FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas pulled out one clutch play after another, but in the final seconds could not find one final miracle as Ole Miss held off the Razorbacks, 23-21, in Southeastern Conference football.
After a fourth-down touchdown, an improbable 38-second touchdown drive and recovering an onside kick after video review, Arkansas was unable to move into scoring position on its last second drive.
“Certainly a tough loss, but we have to make sure our players keep their heads up and chests poked out for the rest of the season," Razorback head coach Bobby Petrino said. "A couple of plays in the first half came back to haunt us there in the end, but we stuck in there and played hard. It’s just a tough way to lose a game. My main concern going into the next game is injuries; we got beat up our there and we’ll have some injuries to deal with.”
Arkansas cut the lead to two, 23-21, after a Greg Childs touchdown reception of 22 yards capped a 38 second touchdown drive. Childs’ one-handed circus catch in the front corner of the end zone set up the on-side attempt by Arkansas.
“The offense really stepped it up when we needed it the most," senior quarterback Casey Dick said. "Guys were making plays, and we were having a lot of fun out there.”
Alex Tejada tapped a perfect strike that lept high in the air after a seven yard roll. As the ball bounded high into the Ole Miss hands’ team, it squirted free toward the Rebel sideline. Sophomore Eric Fenton scooped the ball in at the stripe, but was initially ruled to have recovered out of bounds.
“I knew we were going to win it," Michael Smith said. "I had one of those feelings, everyone did. We were all pretty pumped up. We had a few good opportunities to get the ball downfield, but it just wasn’t to be.”
Video review of the play reversed the call on the field, and Arkansas had the ball with 63 seconds left on the Razorback 47. After one incomplete, London Crawford hauled in what appeared to be a deciding reception at the Ole Miss 21 yard line, but the junior receiver was flagged for offensive pass interference.
“I thought London [Crawford] did a great job of elevating and grabbing the ball," Petrino said. "That’s all I can say about it.”
The penalty set Arkansas back to its own 32 yard line, and the Razorbacks turned the ball back over on downs.
The fifth largest crowd in Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium history (74,168) was treated to a back-and-forth battle befitting a pair of SEC Western Division rivals.
“The crowd was explosive from the minute we arrived at the stadium," Petrino said. "I have been extremely impressed with fans and how they have supported us in some tough losses this season.”
Razorback junior Michael Smith went for over 100 yards for the fourth consecutive game with 129 yards and 31 yards in pass receptions.
Smith made a heroic comeback from an injury in last week’s loss at Kentucky. The junior running back suffered a concussion near the close of the game after running for a career high 192 yards.
Arkansas dropped to 3-5 on the season and 1-4 in Southeastern Conference play while Ole Miss moved to 4-4 overall and 2-3 in league games.
For the night, Dick threw for 282 yards and two touchdowns on 20 of 38 with one interception.
Snead went 209 yards with a pair of touchdowns and one interception for Ole Miss.
Williams closed the night with a career high 19 catches for 129 yards for Arkansas.
It took Joshua Shene’s third field goal of the night with 1:45 left to insure the win for Ole Miss. At the time, it appeared the score wasn’t significant, raising the Ole Miss lead to 23-14. It proved the game winner.
A scoreless third quarter set the stage for the Rebels to drive for an 11-yard pass from Snead to Mike Wallace to take a 20-7 lead with 13:21 left.
The score proved the margin the Rebels needed as Ole Miss was content to grind out the clock for the fourth quarter, but not without considerable worry.
The Razorbacks managed less than 50 yards of offense in the third quarter, and made more than that on a 97-yard drive capped by a fourth-down touchdown pass from Dick to Lucas Miller to cut the Rebel lead to six, 20-14, with 4:28 to play.
The drive started with a 39-yard pass from Dick out of his own end zone to Childs. Arkansas moved steadily through midfield until a 34-yard breakaway run by Smith put the Razorbacks inside the Rebel red zone at the 13 yard line.
The Razorbacks took the opening kick off to the Ole Miss, blank, but Jeremy Davis’ field goal attempt was just wide to the right. The Rebels took over and advanced up field for a field goal attempt of their own. Joshua Shene’s 39-yarder made it 3-0 early.
An 11-play, 70-yard drive by Arkansas gave the Razorbacks the lead to start the second quarter. Dick had a pair of clutch passes during the drive, and Michael Smith capped it with a 13-yard run to put Arkansas ahead, 7-3.
Snead found Shay Hodge for an 8-yard touchdown with 1:58 left in the second quarter to regain the lead, 13-7. From there it appeared the teams would go to the locker room as Arkansas’ two-minute drill drive moved into Rebel territory, but appeared to stall.
Dick passed to Smith on a short screen attempt, but the pass was batted into the air and picked off by Fon Ingram. The Ole Miss defensive back returned it 38 yards to the Arkansas 17 before Dick made the tackle. With only two seconds left before halftime, Shene hit is second field goal of the game, a 34-yarder, to put Ole Miss up, 13-7.
The game was evenly matched statistically as Arkansas racked up 386 yards of total offense to 369 for Ole Miss.