OXFORD, Miss. — The combination of a slow start by the Razorbacks and a career-day from Ole Miss running back Dexter McCluster and quarterback Jevan Snead resulted in a 30-17 defeat for the University of Arkansas at the hands of the Rebels in Southeastern Conference football.
The loss moved Arkansas to 3-4 on the season, 1-4 in the SEC West while Ole Miss goes to 5-2 and evens its league record at 2-2.
McCluster had a 100-yard rushing day by halftime, and added over 100 yards in receiving. McCluster finished with 260 total yards, 123 rushing and 137 receiving.
The Rebel quarterback Snead went over 300 yards for the first time in his career as Ole Miss racked up over 500 yards on the Razorbacks.
The Razorbacks were led by Greg Childs with 83 yards on receptions and Michael Smith with 35 yards rushing. Ryan Mallett went 12 of 34 for 254 yards in the air.
"That’s about as disappointing as it gets," Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino said. "They beat us in all phases. They beat us in defense. They beat our offense up. They won the special teams. We didn’t match their intensity early. We didn’t come out and execute on offense. We had a hard time protecting the quarterback and running the ball."
Mallett echoed his coach’s disappointment in the outcome.
“I speak for the team when I say we took a step back today," Mallett said. "We have to regroup and come back together and get it done next week.”
Last week, Arkansas took No. 1 Florida to the final seconds on the road, but this week found themselves in a hole early in the game.
“We weren’t flat, we just didn’t come out and execute," Petrino said. "I’m going to tell you that 20 times today. We got beat, but we have a good football team. They controlled the ball because they didn’t want our offense to have the ball.”
Arkansas made a comeback from an early 17-point deficit, trimming the Ole Miss lead to seven twice.
But a pair of time consuming drives by Ole Miss in the late second half robbed the Razorbacks of the time needed to rally.
Trailing by 14 in the third, Mallett went deep for a 58-yard touchdown strike. Mallett held for time in the pocket, and took a hit as he released the almost 50-yard pass. Greg Childs went up for the catch at the Ole Miss four, batting the ball toward Carlton Saulters. Saulters plucked the free ball out of the air and carried it the last three yards into the endzone for the TD.
The score cut the margin to seven again, 24-17, and the Rebels responded with their first of two sustained drive since the opening quarter. The 12 plays drive for 62 yards took 5:26 off the clock, resulting in a 39-yard field goal by Shene just as the fourth quarter began to lift the Rebels to a 27-17 margin.
Arkansas was unable to move the ball on its next possession, and the Rebels marched 76 yards on 14 play drive. More important for the home team, the drive consumed almost seven minutes of clock, before a 19-yard field goal by Joshua Shene made it a two-score margin at 30-17.
Arkansas opened the second half with three and out, but Snead gave up his second interception of the game to Andru Stewart. The Razorbacks’ DB returned the pass all the way back to the Ole Miss 39 yard line, setting up a short drive for Arkansas’ second score. Tejada’s season-long 44-yard field goal cut the margin to 17-10.
Arkansas got its first touchdown on a seven-play, 80-yard drive that featured the first two long completions by Mallett. Frustrated by several drops, Mallett hit Reggie Fish for 32 yards to get the drive moving. The big sophomore quarterback found Greg Childs for another 31 yarder, hitting his receiver in full-stride and putting the Razorbacks at the Ole Miss 3 yard line.
“It was just a deep route to Greg (Childs) and I knew that if Ryan (Mallet) got some time he was going to throw it deep to him," Salter said. "When I was coming off my route I felt the safety stay on top of Greg, and I had a feeling Greg wouldn’t be able to jump up and catch it. I just tried to hustle over there and get in position and hope he tipped the ball up in the air to me.”
Knile Davis took it in for his first career touchdown to send the teams to halftime, 17-7.
In the drive, Mallett was 3-of-5 for 75 of Arkansas’ 80 yards. In the first Arkansas possessions, Mallett was only 3-of-10 for 111 yards.
The start of the game was all Ole Miss as the Rebels rolled off 17 straight points. Rebels took the opening kickoff 73 yards for a score to begin the contest. The 10-play drive did not have a third down until the Rebels went twice up the middle on first and goal at the one.
After Arkansas ended the Rebels’ next possesion with a crushing sack of Snead by Jerico Nelson, the Rebels went to the ground attack. McCluster almost broke for a touchdown on the first play, but Matt Harris’ open field tackle saved the score. Ole Miss stayed on the ground the next six plays, mostly with McCluster, before Snead attempted his first pass of the drive, connecting 26 yards to Shay Hodge for a 14-0 lead.
Meanwhile the Razorbacks managed only two first quarter first downs as the Arkansas offense struggled on its first posessions. Arkansas pushed the ball into Ole Miss teritory at the 35 to start the second quarter, but was unable to convert on fourth down.
Hogs pushed into Rebel territory again, but Ole Miss held and returned to the end zone at the close of the second quarter. On a Wild Rebel play, the toss back to Snead leads to a 39-yard pass to Marquis Summers at the Arkansas five. The Razorback defense held Ole Miss and the Rebels settle for a 22-yard field goal by Joshua Shene.
For the first half, Arkansas had only 186 yards on 32 plays while the Rebels went for 298 yards on 42 plays. McCluster ran 108 yards by half on 12 carries to insure his first career 100-yard game.
Injuries hurt the Razorback secondary as Ramon Broadway left midway through the first half and Rudell Crim was assisted off the field just before halftime.