It never gets any easier.
I don't even know what else to say at this point.
The constant debate about who's to blame week after week is tired. Look, whenever you lose a game this close, you can point to any number of things to blame. Brandon Allen made some good throws and some bad ones. The receivers made good plays and some bad ones. The defense made some good plays and some bad ones. The coaches called some good plays and some bad ones.
Bret Bielema has become used to saying the team will win when they deserve to win. The fact of the matter is there are a lot of players on the Arkansas football team who deserve to win. Trey Flowers deserves to win. Jonathan Williams deserves to win. There are many more.
It's hard to overstate the way Arkansas' defense has performed this season. Holding Mississippi State to 17 points, in Starkville, when they haven't scored fewer than 34 all year, is a real accomplishment. Much like against Texas A&M and Alabama, that should have been enough for the team to win, but it wasn't. The Bulldogs have allowed at least 23 points to everybody they've played this year other than South Alabama and Southern Miss, but, once again, the Hogs just couldn't take advantage of most of the opportunities they were given.
The Razorbacks' only touchdown came after Mississippi State muffed a punt and set the Hogs up near the end zone.
Twice in the first quarter, Arkansas had 4th-and-1s in Mississippi State territory, one of which was at the 32 yard line. Both times Arkansas punted. Adam McFain hit a field goal last week when Arkansas was at the UAB 32-yard line, but instead of giving him a shot to replicate it, much less attempt to convert the 1st down, Arkansas punted.
The Razorbacks converted three fourth downs in the second half. If they want to end this SEC losing streak, now at 17 games, they have to take it. Punting from the 32-yard line was awful. Mississippi State has a quick-strike offense, even if the Hogs did hold them to 17 points. Field position wasn't going to be the story of this game like the Alabama game was.
Brooks Ellis picked off Dak Prescott as the Bulldogs were driving just before halftime. He was in pick-six territory but wasn't fast enough to outrun the Mississippi State players, possibly the injury that kept him out of the last couple games had something to do with that. Regardless, Arkansas was set up at the Mississippi State 42 with two timeouts and 34 seconds left. Arkansas ran no running plays and lost three yards, keeping them well short of field goal range.
In the third quarter, Arkansas had a nice drive going, but Drew Morgan was called for a personal foul for shoving a Mississippi State player who was shoving Brandon Allen at the bottom of a pile. The problem was that it was literally directly in front of the official. A false start from Keon Hatcher pushed Arkansas farther back and it was too much for the Hogs to overcome. They had to punt again.
Later, with the game tied at 10, Alex Collins broke free for a 42-yard run, again just barely not fast enough to outrun the Mississippi State defense, but he did set Arkansas up in the Bulldog red zone as the fourth quarter began. But another false start, this time by Hunter Henry and a pair of incompletions set Arkansas up for a field goal, but McFain missed this time. But that turned out not to be a huge deal. Hurt momentum more than anything else.
Prescott hit his big 69-yard touchdown to Fred Ross on the next drive, finally claiming the lead for Mississippi State.
It felt like Arkansas was done at that point. 16 straight losses will make you feel like that. Fortunately, the team was still fighting. The Hogs launched a long drive, converting three third downs and a fourth down to have first and goal at the nine-yard line. The next four plays will be discussed ad nauseam. The Hogs picked up six on first down on a pass to A.J. Derby, but then Jonathan Williams ran twice, getting to the Bulldog 1-yard line. On fourth down, lining up in the shotgun, Bielema running down the sideline apparently torn between whether or not to call a time out, the Hogs handed off to Alex Collins who was stuffed up the middle. Drive over.
Somehow, Arkansas ended up with one more shot with a little over two minutes left. And after a miraculous 36-yard completion to Henry on fourth-and-15, an 11-yard pass to Demetrius Wilson and a 24-yard pass to Henry again, the Hogs were set up with 1st-and-10 at the Mississippi State 16-yard line with about 30 seconds left.
Could it be? Was Arkansas finally beginning to catch enough breaks? Had the Razorbacks finally paid off whatever ungodly debt the program has clearly fallen under?
Oh no. Allen went to the end zone on first down but underthrew Demetrius Wilson, and the Hogs had finally drawn their last breath of the night.
So here we are. Again. This time without a game next week to deal with. Arkansas gets another bye before lacing them up again against LSU in two weeks. Can they regroup and give a full effort again? Bret Bielema and his staff deserve a ton of credit for keeping this train on the tracks as long as they have. They'll need to keep it up for a little while longer.