FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. • Mississippi State was not quite at full strength against Arkansas on Saturday, but it was as close as the Bulldogs have been in a while.
MSU let its usually suspended players – linebacker Willie Gay Jr., safety Marcus Murphy and offensive tackle Kwatrivous Johnson – play in the contest, with Murphy earning his first career start.
Gay and Murphy both made a difference for the defense. Gay made five stops and recovered a fumble, while Murphy tied for the team lead with eight tackles and had a 32-yard pick-6 on the first interception of his career.
“It felt really good with me being out,” Murphy said. “I played the game with passion and when my number was called, I showed up and helped the team.”
Bulldogs’ coach Joe Moorhead announced on Monday that guard Stewart Reese, linebacker Aaron Brule, defensive tackles James Jackson and Nathan Pickering, cornerback Cameron Dantzler and safety C.J. Morgan were all questionable for the Arkansas game due to injuries.
All those players at least dressed out, with Dantzler starting and Brule and Pickering playing.
“Thomas Callans and his (training) staff did a real nice job because on Monday when we went through the injury report, we almost needed two pages,” Moorhead said. “The guys healed up and did a great job. It was a pleasant surprise to have as many of them back as we did.”
State started the game with a six-play, 82-yard drive that was highlighted by a 62-yard run by Kylin Hill. Hill capped the possession with a 4-yard run. It was the first time the Bulldogs have scored on the opening drive since the Southern Miss game on Sept. 7.
KEY NUMBER: 640
Mississippi State’s 640 total yards were the most it has ever had against an SEC foe. The 460 rushing yards was also a school SEC single-game record.
“When you get put behind that quick, it is difficult. I thought they owned the time of possession in the first half and, for the most part, the entire game.” – Arkansas coach Chad Morris.
The Bulldogs have an open date, then will host Alabama on Nov. 16.
MSU improved to 10-3 under Moorhead when scoring first. ... The Bulldogs have scored 106 points against Arkansas in the last two games. ... Erroll Thompson tied for the team lead with eight tackles. ... Martin Emerson Jr. forced a fumble. ... Neither team had a sack.