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Mississippi State Is in the Driver's Seat

November 22, 1998| From Associated Press

Only a week after its loss to Tennessee ruined a perfect season, No. 9-ranked Arkansas lost control of the West division race in the Southeastern Conference on Saturday.

Brian Hazelwood's 27-yard field goal with seven seconds to play gave Mississippi State a 22-21 victory at Starkville, Miss., and put the Bulldogs in control in the West.

"I told the guys this was our last chance . . . our last play on this field, let's go out with a bang," said Hazelwood, whose game-winning kick gave him a school-record five field goals and set off a celebration that left Scott Field without goal posts. "There is a big party going on. But we still have one more game left. We haven't won this thing yet."

But the Bulldogs, 7-3 overall and 5-2 in the SEC, are a step closer. Mississippi State wins the West with a victory at Mississippi on Thursday night, or if Arkansas (8-2, 5-2) loses at Louisiana State the following day.

In an eight-day span, Arkansas went from 8-0 to needing help to win its second division title in four years. The Razorbacks lost to Tennessee, 28-24, in the final minute last week.

"This is a tough and difficult loss," said first-year Arkansas Coach Houston Nutt. "We were very close and it is just going to be a tough loss to get over. There is a fine line between winning and losing when you get down to this point. Obviously, we could not find that line."

Mississippi State, playing without injured SEC rushing leader James Johnson, put itself into position to win with a 44-yard drive in which freshman quarterback Wayne Madkin, still woozy from a hit on the previous drive that forced him out of the game for several plays, completed passes to convert on third and 18 and later fourth and 15.

After three incomplete passes and a penalty put the Bulldogs at fourth and 15 at the Arkansas 49, Madkin rolled left away from pressure and connected with Kevin Cooper for an 18-yard gain to the Arkansas 31. Three runs by Chris Rainey for 21 yards set up the game-winning kick.

"I wasn't going to let them get me down," Madkin said. "I had made some bad throws and wanted to make it up to the guys."

No. 14 Georgia 24, Mississippi 17--Olandis Gary, running behind a battered offensive line, rushed for 132 yards and two touchdowns and the Bulldog defense stopped the Rebels twice on fourth-down plays at the one-yard line at Athens, Ga.

The Rebels squandered numerous chances against Georgia (8-2, 6-2). They were stopped on fourth and goal from the Gerogia 1 in the first quarter. In the third quarter, they had a pass intercepted at the Georgia 2, and in the fourth quarter were stopped on fourth down at the Georgia 1.

Ole Miss (6-4, 3-4) still made it close when Romaro Miller completed a 10-yard touchdown pass to Rufus French with 4:20 to play.

Alabama 31, Auburn 17--Shaun Alexander scored three touchdowns to lead the Crimson Tide (7-4, 4-4) over the Tigers (3-8, 1-7) at Birmingham, Ala.

The win completed a turnaround for Alabama, 4-7 last season.

Auburn ended a disastrous season with its worst record since 1952, when the Tigers won only two games. The loss also hurt interim Coach Bill Oliver's chances at getting the permanent job. He was 2-3 after taking over when Terry Bowden resigned Oct. 23.

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