Arkansas report card: Razorbacks can't overcome key injuries in late-game collapse against Ole Miss
The 2018 edition of Arkansas-Ole Miss looked a lot like the previous three. Both teams scored at least 30 points, and the outcome came down to the final possession. There was one distinct difference this time around, though: The Rebels won.
Ole Miss defeated Arkansas 37-33 at a rain-soaked War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock on Saturday night. It was the Rebels’ first win in the series since 2013. The Razorbacks (1-6, 0-4 SEC) held a nine-point lead late in the fourth quarter but failed to hold on and earn their first SEC win since last October at Ole Miss.
Here are my grades for the Hogs’ performance:
Arkansas’ offense was outstanding with running back Rakeem Boyd and quarterback Ty Storey leading the way. Unfortunately for the Hogs, neither player finished the game.
Boyd rushed for 109 yards and a touchdown on just 7 carries but didn’t play in the second half due to a back injury. Storey had the offense moving efficiently, completing 12 of 16 pass attempts and rushing for 70 yards. He took several hard hits, the last of which forced him from the game for good early in the fourth quarter. With Boyd and Storey on the sideline, the offense sputtered and failed to deliver a knockout blow.
This game further verified that Boyd can be a superstar in the SEC and Storey has what it takes to lead Chad Morris’ complex offense. If both are healthy going forward, Arkansas’ offense is going to present a challenge to every opponent left on the schedule.
The Hogs’ defense put together a respectable performance for three quarters before a fourth-quarter collapse resulted in a sixth straight defeat. Ole Miss quarterback Jordan Ta’amu engineered touchdown drives of 84 and 97 yards in the final seven minutes. One more stop by Arkansas’ defense is all that was needed to preserve what was once a 17-point lead. But the Hogs simply had no answer for Ta’amu, who threw for 387 yards and rushed for 141 more. Of his 528 total yards, 150 came on those final two drives.
Special teams: A
Special teams were outstanding for the Razorbacks, especially considering the less than ideal conditions. Kicker Connor Limpert made all 4 of his field-goal attempts, all of which were between 36 and 43 yards. He also had 3 touchbacks on his 8 kickoffs, which is good by his standards. Freshman punter Reid Bauer continues to show he has a very bright future as he pinned the Rebels inside their own 20 on both his punts and had a long of 64 yards.
Offensively, the game plan couldn’t have been much better. Without the key injuries, which also included backup running back Devwah Whaley going down with a bum ankle, Arkansas likely scores at least 40 points and comes away with a win. The defense obviously wasn’t good enough to win, which was as much about the personnel as it was about the scheme.
All things considered, the coaching staff has done a great job turning this squad into a competitive bunch. In fact, the Hogs should’ve found a way to win this game, which is the next big challenge for this coaching staff. They already have the players believing in themselves at a level that just wasn’t there earlier this season. But they clearly don’t yet have them believing they can win with the game on the line.
The outcome of this game is likely reversed if Arkansas doesn’t lose Boyd, Whaley and Storey to injury. Without those three on the sideline down the stretch, the offense failed to put the game away and the defense collapsed.
There’s certainly a silver lining in all this for the Hogs, though. The Arkansas team we saw Saturday is a far better team than what we saw a month ago. Because of that, Razorbacks fans should be excited and optimistic. Surely, at some point, these moral victories will begin to turn into real victories.