For a team with so much to prove in a conference as competitive as the SEC, Ole Miss has certainly lived up to the lofty goals set for it by fans this season.
Dominance for a majority of the schedule is nothing to scoff at, but unfortunately, simple majorities rarely win championships.
Arkansas, unranked and, by all metrics, unremarkable, upset the Rebels in a shellacking from Fayetteville, 42-27.
The final score is indicative of the Razorbacks’ mercy, rather than the Rebels’ resurgence, but that cannot overshadow the season as a whole for Oxford’s finest. This team irrefutably had the ability and the potential to rise out of the SEC West to national acclaim, but unfortunately for fans who may argue that point in years to come, potential is often more of an aura than a statistic.
In a stunning first half, Arkansas went up 14-0 by the middle of the first quarter and closed out the second with a score of 35-6.
K.J. Jefferson, long hailed as one of the better quarterbacks in Arkansas history, had three touchdowns through the air and no picks to speak of. Ironically, and for some, painfully, Jefferson is a native of Sardis, Miss., just one county over from Oxford, home of the Rebels.
Raheim “Rocket” Sanders broke off a total of 232 yards in the contest, out-dueling freshman Rebel phenom Quinshon Judkins, including a 68-yard stampede to the endzone in the opening drive of the second half. Judkins had 214 yards in the affair, breaking the 200 yard mark for the second time in his career.
Although Judkins was outperformed by his Razorback counterpart, both Malik Heath and Jaxson Dart won their head-to-head matchups in the stat book, with 240 yards through the air for Dart, and 140 of those yards going to Heath.
Dart did have an unfortunate interception deep in Ole Miss territory in the closing minutes of the first half, which set up the final touchdown of the second quarter by Arkansas.
Jonathan Mingo, Dart’s typical receiver and once the first-ranked target in the nation, per PFF, was locked down for a majority of the battle, with only 45 yards to show for his effort, for an overlooked and impressive 11.2 yards per attempt.
Zach Evans, not to be forgotten as an important cog in the Ole Miss machine, had 207 yards rushing of his own, no easy feat for a running back who shares snaps with Judkins.
“I didn’t feel we were flat,” head coach Lane Kiffin said after the game about Ole Miss’ performance. “We were moving the ball. We just played really poorly in the end zone.”
Ole Miss looks to take on Mississippi State on Thanksgiving night for the annual Egg Bowl. That game will kick off at 6 p.m. CST on ESPN.