For the first time since October 13, 2018, the Ole Miss Rebels are winners in the Southeastern Conference.
The Rebels pulled away in the second half and held on to defeat the Arkansas Razorbacks 31-17 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Ole Miss moves to 1-0 in SEC play for the first time since 2015.
“I thought the atmosphere was incredible. The energy in the stadium was the best it’s been in a long time,” Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke said. “We really fed off that, especially in the second half… I think it was a difference in the game. I’m proud of our staff on both sides of the ball had good plans and I thought the players played really hard. It is something good to build off of moving forward,”
The biggest question for the Rebels was answered as Matt Corral completed 16-24 passes for 246 yards. His first touchdown passes of the season both went to Elijah Moore. He scored the game’s first points with a two-yard touchdown catch on the Rebels’ second offensive drive, as well as a 46-yard touchdown catch with 11:09 left in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach. Overall, the Rebels had 483 yards of total offense, a dramatic difference from last week’s loss at Memphis.
“We still have a lot of things to work on to get better at,” offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez said. “They had such a great attitude and they worked hard in August and spring practice to get better and learn the system.”
The Rebels were eventually able to get the running game going as well. Scottie Phillips had 26 carries for 143 yards and rushed for two touchdowns, both coming in the second half.
Defensively, the Rebels were without defensive leader MoMo Sanogo at linebacker. The defensive leader was carted off the field with an apparent ankle injury after the first offensive series in punt coverage and never returned.
Jacquez Jones filled that void and led the team with nine tackles, followed by Myles Hartsfield who had six. Charles Wiley and Sam Williams each had a sack for the Rebels.
The Rebels did not allow an offensive touchdown until the final two minutes of the game. Karmen Curl had the other score from a 69-yard fumble return for Arkansas to begin the fourth quarter. The Rebels used a turnover on downs and a recovered fumble late in the third quarter to preserve their lead.
“I thought we did a good job and had a good game plan,” Luke said. “I thought we were in the right spots the majority of the time. Even when they completed it, we were right there. Our kids were confident, they were communicating and flying around,”
Stopping Arkansas running back Rakeem Boyd played a big difference in the game according to Ole Miss defensive coordinator Mike McIntyre. Boyd was held to 67 yards rushing on the night.
“We were really concentrating on stopping the run. [Boyd] is an excellent runner. We never really let him get started… We’re working on getting more pressure out of our odd front, so we were able to do some things to move them and rush a little but out of certain down distance,” McIntyre said.
Arkansas dealt two quarterbacks with Ben Hicks in the first half and Nick Starkel in the second half. Hicks went 7-16 for 98 yards while Starkel went 17-24 for 201 yards with the Razorbacks’ lone offensive touchdown to Kolian Jackson.
The Rebels will remain home next week to face Southeastern Louisiana. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m.