By Kurt Voigt/The Associated Press
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Bo Wallace and Bryson Rose made sure Ole Miss’ season of resurgence didn’t suffer a setback in a 30-27 win over Arkansas on Saturday.
In fact, the duo helped the Rebels take a major step forward — closing in on the school’s first bowl berth since 2009.
Rose kicked a 31-yard field goal as time expired to secure the win for Ole Miss, its second straight in the Southeastern Conference after snapping a 16-game league losing streak against Auburn. It was the senior’s third field goal of the game, including a career-best 53-yarder that put the Rebels (5-3, 2-2) up 27-20 early in the fourth quarter.
The late-game kick helped Ole Miss stave off a rally by the Razorbacks and put the school within one win of bowl eligibility. It also marked the school’s first road win in the SEC since beating Vanderbilt 23-7 in 2009, the same year it last won back-to-back conference games.
“I’m thrilled,” first -year Rebels coach Hugh Freeze said. “… Our team grew up today, won on the road in this tough conference, against a very good football team.
“The ride home will be really, really sweet.”
Arkansas (3-5, 2-3) had won two straight entering the game, raising hopes that it had found the answers it needed after an earlier four-game losing streak. However, the Razorbacks’ season-long slide continued — despite a career-best 161 yards rushing and a late game-tying touchdown by Dennis Johnson — and they now have equaled their loss total of the previous two seasons combined.
“We fought back and battled, battled and battled,” Arkansas coach John L. Smith said. “We just didn’t make quite enough plays.”
While Arkansas’ free fall from the preseason Top 10 continued, Ole Miss continued its rebirth after finishing a combined 1-15 in the SEC the last two seasons. The Rebels rebounded from an early 10-point deficit Saturday thanks in large part to Wallace.
The sophomore quarterback accounted for 316 yards of total offense, finishing 29 of 37 passing for 278 yards. After running for, passing for and catching a touchdown pass two weeks ago against Auburn, Wallace directed the Rebels on an eight-play, 61-yard drive that set up Rose’s game-winning field goal.
On the game-winning drive, Wallace accounted for 38 yards — 35 passing and 13 rushing. He was 3 of 4 passing, including a 14-yard completion to Jeff Scott on a third-and-9 to keep the drive moving. Wallace’s final play was a 13-yard run through the heart of the Arkansas defense to set up Rose’s game-winning kick.
“It’s awesome,” Wallace said. “But at the same time, it’s not over yet. We’ll go back and get to work tomorrow.”
The Razorbacks tied the game 27-27 with 2:09 remaining on a 4-yard touchdown run by Johnson, nearly overcoming a blocked punt that led to an Ole Miss touchdown and a pair of interceptions by quarterback Tyler Wilson. Arkansas outgained the Rebels 464-355 in total yardage, and Wilson finished 24 of 43 passing for 297 yards, but it couldn’t stop Ole Miss when it needed to the most.
Johnson nearly single-handedly helped the Razorbacks tie the game late in the fourth quarter. After Wilson opened the drive with a 9-yard completion to Cobi Hamilton — who finished with 12 catches for 146 yards — Johnson gained 41 yards on his next two carries.
The senior then bowled his way into the end zone from 5 yards out on his third straight carry, capping a four-play, 55-yard drive. Arkansas left 2:09 on the clock, however, which proved exactly the right amount of time for the resurgent Rebels.
“We still have a lot of games to play, and there’s a lot this team can accomplish and salvage,” Wilson said. “I think we can do it. We’re getting better; we just have to do the little things right.”
Ole Miss trailed 10-0 early before rallying to take a 21-17 halftime lead after Scott’s 1-yard touchdown run with 20 seconds remaining in the half. The score capped a 10-play, 75-yard drive that took just 1:01 off the clock.
Scott accounted for 96 yards of total offense, while Randall Mackey finished with seven catches for 99 yards for the Rebels.
“The football team, every facet of it, made a play at some point that really meant a lot to the outcome of the game,” Freeze said. “… We were very poised. Bo made some really nice throws and people made nice plays.”
Read more in Sunday’s NEMS Daily Journal.
Highlights including game winning kick below …