Rapid Reaction: Rebels bounce back for wild win over feisty Arkansas
With the lure of a New Year’s 6 bowl bid still on the table, the Bounce Back Bowl went to Ole Miss, 52-51, on Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford. The No. 17 Rebels (4-1, 1-1) won a wild shootout in their annual Homecoming Game with Heisman front-runner Matt Corral leading the charge. A defensive stop on a 2-point conversion try was the difference.
Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson threw 9 yards to Warren Thompson on the last play of regulation, but his 2-point conversion pass was incomplete. Jefferson threw for 326 yards and 3 TDs (1 INT) and rushed for another 85 yards.
Both teams gained more than 600 total yards and the No. 13 Razorbacks (4-2, 1-2) matched Ole Miss score for score throughout but needed one more play.
The teams entered the final 15 minutes tied 31-31 as both defenses completely wore out in the second half.
Whereas Corral and Jefferson were the main focus, it was Ole Miss’ Snoop Connor who scored 3 2nd half touchdown runs to lift the Rebels to a 45-38 lead early in the 4th quarter. Scoring runs of 51, 34 and 1 yards on consecutive possessions gave the Rebels the edge. Both Connor and running mate Henry Parrish, Jr. rushed for more than 100 yards.
But Jefferson tied the game, 45-45, on a 10-yard touchdown run with 1:21 left in the 4th quarter, which was still plenty of time for Corral to put the Rebels back in front. He did just that with a 68-yard touchdown pass to Braylon Sanders.
Corral (14-of-21) threw for 287 yards and 2 touchdowns. After tossing 6 picks against the Hogs last year, Corral was errorless on Saturday and hasn’t thrown an interception this season.
Ole Miss led by 10 points in a wild third quarter when freshman kicker Caden Costa nailed a 50-yard field goal. But that was only the beginning to a back-and-forth score fest.
Arkansas got back in the game, slicing the Ole Miss lead to 24-21, with its first drive of the second half. The Hogs went 75 yards in 9 plays with Jefferson tossing a 3-yard TD pass to Treylon Burks. The Hogs stuffed Ole Miss on a 4th-and-1 at the Rebels’ 34-yard line, leading to a game-tying 31-yard field goal by Cam Little.
The teams traded scores with Connor doing the damage for Ole Miss. Jefferson ran for one score and threw for another to keep up for the Razorbacks.
The contrast in the two teams’ gameplan was no more evident than in their respective initial touchdown drives of the game, which came back-to-back as the 1st quarter ended and the 2nd quarter began.
Arkansas jumped out to a 7-0 lead on an impressive time consuming 15-play, 82-yard drive that took nearly 7 minutes off the 1st-quarter clock. The Hogs did most of their damage with a ball-controlling ground game that included a 5-yard touchdown run by Jefferson, the 12th rushing play (52 yards) of the drive.
That’s not to say Jefferson completely abandoned the passing game. He was a perfect 3-for-3 for 30 yards in the drive.
Ole Miss answered with an extended drive of their own, converting 3 4th-down plays en route to a 17-play, 75-yard march to the end zone. The Rebels came into the game leading the nation in both 4-down attempts (19) and conversions (14).
Corral completed the drive with his 7th rushing touchdown of the season, a 5-yard run, but Costa missed the extra point and Arkansas held a 7-6 lead.
The Razorbacks added to that edge on their ensuing drive, marching 75 yard all on the ground. It took 9 plays, 8 on the ground and 1 incomplete pass. Trelon Smith scored on a 14-yard dash and the Hogs led 14-6. It was Smith’s 9th rushing TD over the last 10 games.
But that advantage was short-lived. It took Corral and the Rebels just 2 plays to find the end zone. Following a 16-yard run by Henry Parrish, Corral threw to a wide open Dontario Drummond, who completed the 67-yard touchdown play for his 5th receiving touchdown of the season.
Corral, who has thrown for a touchdown in 17 straight games, second-most in school history behind Chad Kelly (22), ran for the 2-point conversion and a 14-14 tie.
Arkansas missed opportunities to take the lead into halftime. The Hogs went 48 yards in 4 plays, but Ole Miss senior LB Chance Campbell forced and recovered a fumble at the Rebels’ 27-yard line. Then Little missed on a 50-yard field goal try and the game remained tied.
Instead, it was Ole Miss that took a 21-14 lead before halftime, going 68 yards in 9 plays with Corral scoring his 2nd TD run, a 7-yard scamper. He ran 3 times for 21 yards in the drive and completed 2 of 3 passes, both to former QB John Rhys Plumlee, for 32 yards.