No. 10 Arkansas survives Missouri State upset bid, explodes in fourth quarter to spoil Bobby Petrino's return
Petrino had many believing he and his team would pull off an historic upset on Saturday night
No. 10 Arkansas narrowly avoided a historic loss that would have packed an especially personal punch on Saturday night by surviving for a 38-27 win over FCS foe Missouri State. The Bears, who are coached by former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino, led 27-17 early in the fourth quarter before the Razorbacks exploded for 21 unanswered points to close the game.
A victory for Missouri State would have marked just the second-ever win by an FCS team over a top-10 opponent along with Appalachian State's famous 2007 win at Michigan. But Arkansas came alive in all three phases of the game once its back was against the wall to improve to 3-0 ahead of a game with Texas A&M next week.
Raheim Sanders took a shovel pass from K.J. Jefferson 73 yards to the house for a touchdown with 11:38 left to bring Arkansas within 27-24. Then, an 82-yard punt return from Bryce Stephens gave the Razorbacks their first lead with 9:16 remaining. With Missouri State driving for a chance to retake the lead, defensive end Zach Williams sacked Missouri State quarterback Jason Shelley on third-and-12 for a loss of 9 yards. The stop forced Missouri State to punt, and the Razorbacks put the finishing touches on the win by scoring on the subsequent drive.
Still, even in defeat, Petrino made life uncomfortable for the Razorbacks more than a decade after his successful coaching tenure came to an unceremonious end. After amassing a 21-5 (12-4 SEC) record over his third and fourth seasons on the job in 2010 and 2011, Petrino was fired in the spring of 2012 following an infamous motorcycle wreck that led to revelations about his inappropriate relationship with an Arkansas staffer. Petrino, 61, is in his third season with the Bears, having amassed a 15-9 record so far. He also coached a season at Western Kentucky and five seasons at Louisville -- his second stint with the Cardinals -- following his separation with Arkansas.
The Razorbacks have just now recovered the national relevance they enjoyed during Petrino's tenure under third-year coach Sam Pittman. The two coaches shared a lengthy midfield embrace after the game.
"I'm proud that we found a way to win," Pittman told the SEC Network. "Coach Petrino had his group ready. They outplayed us, they outreached me. We were just fortunate enough that our kids made enough plays to win."
Clutch plays from Arkansas
Arkansas faced a third-and-12 and was at risk of having to punt it away when K.J. Jefferson found Trey Knox for 21 yards to keep the drive alive. From there, Raheim Sanders ran 43 yards to set up what appears like the game-clinching TD from 1-yard out by J.J. Jefferson.
Here's the play that gave Arkansas its first lead of the game.
Arkansas just picked up its seventh sack of the night in a huge spot. With Missouri State in Razorbacks' territory, Zach Williams brought Shelley down for a loss of nine, leaving the Bears with little choice but to punt on fourth-and-20. Arkansas not out of the woods yet but has the football with 6:50 left and a 31-27 lead.
History at stake
If Missouri State wins, it would be the second time an FCS team has beaten a top-10 team, per ESPN broadcast. The other was the iconic Michigan-Appalachian State game in 2007. The added intrigue of Petrino's return would make this one arguably just as historic/memorable.
Missouri State's gamble pays off
The Bears just gambled on fourth-and-1 at the Arkansas 47 by electing to go for it with the game tied at 17 late in the third quarter. The play-action fake worked to perfection with Jason Shelley hitting Ty Scott wide open for a touchdown that puts the Bears back ahead.