and came up short – but Missouri State tackled him by the horse collar and was flagged. That got Arkansas in the red zone.

On yet another third down, Jefferson had plenty of time before firing a pass out of the back of the end zone. The Razorbacks have to settle for a 27-yard field goal, which Little made to tie it up.

3:28, 3Q – Missouri State 24, Arkansas 17

Hudson Clark nearly had an interception and then, on third down, Drew Sanders lit up a running back who looked like he was going to get a first down.

However, Missouri State opts to go for it, Arkansas sells out to stop the run and Shelley finds a wide open Ty Scott for a 47-yard touchdown. That puts the Bears up again.

2:02, 3Q – Missouri State 24, Arkansas 17

AJ Green finally returned a kickoff and took it all the way out to the 37 to give Arkansas some decent starting field position.

After Jefferson ripped off a 14-yard run on the first play, the Hogs had to punt. It looked like they thought about going for it on fourth down before sending the punt team out, which was greeted by boos.

END of 3Q – Missouri State 24, Arkansas 17

A pass interference and completions of 13 and 19 have Missouri State once again in Arkansas territory and threatening.

12:04, 4Q – Missouri State 27, Arkansas 17

The Bears managed to convert one third down and get in the red zone, but the defense did end up limiting them to a 31-yard field goal, which Pizano made to make it a two-possession game.

11:38, 4Q – Missouri State 27, Arkansas 24

The Razorbacks strike back quickly with Jefferson shoveling a pass to Sanders, who took it 73 yards to the house. Ricky Stromberg had a great block on the play.

9:16, 4Q – Arkansas 31, Missouri State 27

The Razorbacks start the defensive possession with Landon Jackson and Jordan Domineck sacking Shelley for a loss of 8. Drew Sanders followed with a sack of his own, dropping him for a 4-yard loss.

On third-and-22, the Bears got back to the original line of scrimmage and will have to punt. It’s just their third three-and-out in 12 possessions.

Bryce Stephens returned the punt 82 yards for a touchdown to give Arkansas its first lead of the game. The stadium ERUPTED.

6:50, 4Q – Arkansas 31, Missouri State 27

Missouri State gets things started with a 38-yard completion right off the bat. Shelley is up to 354 passing yards.

After a penalty, a nice open-field tackle by Isaiah Nichols put the Bears in a third-and-long situation. Then Zach Williams notched his second sack of the game to force a punt. The Razorbacks have sacked Shelley seven times – their most in a game since having eight against Auburn in 2012.

1:39, 4Q – Arkansas 38, Missouri State 27

Back-to-back runs by Sanders moved the chains, but Arkansas found itself in a critical third-and-long situation on the next set of downs. Jefferson hit Knox for a first down near the sideline. Huge play to keep possession and run more clock.

Another long run by Sanders gets the Hogs down to the 5 and, more importantly, the clock under 3 minutes. Two plays later, Jefferson kept it for a touchdown.

0:34 – Arkansas 38, Missouri State 27

The Razorbacks forced a three-and-out and that should do it.

FINAL – Arkansas 38, Missouri State 27

Jefferson takes a knee and that’s it.

Postgame Interviews – Arkansas vs Missouri State

Highlights – Arkansas vs Missouri State

Pregame Tidbits – Arkansas vs Missouri State

There wasn’t really a noticeable reaction from the student section when Bobby Petrino walked onto the field. It sounded like there were some cheers and some boos. It paled in comparison to the massive cheers Sam Pittman received a few minutes earlier.

The Razorbacks’ returners are warming up now and only Bryce Stephens, Jadon Haselwood and Harper Cole were catching punts. Usually, freshman wide receiver Isaiah Sategna is with them, but Pittman said he rolled his ankle in practice Tuesday. He was later spotted on the sideline not dressed out.

In a bit of a surprise, starting defensive end Jashaud Stewart is not dressed out for this game. It appears Landon Jackson will start in his place, based on pregame warmups.

Defensive back Myles Slusher was not spotted going through warmups. It appears this will be his second straight week out with an undisclosed injury. Cornerback LaDarrius Bishop (knee) also hasn’t been seen.

Another lineup change of note: Malik Chavis has seemingly passed Hudson Clark and will start at the cornerback spot opposite of Dwight McGlothern.

There has also been a number change: freshman wide receiver Sam Mbake has switched from No. 17 to No. 11.

Arkansas Football Starters

QBKJ JeffersonDELandon Jackson
RBRocket SandersDTIsaiah Nichols
TETrey KnoxDTEric Gregory
WRWarren ThompsonDEZach Williams
WRJadon HaselwoodLBBumper Pool
WRMatt LandersLBDrew Sanders
LTLuke JonesNBJayden Johnson
LGBrady LathamCBMalik Chavis
CRicky StrombergSSimeon Blair
RGBeaux LimmerSLatavious Brini
RTDalton WagnerCBDwight McGlothern

The Case for Cheering Bobby Petrino on Saturday Night

At times, it seems the actual Arkansas vs Missouri State football game on Saturday night has taken a back seat to what’s unfolded into essentially Petrinopalooza ’22, a weeklong reckoning filled with neck brace-wearing Hog T-shirts and Razorback fans grappling with the man who caused so much joy – then embarrassment – for so many.

Petrino’s legacy, even more than 10 years after that fateful spring day, is far from set.

On one hand, there is a clear group of fans ready to have fun at Petrino’s expense when he returns to the field at Reynolds Razorback Stadium on Saturday for the 6 pm game:

Photo via Timothy Bottoms/Facebook

These kinds of fans are more likely to see Petrino as responsible for more than the embarrassment he caused himself and others for miring the Arkansas athletic program in a scandal Deadspin called “Ozark Chappaquiddick.” They tend to believe that he should also take some to a lot of the blame for the nearly decade-long wandering in the wilderness to which the Hogs were subjected in the wake of his firing.

No doubt, Petrino should shoulder the blame for forcing Jeff Long to tab John L. Smith for a pretty terrible season in the fall of 2012. While that can be seen as setting off a domino effect or sorts, it’s more debatable whether Petrino bears significant responsibility for the subsequent hires of Bret Bielema and Chad Morris.

Expect plenty of fans in this camp to don fake neck braces in the Fayetteville crowd on Saturday night.

Pig Trail Nation’s Mike Irwin believes Petrino will see this display before kickoff and try to use it to his advantage. “I think I know Petrino well enough to know what he would do,” Irwin said on “Ask Mike.” “He would come out, look at it, smile and laugh and act like he thought it was funny.”

“Inside, he’d be madder than hell. He would go inside and try to get his players.. all pumped up and try to use that to win the game, which I don’t think is going to help him. I don’t think that would make any difference.”

As to whether the UA athletic department would try to stop this, Irwin added: “I’m thinking maybe we’ve got a gigantic case of looking the other way, and let’s hope they do because it would be fun to see that happen. Think about how great it’ll be on TV.”

The Case for Cheering Bobby Petrino

Another group of fans, however, doesn’t think Petrino should shoulder any blame for the depressing depths reached in the end of the Bielema era and Chad Morris era.

They want to accept the apology that Petrino offered the Razorback fans a few years ago at the Little Rock Touchdown Club and, for the most part, move on:

Count sports radio talk show host John Nabors in this camp, too.

Nabors, who prefers to sit with the crowd at Arkansas football games instead of in the press box, said he won’t join those who will likely boo Petrino. Insteasd, “I’m going to cheer for Bobby Petrino. I’m going to applaud Bobby Petrino returning to Arkansas,” he said on a recent episode of “Locked On Razorbacks.”

Nabors went on to explain he wants to forget about the ugly end and celebrate what Petrino accomplished when he was on the field, where he went 21-5 over the course of the 2010 and 2011 seasons: “He was able to do things at Arkansas that so many people didn’t think that were possible. He was able to put together an offense that was electric, exciting, tough. When the game was the line at the end, Arkansas seemed to always prevail.”

Nabors, of course, knows the counter-argument from those who want to point how much much Petrino embarrassed Arkansas with his actions. “So yeah, maybe he did, maybe he did. But the thing is he apologized for it and he wanted to make it right. And he loved his time here at Arkansas.

“Usually, I’m a forgiving person, especially for Petrino who gave me so much joy as a Razorback fan during those times.”

We’ll see how many other Razorback football fans will be just forgiving when Petrino takes the field before Arkansas vs Missouri State. The guess here is that more will applaud Petrino than boo him, but there will be enough of a split in the stands to ensure one of the most memorable games against an FCS opponent that the Hogs have ever played.

How to Watch Arkansas vs Missouri State

Date: Saturday, Sept. 17

Location: Reynolds Razorback Stadium (Fayetteville, Ark.)

Kickoff Time and TV Schedule: 6 p.m. CT (ESPN+/SECN+)

Announcers: Jay Alter (play-by-play), Brian Kinchen (color), Tera Talmadge (sideline)

Missouri State’s Rankings: No. 5 (STATS Perform FCS Top 25) | No. 6 (FCS Coaches) | No. 9 (FCS SP+)

Arkansas’ Rankings: No. 10 (AP) | No. 11 (Coaches) | No. 17 (SP+) | No. 21 (FPI)

Odds/Betting Line: TBA

Arkansas vs Missouri State Predictions, Projections

Here are several picks — including from our own managing editor, Andrew Hutchinson — and computer projections for the Arkansas vs Missouri State matchup…

Andrew Hutchinson, BoAS (preseason): Arkansas, 45-17 (click here to read Hutch’s full preseason predictions)

It will be interesting to see what kind of reception Bobby Petrino gets when he returns to Reynolds Razorback Stadium as Missouri State’s head coach. What I feel strongly about, though, is that he’ll really want to beat his former team and will throw the kitchen sink at the Razorbacks to do so. Petrino has a star quarterback and a top-five team in the FCS, so it won’t be a pushover like UAPB last season. If Chad Morris was still the head coach, I’d probably pick the Bears — maybe by two scores. Alas, Pittman is in his third season and the Hogs are rolling. Missouri State may keep it close for a quarter or so, but I can’t see Arkansas slipping up against an FCS foe.

Andrew Hutchinson, BoAS (updated): Arkansas, 42-17

Yeah, I didn’t tweaked my prediction much, but that’s because the first two games of the season have played out about as expected. If the Razorbacks had Jalen Catalon and I was confident Myles Slusher would play, I might pick the defense to limit Missouri State to fewer points, but I think that leads to another touchdown for the Bears and keeps them at the 17 points I originally predicted. I don’t anticipate this being a particularly close game. Arkansas should be able to dominate in the trenches.

ESPN FPI: Arkansas has a 99.2% chance to win (+0.2 percentage points since the preseason)

Bill Connelly’s SP+: Arkansas has a 95% chance to win, favored by 29.1 (projected score: 43-14)

Sagarin: Arkansas has a 93% chance to win, favored by 28.47 (projected score: 43.8-15.3)

Below, Greg McElroy predicts how many neck braces he expects Arkansas football fans to wear on Saturday night:

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