After dropping their first two conference games, Ole Miss has rebounded to find themselves back at .500 after defeating Arkansas 30-27 in Little Rock. Road wins are hard to come by in the SEC and Ole Miss got a good one. The fact that this team was able to dig themselves out of an early 10-0 hole and finish this game off speaks to what a tremendous job Hugh Freeze and his staff have done this year. This team would have been dead in the water last year, but the new culture has changed the confidence and resiliency levels in this bunch.
Quarterback: Bo Wallace was 29-37 for 278 yards and rushed for 38 yards on 11 carries. His crowning achievement was his orchestration of the 61-yard drive that setup the game-winning 31-yard field goal by Bryson Rose. Wallace was 4-5 for 47 yards on the drive and ran the ball 13 yards to turn a challenging 44-yarder into a manageable 31-yard attempt. Faced with a situation eerily similar to the one at the end of the Texas A&M game, he showed drastic improvements in his maturity. His interception was mainly at the fault of the offensive line as his arm was hit in motion. The fumbled handoff to Randall Mackey does fall squarely on his shoulders as the offense squandered a chance in Arkansas territory. He looked good during the first three quarters, but it’s that final drive that is the big takeaway from this one.
Running Backs: To put it plainly, Jeff Scott and Mackey were absolute non-factors on the ground. The two combined for 24 carries and 37 yards. Scott did record a touchdown on a sweep to the right on third down that gave Ole Miss the lead in the second quarter. It was by far the worst game for him on the ground this season, but he and Mackey contributed in another way. The two accounted for 145 yards receiving, with Scott picking up a huge 3rd-9 conversion on the final drive. Arkansas was keyed in on stopping the run, but forgot that they needed to account for the two Rebel backfield playmakers though the air.
Tight Ends/Wide Receivers: Neither tight end proved to be a factor as they combined for zero receptions. Freeze’s offense utilizes athletic tight ends, something that fits Jamal Mosley well. For whatever reason, neither Mosley or Ferbia Allen has contributed very much.
The Razorbacks were adamant about preventing deep plays from Donte Moncrief. So much so that they forget to cover him underneath. Moncrief caught eight passes for 60 yards and provided a steady target for Wallace. Vincent Sanders has continued his resurgence by adding five catches for 40 yards and a touchdown. Whenever Wallace felt pressure, he looked for Sanders who was consistently open along the sidelines. With big play threats like Scott and Mackey in the flats and Moncrief over the top, Sanders has been an afterthought of opposing defenses lately. His ability to get open and be a set of sure hands is a huge asset for Freeze. Ja-Mes Logan also added 32 yards on the day.
Offensive Line: The line was a little hard to watch on Saturday. Scott and Mackey were not able to get much running room as the line got pushed back a lot by the Razorback defense. Arkansas tallied three sacks, seven tackles for loss, and two hurries on the day. The interception where Wallace’s arm was hit falls on the line. Aaron Morris missed a couple of big blocks, particularly on a pull with Mackey being tackled in the backfield. A good sight to see was the terrific job on the Scott touchdown where Arkansas had no chance, seeing the running back waltz into the end zone. There will have to be improvements in Athens this weekend.
Seeing the maturity of Wallace, the big steps taken by Sanders, and the continued big plays from Scott, Mackey, and Moncrief was a dangerous sight. This team can put up points on any defense they face and they have a big test this weekend against #6 Georgia. It is safe to say that after this game, Mark Richt has a few more concerns in the film room heading into Saturday’s 2:30 contest.