Bo Wallace shook off two first-half turnovers – and the ghosts of Texas A&M – to lead a drive that culminated with the first game-winning kick for senior Bryson Rose.
Rose, who nailed a career-long 53-yard field goal earlier in the fourth quarter, split the uprights from 31 yards on the final play of the game, as the Rebels knocked off Arkansas 30-27 before a crowd of 55,378 at War Memorial Stadium.
Having snapped a 16-game SEC losing streak with a 41-20 win against Auburn two weeks ago, Ole Miss has now won consecutive SEC games for the first time since beating Tennessee and Auburn in November of 2009.
The first SEC road win for the Rebels (5-3, 2-2 SEC) since Oct. 3, 2009 at Vanderbilt leaves them one win from bowl eligibility in Hugh Freeze’s first season as head coach.
“For our team to continue to fight, continue to battle, to go down 10-0 then come back and take the lead, then make that drive … We were very poised, I thought,” Freeze said.
Wallace – who had already given up the football on a fumble and a short-armed throw that resulted in an interception – was particularly poised on the last drive. He was 4 for 5 passing – the big play a 14-yard gain to his hot receiver, Jeff Scott on a third-and-9 – and also rushed for 13 yards to the Arkansas 14 to make Rose’s kick a chip shot.
Earlier this season the Rebels were in position to tie or possibly win against Texas A&M after giving up a late lead. Wallace, though, made a wrong read and threw an interception to seal a loss to the Aggies.
Wallace said he didn’t think about A&M during the drive but before, “I told myself this is my spot that I can … not make up for it but kind of put it in the back of everybody else’s head.”
Wallace’s teammates picked him up.
“They just said, ‘This is you. This is your spot, your time to shine,’ ” he said.
Wallace finished the game 29 for 37 passing for 278 yards, a 4-yard touchdown pass to Vince Sanders, and one interception.
Jeff Scott, after posting back-to-back 100-yard rushing games, was held in check by the Razorbacks (3-5, 2-3) who had a two-game SEC win streak snapped. Scott finished with 50 yards on 21 carries and a 1-yard touchdown.
“They were very good on the defensive front. I wasn’t sure, but they were. They really dominated us in the second half,” Freeze said.
Arkansas outgained Ole Miss 464-355, led by running back Dennis Johnson, who had a career-best 161 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries.
But the Rebels picked off Razorbacks quarterback Tyler Wilson twice – more potential interceptions were dropped – and sacked him three times.
“Tyler made enough plays for us to win. That’s all I’m going to say at this point,” Arkansas coach John L. Smith said. “You have to give Mississippi some credit without a doubt. They’re a good football team. Very athletic. And they fought.”
Arkansas scored on its first two possessions to take a 10-0 lead. Ole Miss took its first lead at 14-10 in the second quarter on a 1-yard run by Barry Brunetti, cashing in on a blocked punt by Charles Sawyer.
Rose’s 53-yard kick put the Rebels up by seven, but Arkansas scored on Johnson’s 5-yard run with 2 minutes, 9 seconds left.
Overtime seemed like a real possibility until Wallace took over.
“My words to him were this: ‘Bo, we’re still tied. You don’t have to force anything,’” Freeze said. “I said, ‘Here are the three routes that I like. Do you feel good about those three?’ He said,’Yes,’ and I said, ‘Just take what they give you.’”