Grading the Rebels: Ole Miss gashes Arkansas in SEC win
Over the past few seasons, the Ole Miss-Arkansas football game has had more twists and turns than a Hollywood movie.
But Saturday, inside Vaught Hemingway Stadium it was nothing of the sort. The Ole Miss offense figured out its woes from the previous week’s loss to Memphis and easily defeated the Razorbacks 31-17.
The old adage of improvement happens the most between Week 1 and Week 2 was quite evident in Oxford. In last week’s dismal loss to the Tigers, Ole Miss had minus-1 rushing yards at halftime. Against the Razorbacks, the Rebels ended the night with 237 rushing yards behind an offensive line that was much improved.
Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral was superb in the opening game of the SEC slate. In just his second career start Corral finished 16-of-24 for 246 yards and 2 touchdowns. There’s no question that Rebels offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez wanted a few things to improve from Week 1. A more balanced attack and an efficient offensive game.
He was able to check both boxes. Between a much more stable offensive line, Scottie Phillips was a bulldozer, gaining 143 yards on 26 carries and 2 touchdowns. That’s good for 5.5 yards per carry. It wasn’t just Phillips, as Corral gained 46 yards on the ground and sophomore RB Snoop Conner added to the total with 42 yards.
Through the air, it was the Elijah Moore show. The sophomore wide receiver had a career day, hauling in 130 yards on 7 catches. A favorite of Corral, he found the end zone twice, which is the most he’s produced in his career as a Rebel.
Capitalizing on the success it had the week before, when it held Memphis to only 13 points (the TIgers got the other two on a safety), the Ole Miss defense and coordinator Mike MacIntyre shut down the Hogs offense all night. The most impressive stat could be holding the elusive Arkansas running back Rakeem Boyd to only 67 yards. Of those yards, every one was earned, as the rest of the Razorbacks had minus-6 total yards rushing.
Should that trend continue for the Hogs and head coach Chad Morris, there won’t be many wins left on the schedule. As for Ole Miss, it was another valiant effort on defense.
Unfortunately, there was bad news in the injury department.
Starting linebacker MoMo Sanogo left with a lower leg injury, later diagnosed as a broken ankle, and will be lost for the season. Ole Miss is excited about the backups in Willie Hibbler, Donta Evans and Jacquez Jones. Former junior college All-American Lakia Henry has been very good so far and stabilized a very anemic position over the last few seasons.
Special Teams: A+
Ole Miss continues to be really good in this category, led by punter Mac Brown. He continued to impress against Arkansas, booming 4 punts for 198 yards for an average of 49.5. Even better, the junior had two of his punts downed inside the 20-yard line.
As for placekicking, Luke Logan was perfect, connecting on his only field goal attempt from 33 yards and nailing all 4 of his point after tries.
Ole Miss will host Southeastern Louisiana at 3 p.m. CT inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The Lions, from Hammond, Louisiana, have only played once this season, defeating Jacksonville State 35-14 to open the season. Members of the Southland Conference, SELA finished 4-7 (4-5 SLC) in 2018.
“Really proud tonight. I want to thank our fans for showing up, we really fed off of that,” Rebels coach Matt Luke said. “I think that was the difference in the game. I’m really proud of our staff. We looked more comfortable and it was a big jump from Matt (Corral) from Week 1 to Week 2.”
“I anticipated them bringing more pressure and coach Rich Rod (offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez) had a great game plan,” Corral said. “You just have to get better week by week.”
“I didn’t know what to expect (when I got to Ole Miss) but the staff and the players are buying in to what I am trying to do. All of those factors in play, we’re not giving up anything easily,” MacIntyre said.