By KURT VOIGT, AP Sports Writer
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Nick Fitzgerald threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Deddrick Thomas with 17 seconds remaining, and No. 17 Mississippi State survived a lackluster performance and four fumbles Saturday for a 28-21 victory over Arkansas.
The Bulldogs (8-3, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) won at least eight games in a season for the fourth time in coach Dan Mullen’s nine years. They had already earned bowl eligibility for a school-record eighth straight season.
“There was never any doubt we were going to win,” Fitzgerald said. “The last drive we went out there with full confidence and we knew we were going to punch it in.”
The Razorbacks (4-7, 1-6) led by a touchdown in the fourth quarter, but Fitzgerald tied the game with 4:07 remaining with a 37-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Todd.
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema then went for it on a fourth-and-2 from the Razorbacks 44, and the Bulldogs held. Nine plays later, Thomas scored to give Mississippi State its fifth win in six games against Arkansas.
“We said the last night we were going to do everything we can to win this game,” Bielema said. We’re going to do everything we can to keep swinging, keep fighting, and obviously that was an example of it.”
Fitzgerald accounted for three touchdowns and totaled 254 yards, finishing 12-of-23 passing for 153 yards and rushing 22 times for 101 yards. The junior threw for two touchdowns and rushed for another.
David Williams led Arkansas with 75 yards rushing on eight carries, while quarterback Austin Allen completed 11 of 17 passes for 119 yards.
Bielema is now 29-33 overall in his fifth season with the Razorbacks, 11-28 in the SEC.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs lost 31-24 a week ago to No. 1 Alabama, with the Crimson Tide scoring in the final minute for the victory. Mississippi State played as if it were still recovering from that setback. The Bulldogs lost three fumbles, including one on a botched punt return, after they had run four plays. Despite the early struggles, Fitzgerald accounted for 178 of his yards in the second half.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks entered the game last in the SEC while allowing an average of 6.57 yards per play on defense, but they held the Bulldogs to only 130 yards in the first half that ended 14-14. Arkansas defensive end McTelvin Agim was at the forefront of the defense’s stellar performance, finishing with nine tackles, 2 ½ tackles for losses, including a sack and two forced fumbles.
Mississippi State hosts Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl on Thursday.
The Razorbacks close out the regular season by hosting Missouri on Friday.
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