By Parrish Alford | NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – For two quarters Saturday afternoon, Ole Miss fans could dare to dream.
The Rebels scored 17 straight points and teased the faithful with production from days gone by, but No. 10 Arkansas took control in the third quarter.
The Razorbacks scored 29 unanswered points and went on to win 29-24 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium before a crowd of 57,951, many of them their own fans.
After two straight wins against his former team, fourth-year Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt lost his second straight game. More importantly, the Rebels lost an SEC game for the 10th straight time, the longest streak in school history.
Ole Miss went from the 6 minutes, 42 seconds mark of the second quarter – when quarterback Randall Mackey scored on a 1-yard run for a 17-0 advantage – to the 1:23 mark of the fourth quarter without scoring.
At that late juncture, Mackey passed 4 yards to freshman receiver Donte Moncrief to draw to within five points.
The Rebels recovered the onside kick at the 43, but Mackey was sacked on first down. With no timeouts, precious seconds ran off the clock between plays, then on second down Mackey was pressured and threw his only interception.
The late infusion of hope was just another tease.
Nutt praised his team’s effort and says he’s battling to help the Rebels keep their edge mentally.
“I am just trying to keep these guys with a real effort and attitude of don’t ever give up or quit – fight, no matter what people say. No matter what they say, because they don’t know. They’re not the expert. They don’t have to commit and go through what you go through. I was just really proud of how they played.”
In the first half, it was a physical Ole Miss team on both sides of the ball. The running game clicked at the edge and in the middle, the defense holding the Razorbacks’ vaunted offense in check most of the time.
Arkansas (6-1, 2-1 SEC) had just one first down in the first quarter and failed on a fourth-and-1 attempt near midfield when tackle Bryon Bennett stuffed running back Broderick Green.
The Rebels (2-5, 0-4 SEC) got good yardage in their own run game. Running backs Brandon Bolden and Jeff Scott were often in the game at the same time, and much of the success came behind right guard Matt Hall, the Arkansas transfer.
Bolden had 65 yards on 10 carries in the first half, but camp up limping late in the second quarter. He finished with 68 yards on 14 attempts.
“I don’t like to talk a lot about adjustments, but our coaches did a great job with that. We certainly shut down some things they were doing in the first half,” Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said.
That adjustment included putting a player to the side of the field where Ole Miss had been coming across in motion and attacking the edge.
Offensively, the Razorbacks didn’t throw a touchdown pass but got 160 rushing yards from Dennis Johnson, who averaged less than 30 yards a game going in.
Arkansas still passed effectively. Tyler Wilson completed 13 of 28 attempts for 232 yards. His 37-yard completion to Joe Adams set up his own 1-yard touchdown to tie the game at 17 with 6:48 left in the third.
Minutes later, Wilson scored on a 1-yard run again to give Arkansas a 24-17 lead. That drive included a 67-yard gain on a screen pass by Adams.
“It was poor angles. Guys overestimating a guys speed. Then he cuts back, and it really showed up, and there were some missed tackles in there,” Ole Miss defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix said. “When you’re the second part of the defense, behind the front, you’ve got to get the guy on the ground.”
Ole Miss had 250 yards at halftime, the most it’s had in an SEC game this season, but just 120 yards the rest of the way.
Arkansas got 206 of its 438 yards on the ground and averaged 7.1 yards per rush.
“We played a good half, but the game is 60 minutes not 30,” Ole Miss defensive back Charles Sawyer said. “They had their plays, and we had ours, but they had two big plays, and that’s how they got up on us. We’ve got to finish as a defense and as a team.”