November 21, 2010 1:36:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- The Arkansas Razorbacks survived a double-overtime scare against Mississippi State on Saturday, atoning for a blown 10-point lead with a 38-31 win.
The No. 13 Razorbacks (8-2, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) ran 39 fewer plays than the Bulldogs and turned the ball over three times, but came up with just enough big plays to clinch the ball game.
The No. 22 Bulldogs (7-4, 3-4) ran 100 offensive plays and tallied 486 yards of offense, but lost three fumbles, including a critical fumble from running back Vick Ballard that resulted in a touchback in the first overtime period.
For MSU''s three critical mistakes on offense and the defense''s second straight week conceding multiple long scoring plays, MSU had ample chances to ride out winners on Senior Night.
The Bulldogs were down 10 points late in the fourth quarter before a 10-play drive capped by a Ballard touchdown run got the Bulldogs within 3.
After a Knile Davis fumble on Arkansas'' ensuing drive, the Bulldogs took over at the Arkansas 46 with two minutes left.
The Bulldogs marched the field and clinched the tie with a 25-yard field goal by Derek DePasquale.
MSU started the final drive of regulation with one minute and 52 seconds left on the clock, and had four plays from the Arkansas 15-yard line with 75 seconds remaining. The Bulldogs went with three straight rushing plays and settled for DePasquale''s field goal attempt.
"Any time you''re in a situation like that you want to come away with a win and not have to face overtime," wide receiver Chad Bumphis said. "But it''s something we have to learn from."
In overtime, the Bulldogs took possession first but saw the drive come up empty when Ballard fumbled into the end zone. MSU had one more lifeline when Zach Hocker missed the walk-off 35-yard field goal on the ensuing possession.
Arkansas took over in the second overtime and went ahead by a touchdown, 38-31, through a 7-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Mallett to Davis.
MSU''s response was a first down and two short rushes to set up third-and-7 from the Arkansas 12. Relf, who set a career-high in pass completions (20) and attempts (30), missed an open Arceto Clark on a slant on third down. And on fourth down, the junior quarterback was sacked by Tenarius Wright to end the game. Nearly all of Arkansas'' front four was in the backfield when Relf was sacked -- an uncharacteristic mistake for MSU''s veteran line.
Relf, who had stellar protection for most of the game, received the snap before he was ready, head coach Dan Mullen said.
"Left tackle heard the dummy call," Mullen said. "We snapped the ball when he didn''t give the cadence. That''s coaching. That''s all on me to make sure that doesn''t happen."
Relf enjoyed a career day with 327 total yards of offense. The junior was part of a ball-hogging offense against the Razorbacks, as MSU ran 100 plays to Arkansas'' 61.
Relf carried 31 times for 128 yards and completed 20 of 30 passes for 224 yards. But for the second straight week he was sacked five times.
"I think Chris had a good night managing the game," Mullen said. "Did a good job at the end to see if they''re blitzing, switching his cadence. For Chris going 20 of 30, spreading the ball around to different guys -- you wouldn''t think coming into the game Chris Relf is going to complete more passes than Ryan Mallett."
Mallett finished with 305 passing yards and three touchdowns. He was intercepted once and sacked twice.
Ballard had a career-night with 150 yards on 33 carries. He scored three touchdowns, including two in the second quarter which tied the game at 14 and later gave MSU a 21-14 advantage.
Though MSU''s offense proved it could succeed on the ground and in the air, Mullen was disappointed in the team''s three fumbles and the defense giving up a string of big plays.
Arkansas had scores of 25, 62 and 89 yards, the last of which came after Relf fumbled at the Arkansas 23. MSU had a 21-17 lead at the time and could have extended the advantage to 11.
"You can''t do those things and win championship level games," Mullen said. "You''re talking two top 25 teams on the field tonight, and we go in and turn the ball over twice in the red-zone. That''s not winning football. Got to make sure we''re coaching to make sure those things don''t happen."
MSU returns action Saturday at Ole Miss, which lost to LSU on Saturday.
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4. Starkville boys pack state championship dreams for Jackson HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS