OXFORD, Miss. – Arkansas parlayed a stifling defensive effort with a second-half offensive revival to earn a 28-17 win over Ole Miss on Saturday night in front of 53,289 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Arkansas (3-6, 1-5 SEC) scored 21 points in the second half, including 14 in the fourth quarter, to earn its first Southeastern Conference victory of the season. Ole Miss (3-6, 1-5 SEC) led 14-7 at halftime, but managed only a field goal following the intermission.
Arkansas freshman quarterback Casey Dick captained three second-half scoring drives and threw for three touchdowns in only his second career collegiate game. Dick completed 17 of 24 passes, including connecting on his last 12 attempts, for 175 yards and three scores. Marcus Monk hauled in touchdown passes of 23 and 24 yards while Peyton Hills scored on a four-yard touchdown pass.
Monk led the Razorbacks with five catches for 63 yards and two touchdowns while Hillis snared four catches for 41 yards and a score. Freshman tailback Felix Jones led the Hogs on the ground with 50 yards on 13 carries.
Arkansas’ defense pressured Ole Miss quarterback Ethan Flatt all afternoon sacking him four times and forcing two interceptions. A 42-yard interception return for a touchdown by Arkansas strong safety Randy Kelly was the only points the Hogs scored in the first half. Nine different Razorback defenders tallied a tackle for loss led by sophomore defensive end Jamaal Anderson earned four (-22) including one sack (-13).
The Razorback offense struggled in the first 30 minutes earning only 51 yards in total offense before the break. SEC leading rusher Darren McFadden was bottled up all day earning only 22 yards on 13 carries. But the Razorback defense held firm long enough for the Hogs’ offense to ignite down the stretch to clinch the win.
Things started slowly for both squads, at least on the offensive side. Flatt was knocked out of the game on the Rebels’ opening offensive possession, but returned to the field later in the first quarter to lead his team on a scoring drive. Flatt connected on a 45-yard screen pass to Mico McSwain on the big-play of the drive. The Rebels also converted a fourth-down play deep in Arkansas territory before tailback Larry Kendrick scored on an eight-yard screen pass from Flatt with 3:10 remaining in the first quarter. Matt Hinkle added the extra point to make it 7-0.
Arkansas’ offense found yards hard to come by in the first quarter as the Hogs were only able to gain 22. Fortunately for the Razorbacks, the UA defense provided a spark on the final play of the first 15 minutes. Kelly picked off a Flatt third-down pass and raced 42 yards for a touchdown to tie the game. Officials initially ruled Kelly out of bounds at the two-yard line, but a video replay showed the Arkansas defensive back reached the ball over the goal line before hitting the ground. The second defensive touchdown of the season for the Hogs and a Chris Balseiro extra point knotted the game at 7-7.
Midway through the second quarter, the Razorbacks returned the favor when Darren McFadden fumbled inside Arkansas territory. Ole Miss linebacker Patrick Willis recovered the ball at the Arkansas 38-yard line. The Rebels went 38 yards on six plays for a touchdown capped on a one-yard run by Kendrick. Hinkle connected on the PAT to put Ole Miss back out on top 14-7. The teams went scoreless the rest of the way with the Rebels heading to the locker room with a seven-point halftime lead.
Arkansas’ defense made short-work of the Rebels’ opening drive of the second half. Aided by an Anderson sack, the Hogs forced Ole Miss to punt after only three plays. Hillis fielded a punt and raced 27 yards to put the Razorback offense at the Rebels’ 38-yard line. On the first play, however, Felix Jones fumbled and Ole Miss free safety Charles Clark returned the miscue 32 yards. Ole Miss’ nine-play drive stymied and the Rebels settled for a Hinkle 28-yard field goal to extend their lead to 17-7 with 8:23 left in the third quarter.
The Razorbacks responded with a scoring drive of their own. Dick guided the Hogs on an 11-play, 73-yard scoring drive that culminated with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Monk. The touchdown and Balseiro PAT closed the Rebels’ lead to 17-14 with 3:33 left in the third quarter.
Arkansas’ offense was on the move again early in the fourth quarter hitting paydirt on a four-play 36-yard drive. Dick found Hillis for a four-yard touchdown pass with 12:20 to play. Balseiro drilled the extra point to put the Razorbacks ahead for the first time on the afternoon at 21-17.
The Razorback defense followed with another key stop halting the ensuing Ole Miss drive after only one first down. Pierre Brown finished off the Rebels’ drive by sacking Flatt for an eight-yard loss. Following the punt, Dick and the Razorback offense took the field for another drive to the end zone.
Dick converted on a trio of third-down conversions with the final one coming on a 24-yard scoring strike to Monk. Balseiro kicked the extra point to give the Hogs a 28-17 lead with 5:06 left to play.
On the ensuing drive, Ole Miss drove the ball into Arkansas territory but a missed Rebels’ 34-yard field attempt with 2:22 remaining all but iced the victory for the Razorbacks. Arkansas ran out the clock to pick up its first conference win of the season.