Missouri State was out-gained 466-163 in a 51-7 season-opening loss at No. 15 Arkansas Saturday night.
The Bears collected 145 of their yards in the second half and produced their only points on a 33-yard touchdown pass from true freshman starter Kierra Harris to All-America wide receiver Jermaine Saffold in the third quarter. The one-play drive started at the UofA 33 after a forced fumble was recovered by Nick Canavan there to set up the Bears’ only points.
Both teams committed just one turnover, and the Bears were penalized just four times on the night while the Bears collected three sacks to Arkansas’ two.
Chris Douglas led MSU with 18 carries for 72 yards, while Harris finished 8-for-14 with an interception and 70 yards. Special teams performers Julian Burton, Jordan Chiles and Kaleb Mueller also had big nights, with Burton collecting 110 return yards, and Chiles averaging 45.9 yards on 8 punts.
Mike Crutcher paced the MSU defense with 10 total tackles, while Ryan Callender added 8.
Arkansas covered 80 yards on 10 plays on the game’s opening drive before Tyler Wilson found Jarius Wright from 33 yards out for the first score. Joe Adams’ punt return and a missed extra point followed two-and-a-half minutes later to make it 13-0. Bobby Petrino’s squad then capped a 70-yard drive before the end of the first quarter as Kody Walker punched it into the end zone from one yard out on the 12th play of the 70-yard series.
The Razorbacks scored twice more in the second quarter as Brandon Mitchell connected on a three-yard pass to Chris Gragg at the 5:01 mark before a 32-yard field goal by Zach Hocker with 25 ticks left in the second to make it 30-0 at the half.
The largest crowd ever for a Missouri State game, 70,607, saw the home club tack on 14 more points in the third quarter on a 29-yard TD pass from Wilson to Wright. The play was initially called incomplete, but was challenged by the Razorbacks despite a 30-0 advantage, and the play was ultimately overturned and resulted in a touchdown.
Later in the quarter Adams tacked on a 78-yard punt return that took an eternity to evolve as the Bears gave chase to make the score 44-0 with 4:15 left in the third.
Missouri State finally got on the board with 45 seconds left in the period. After a strip by Andrew Biesel and a fumble recovery by Canavan gave the Bears the ball at the Arkansas 33. On the first play of the sequence, Harris threw a strike to Saffold in the right corner end zone for the touchdown. The completion was Harris’ first of his career and Saffold’s ninth.
Arkansas tacked on a one-yard TD run by Walker early in the fourth. Ronnie Wingo led Arkansas with 43 ground yards on 11 carries, while Wilson was 18-for-24 for 260 and a pair of scores. Reserve Mitchell was 10-for-11 for 104 yards, and Wright led all receivers with 6 catches for 108 yards.