STARKVILLE — Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen knew Arkansas was going to score.
After watching the Razorbacks on film, Mullen came away impressed with their offense and knew his defense would have to be ready.
The Bulldogs didn’t answer the challenge as they allowed 661 yards of offense in a 58-42 loss Saturday night at Davis Wade Stadium.
“We didn’t execute clean,” Mullen said. “There was a combination of different things. When you give up that many yards, it’s not one thing, it’s several different things.”
The loss guarantees the first losing season for the Bulldogs (4-7, 2-5 Southeastern Conference) since they finished 5-7 in Mullen’s first season in 2009 and didn’t play in a bowl game. The school-record streak of six-straight bowl games most likely will end, unless MSU is invited to a bowl game with a 5-7 record if it beats Ole Miss next weekend in the Battle for the Golden Egg in Oxford.
The 58 points is the most MSU has allowed in the Mullen era. MSU gave up 615 yards of offense in a 51-3 loss to No. 1 Alabama last Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. MSU has allowed at least 40 points and 500 yards of offense in four of the last five games.
Mullen said missed tackles, poor fits, and an inability to set the edge were big problems for his defense against the Razorbacks (7-4, 3-4). When asked if that was on the players or the coaches, Mullen said it is probably a mix of both.
“We’ve got a lot of young players on the defensive side of the ball,” Mullen said. “We’ve dealt with a bunch of injures and guys being banged up and limited and limited practice time. I’ve got to make sure coaching wise we’re putting guys in the best position to go make plays. If we’re putting them in position, are they making the plays? And if not, what do we have to do? Put somebody else in there to go make the play or try something different so they can make the plays.”
Arkansas sophomore running back Rawleigh Williams III had a career-high 205 yards on 16 carries and a career-high four touchdowns. He had 191 yards on eight carries and all four of his touchdowns as the Razorbacks had 455 yards of total offense (283 yards rushing, 172 yards passing) in the first half.
Williams had touchdowns of 72, 42, 7, and 33 yards. The Dallas, Texas, native completed a 1-yard jump pass to tight end Austin Cantrell in the third quarter for his first-career passing touchdown.
Devwah Whaley had 112 yards on 19 carries and a 4-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter for the Razorbacks.
MSU senior safety Kivon Coman, who had a game-high 15 tackles, said he has never seen an offensive line set an edge like the Razorbacks did.
“We didn’t play Mississippi State defense,” Coman said. “We’ve just got to keep going forward from here. We’ve got to learn from our mistakes.”
Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen was 18 of 25 for 303 yards and two touchdowns. He hit Keon Hatcher for a 5-yard touchdown in the second quarter. The Razorbacks scored on their next three possessions (an Adam McFain 34-yard field goal and two Williams’ touchdowns) to take a 38-14 halftime lead. Allen found Hatcher for a 10-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
The Razorbacks scored on 10 of 12 offensive possessions and didn’t punt. McFain missed a 40-yard field goal in the first quarter and the Razorbacks ran out the clock on their final possession.
“I think it was more of what we were not doing,” Coman said. “We had guys not lining up right, guys that had eyes in the wrong place, and things we can’t do against an SEC team.
“I think it’s on the players because the coaches can’t go out there and play. Coaches during the week do a great job of teaching us of where we need to be and when we need to be there. We just have to take the practice to the game field.”
The Bulldogs had five tackles for loss and didn’t record a sack. Junior linebacker J.T. Gray led the Bulldogs with two tackles for loss.
Mullen said he will evaluate the film and help first-year defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon put in a game plan for this week, but he wasn’t surprised to see the Razorbacks move the ball and score.
“I knew they were a pretty good offense,” Mullen said. “They’ve got a good quarterback that executes very well and they run the ball well.”
Follow Dispatch sports writer Ben Wait on Twitter @bcwait
Ben Wait reports on Mississippi State University sports for The Dispatch.