Mississippi State football got its first SEC win of the season in Fayetteville. The defense played its best game of the season. How did they shut down the Arkansas offense?
Mississippi State football traveled up to Fayetteville needing to get a win by any means possible. The means they chose was to play the most disgusting football game of the day. Let’s keep in mind that this was a college football Saturday that featured Iowa and Minnesota meeting in a game that closed with an over/under points total of 30.5, a total they never came close to threatening.
You have to play an extremely ugly game to top at 12-10 final score or, frankly, any game featuring the Iowa Hawkeyes. But that’s exactly what the Dawgs and Hogs did on Saturday, as Mississippi State emerged victorious with a final score of 7-3.
Seven to three.
As I pointed out on the Website Formerly Known as Twitter, you’ve got to go back a long time to a game of pretty massive significance to find an instance of Mississippi State winning a football game with fewer points scored.
Arkansas struck first after an interception on the second play of the game set up a quick field goal. State would punch it into the endzone at the 13:03 mark in the second quarter. And then neither team managed to score again.
Two scoring plays. 10 total points. One nasty win.
But a win nonetheless! For MSU to realistically keep their bowl hopes alive, they needed to get this win. They found a way. And in a season in which the defense has been almost entirely abysmal, the defense put together one of the most dominant performances we’ve seen on that side of the ball in a long time. This was the fewest points MSU football has held a Power 5 opponent to since the 2018 Egg Bowl.
Arkansas finished with just 200 yards of offense on 2.94 yards per play. You’ve got to go all the way back to 2009 against Vanderbilt to find fewer yards per play allowed to a Power 5 opponent. This was total domination from Mississippi State’s defense. The only time Arkansas scored came on a drive that started on the Bulldog’s 35.
Now, Arkansas’ offensive woes this season have been well-documented. I discussed in the preview for this game how Dan Enos’ system did their personnel no favors. And beyond a terrible schematic fit, there are plenty of moments in which the Hogs simply looked clueless offensively. That goes back to coaching. And it’s way Enos was sent packing after this game.
But make no mistake. The Bulldog defense deserves a ton of credit for their performance. Arkansas has been bad, yes, but they still hadn’t been held to fewer to 20 points the entire season. And includes games against defenses that have been far more impressive than State so far this year.
This was a Bulldog defense that, excluding their FCS game, had been allowing an average of 433 yards and 34 points. Even Western Michigan managed to easily drive down the field and reach the endzone four times on State. No one saw this coming, and Mississippi State should be applauded for what they managed to do on defense (their offense, not so much, but we’ll discuss that later).
Let’s look at some of the best players and best plays from Saturday.