By Parrish Alford
OXFORD – Getting bowl eligible can be tricky business, and sometimes it requires a hand in the dirt.
Or maybe a hand with a dry erase board, or maybe just locking eyes with guys in the huddle and making sure you have players’ attention.
A little in-game adaptation by Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze resulted in a 75-yard touchdown pass and swung momentum back to the Rebels, who capitalized and went on to defeat Arkansas 34-24 before 60,856 fans at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The win makes the Rebels (6-3, 3-3 SEC) eligible for a bowl for the second-straight season with Freeze as coach. They didn’t lock up a holiday schedule until the final regular season game last year.
“We’re not trying to go to a 6-6 bowl,” Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace said. “Nine wins, that’s on our minds right now.”
If Wallace keeps playing like he did Saturday, the Rebels may get those nine regular-season wins.
They have home games with Troy and No. 10 Missouri remaining before the finale at Mississippi State.
Wallace was 26-for-33 passing for a career-high 407 yards and three touchdowns. He threw two interceptions, but Freeze gave him a pass on both.
The first was a miscommunication with a receiver who pulled up early on a route.
“The second one, I instructed him, ‘Do not take a sack’ on that fourth-down play,” Freeze said. “I didn’t want to punt it, and they block it and score and get a field goal. We thought we had a chance to hit a route that I thought would be there, but we got pressure and couldn’t get to that route.”
Wallace was picked off at the 2, and the result was an Arkansas skirmish of a drive that finally ended when the Razorbacks missed a 58-yard field goal with less than a minute remaining and no timeouts.
Arkansas (3-7, 0-6) dropped its seventh-straight game but not without putting up a fight.
The Razorbacks twice cut a 10-point deficit to three points and had a chance to take the lead in a 20-17 game when a halfback pass attempt blew up in their faces. Channing Ward and Lavon Hooks dropped Jonathan Williams for a loss of 9 yards on first down from the Ole Miss 39.
The Rebels’ next series was their third of the half, and Freeze got to tinkering.
“After the first series of the second half I told the guys to get over there and draw one up in the dirt, kind of,” Freeze said. “The way they were trying to play our bubble screens and our inside runs with the safety that they would have a hard time with him triggering and still playing a chute route there.”
Wallace found Ja-Mes Logan with a step on a defender and threw the pass long enough for Logan to run under, make the catch and score easily.
“That’s coach Freeze’s creative mind. Sometimes you’re like ‘Man, I’m really going to have to go out there and try to do this play?’ We said, ‘OK, let’s do it,’ and it was a touchdown,” Wallace said.
Wallace also threw touchdown passes of 14 yards to Laquon Treadwell and 52 yards to Donte Moncrief on which Moncrief made one guy miss and got a great downfield block from wide receiver Jordan Holder.
Ole Miss outgained Arkansas 531-389. The Razorbacks rushed for 196 yards and averaged 5.8 yards per attempt.
Freeze thought his team was sluggish.
“It’s a great sign for our program in Year II that we’re able to win an SEC football game when we may not play our best,” he said. “We’re excited to be bowl eligible and get that out of the way.”