Brandon Allen deserved a chance to win that game.
Against Mississippi State, Brandon Allen threw seven touchdown passes, breaking his own Arkansas single-game record he set against Ole Miss two weeks ago. He passed Ryan Mallett to become Arkansas' career leader in touchdown passes. He even caught a two-point conversion earlier in the fourth quarter.
He was having a good night.
Facing a 1-point deficit and starting all the way back at the Arkansas 11-yard line, Brandon Allen completed consecutive passes of 17, 16, 13, 6, and 18 yards to get Arkansas a first down in the Red Zone.
So what do the Arkansas coaches decide to do? Run the ball three times up the middle to set up a game-winning field goal attempt.
I don't have an issue running the ball on first down. You've run five straight pass plays. It's a change of pace. And you set the ball up in the middle of the field.
But then Arkansas ran again on 2nd down. That set up a 3rd-and-five. If you want a 1st down in that situation, you probably throw with a white-hot quarterback since the running game amassed fewer than 100 yards for the first time this year.
Not this time, Arkansas ran it up the middle again. Not an end-around. No misdirection. No wide outs on the play, even. They ran it up the middle for a two-yard gain.
A 29-yard field goal is not a long field goal. It's a fairly high percentage attempt. But Arkansas' field goal unit has not been very good this year. Cole Hedlund came into the game 8-for-12 on the year. That's 66.6%. That's anything but automatic.
Brandon Allen has only thrown six interceptions this season. He's attempted 327 passes. That means over 98% of his passes aren't turnovers.
I can't fathom how anybody could be more comfortable putting the game in the field goal unit's hands instead of Allen's. It doesn't make sense.
All running the ball accomplished was getting Mississippi State to burn their time outs. But still, with less than a minute remaining, I think you take your chances. Besides, with a two point lead the field goal would have provided, the Bulldogs would have been able to win the game with a field goal instead of having to go the length of the field.
To me, this was much worse than any fake field goal or fake punt or failed trick play. This is actively taking the ball out of Allen's hands, when he's having the record-setting type of game he's playing, when he won the Ole Miss and Auburn games in recent weeks, and put the game on the line with an inconsistent-at-best field goal unit. The same field goal unit that also had a kick blocked that would have won the Ole Miss game. It was a massive failure.
Of course, you would like to think a 29-yard field goal would be automatic. It should be, but it's not for Arkansas this year. While Hedlund is a perfect 43-for-43 on extra points and field goals up to 19 yards out this season, he did miss one against Tennessee from a similar range. He was 6 of 7 from between 20-29 yards, and is now 6 of 8. Brandon Allen is a fifth year senior. Cole Hedlund is a redshirt freshman.
This also doesn't excuse the Arkansas defense, which was downright terrible other than most of the third quarter. The Bulldogs scored on their first five series, and it looked like they'd blow Arkansas out before halftime. The Razorbacks forced a few turnovers and put some quick points on the board to take an 11-point lead, but gave it up after two quick possessions. The Bulldogs scored touchdowns on their last three drives.
Another head scratcher came when Arkansas had that 11-point lead and all the momentum in the world. The Hogs had a 4th-and-1 at the Bulldog 26-yard line and instead of trying a high percentage play that, granted, still might not have worked, the Hogs ran a double fake reverse and let Allen throw it deep into the end zone. It was incomplete. Mississippi State took the ball and began their comeback. I'm not saying Arkansas should have ran the ball. Throwing it isn't necessarily wrong, but it might have been easier if they ran a normal play with more receivers closer to the line of scrimmage instead of all the way into the end zone.
The only saving grace is that Arkansas is already bowl eligible. However, this loss eliminates any hopes of the Citrus Bowl. Arkansas will end up in the Pool of Six with a win against Missouri next week, but a loss to the Tigers could have them in play for Birmingham or Shreveport with a 6-6 record.