The Ole Miss Rebels overcame miscues, sloppy defensive play and a two-score deficit to knock off Arkansas 37-33 in Little Rock on Saturday. The win marked Ole Miss’ first victory over Arkansas since 2013.
“(It was) an emotional win,” head coach Matt Luke said. “I’m proud of the guys that kept fighting. (We) had a lot of guys playing hurt. Guys just kept battling and kept competing.”
On a night that drenched War Memorial Stadium in rain, Ole Miss fought back in the second half after entering the intermission trailing 27-17. Jordan Ta’amu used his arms and his legs to garner 528 total yards, just 12 shy of Archie Manning’s record mark of 540 against Alabama in 1969.
“(Ta’amu) has had some good (games at Ole Miss), but for him to lead that comeback and have so many yards rushing and passing, that’s a pretty special night,” Luke said.
The Ole Miss defense struggled, again, giving up 476 yards of offense to the Razorbacks, 299 of which came on the ground. The Rebels, however, allowed six points in the second half, and were assisted with injuries to starting quarterback Ty Storey and running backs Rakeem Boyd and Devwah Whaley. Defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff talked about the adjustments Ole Miss made during the break.
“I’m so proud of the guys for fighting,” McGriff said. “I’m proud of the assistant coaches (for) doing a good job adjusting during the game. That’s what you have to do in the SEC on the road – you have to make adjustments during the game in order to win the games and they did a tremendous job of that tonight.”
Despite an early interception from Ta’amu and two missed field goals from Luke Logan, the Ole Miss offense was largely efficient with 613 total yards. Ta’amu led the Rebels in rushing yards with 141 and running back Scottie Phillips garnered 86. Add in Ta’amu’s 387 passing yards, and the final stats look solid for the Rebel offense.
“Truthfully, we came out of halftime with some juice and excitement,” offensive coordinator Phil Longo said. “As we started making plays it just started to build and by the time we got to the fourth quarter, I don’t think there was a guy on our team that thought we weren’t gonna make a run at winning the ball game.”
Saturday marked the Rebels’ first SEC win of 2018 after blowout losses to Alabama and LSU to start their conference slate. Although the Razorbacks rank at the bottom of the SEC West at 1-6 (0-4), Matt Luke knows the significance of this win for his team, especially coming on the road.
“That was a big win, and they’re all tough to get on the road,” Luke said. “It doesn’t matter who you’re playing or what their record is. We just gotta go put everything into it and go find a way to get one more win. Just win one game at a time.”
After picking up the win, the Rebels return home to host Auburn on Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m.