Oxford, Miss. – Ole Miss kicker Jonathan Nichols hit four field goals as the Rebels upset No. 21 Arkansas 19-7 Saturday night at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.Arkansas dropped to 4-3 overall and 1-3 in the Southeastern Conference. Ole Miss improved to 6-2 overall and 4-0 in the SEC. The loss was the third straight for the Razorbacks and first to Ole Miss since 2000.
The Razorbacks were held to 237 offensive yards. DeCori Birmingham led the Razorbacks with 38 yards rushing, while Brandon Holmes gained 26 yards on the ground.
Quarterback Matt Jones hit 12-of-29 passes for 140 yards, while Ryan Sorahan was 1-of-3 for 15 yards. George Wilson led all receivers with six catches for 104 yards. Richard Smith had two receptions for 18 yards.
Ole Miss gained just 275 yards, with quarterback Eli Manning hitting 17-of-32 passes for 145 yards. Vashon Pearson led the Rebels with 43 yards rushing as the Rebels gained 130 yards on the ground as a team.
The Rebels took advantage of their first possession as Espy returned an Arkansas punt to the 50. Manning hit Espy for a 23-yard gain and a pair of running plays put the ball on the Razorback 23.
A defensive penalty against the Hogs on third down put the ball on the 12 and gave Ole Miss a first down. On second down, Arkansas’ Ahmad Carroll was flagged for pass interference in the end zone which put the ball on the three. From there, Manning hit Rick Razzano for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead with 11:14 left in the first quarter.
After forcing the Razorbacks to punt on their second possession, Espy returned the kick to the Ole Miss 26 to set the Rebels up.
Manning hit Taye Biddle for a 17-yard gain to the 43. On second down, Carroll picked off a Manning pass at the Arkansas 12. It was Carroll’s second interception of the season.
The Razorbacks were unable to score, however, and punted the ball back to Ole Miss.
After a succession of punts by both teams, Ole Miss was pinned on its five with 12:11 left in the first half. Manning was sacked at the three and a running play went to the five to bring up third and 10 as heavy rain began to fall.
Manning scrambled to the 17 to give the Rebels a fresh set of downs. On second down, Manning was hit by Marvin Jackson and fumbled which was recovered by Jimarr Gallon at the 12.
Holmes had a pair of carries to the five to set up third down. Holmes carried to the one to give the Hogs first and goal. From there, Pierce carried it into the end zone to even the game at 7-7 with 7:35 left in the first half.
On strength of a personal foul against Arkansas the Rebels moved to the Razorbacks 34 and faced fourth and one. Turner burst up the middle for 11 yards to the 23. Another completion by Manning brought up third and three at the 16. Manning hit Kerry Johnson for a five-yard gain to the 11.
On third and eight from the nine Manning threw incomplete, but was backed up five yards on a false start penalty. Another false start pushed the Rebels back to the 19 to bring up third and 18. A draw to Turner put the ball on the nine and set up a field goal attempt. Jonathan Nichols’ kick was no good, but a penalty against the Hogs gave the Rebels another shot.
A delay of game penalty against the Razorbacks put the ball on the two. From 20 yards out, Nichols was good and gave the Rebels a 10-7 lead with 42 seconds left in the half.
A 15-yard penalty on Ole Miss on the ensuing kickoff gave the Razorbacks the ball at the 38-yard line. A pair of plays failed to gain yardage and the first half ended with Ole Miss holding a three-point lead.
Neither team was able to move the ball on its first possession of the second half.
On Ole Miss’ second possession, Manning hit Razzano on a 15-yard gain to the Rebels’ 38. But the Razorbacks held and forced the Rebels to punt with 9:42 left in the third quarter.
The Rebels forced Arkansas to punt and quickly moved across the 50 after a Manning completion to Eric Rice. After a succession of running plays netted only three yards, the Rebels faced third and seven at the Arkansas 46. Manning hit Gary Johnson for an 18-yard gain to the Arkansas 28.
A pair of Manning completions gained eight yards and brought third and two at the 20-yard line. Pearson went off left tackle for 12 yards to the Arkansas eight-yard line.
On third and goal from the four, the Rebels lost two yards and set up another Nichols field goal attempt. From 24-yards out Nichols connected to give the Rebels a 13-7 lead with 1:58 left in the third quarter.
The Razorbacks returned the ensuing kickoff to the 25-yard line. An incomplete pass and tackle for loss put the Hogs in third and 12. Jones was forced out of the pocket and was tackled a yard short of the first down and the Razorbacks were forced to punt.
Ole Miss moved across the 50 with the strength of their running game to open the fourth quarter. A tackle for loss by the Hogs put the Rebels in a third and 9 at the Arkansas 48. Manning’s pass was incomplete and the Rebels were forced to punt with 12:14 left in the game.
The Razorbacks were held to three and out and punted the ball back to Ole Miss. On the punt, Carroll hit Espy and was flagged for interfering with the catch. The penalty gave Ole Miss the ball on the Rebels’ 48-yard line.
A Manning pass was good for a first down and put the Rebels at the Arkansas 38-yard line. Another completion by Manning put the Rebels at the Hogs’ 20 with less than 10 minutes remaining.
A fumbled snap pushed Ole Miss back to the 29 where the Rebels faced third and 13. Manning was pressured and threw incomplete setting up another Nichols field goal attempt. From 42 yards out, Nichols was good and gave the Rebels a 16-7 lead with 8:15 left in the game.
On Arkansas’ ensuing possession, Jones fumbled and Ole Miss’ Kelvin Robinson recovered it at the Arkansas 25. Three rushes by Ronald McClendon gained 17 yards and put the Rebels at the eight.
The Razorbacks’ defense held, however, and forced Nichols’ fourth field goal of the night, this time from 25 yards to make it a 19-7 game.
Arkansas mounted a drive following the Nichols field goal, but Jones’ pass on fourth and 10 at the Ole Miss 23 was picked off by Travis Johnson to end the scoring threat with 2:23 left in the game.
Ole Miss was unable to run out the clock and punted back to the Razorbacks, but the Hogs failed to find the end zone and lost their third straight game.
Arkansas travels to Lexington, Ky., next Saturday to take on the Kentucky Wildcats in game televised by ESPN 2. The game begins at 6 p.m. CT.