Arkansas report card: Offense gets excellent marks in thrilling win
Everyone knows that Arkansas beat No. 18 Ole Miss 53-52 in overtime. Everyone. Folks who tuned in to CBS early to watch the LSU-Alabama game saw the Razorbacks win a thriller in Oxford, Miss. Hunter Henry’s desperate backward pass on fourth-and-25 was ESPN’s top play of the night. Then Arkansas coach Bret Bielema nearly made Razorbacks fans dial up their cardiologists when he went for two points in overtime. Hogs fans are still talking about this win, as they should.
Here are the grades on each unit:
Arkansas posted more yards than the vaunted Ole Miss offense, and that’s saying something. This wasn’t UT-Martin. This was an Ole Miss defense that thought it was good enough to run the table and win the SEC West. Arkansas senior quarterback Brandon Allen missed a few open receivers, but he completed 33-of-45 passes for 442 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions. He plunged in for the two-point conversion to win it in overtime, and his confidence is at an all-time high. Junior running back Alex Collins had 108 yards on 17 carries, but his best move was being in the right place at the right time on Henry’s wild lateral in overtime. The Hogs also had a pair of 100-yard receivers in Drew Morgan (122 yards, three touchdowns) and Dominique Reed (105 yards, two touchdowns).
It’s hard to get an A or B when a defense gives up 590 yards and 52 points. Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly threw for 368 yards and three touchdowns and ran for a game-high 110 yards and three touchdowns. The Rebels churned out 222 yards on the ground on 6.9 yards per carry. Arkansas did get a big stop at the end of regulation to force overtime, though.
Special Teams: B
Other than a 47-yard field goal that was blocked at the end of regulation, it was an ordinary day at the office for the Arkansas special teams. Cole Hedlund nailed a 45-yard field goal and was perfect on all six extra-point attempts. Punter Toby Baker was efficient, and the return units didn’t get much room to run.
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema took a 10-point underdog and defeated a team that many pundits thought could run the table and win the SEC West. The Razorbacks looked confident throughout. Sure, the defense gave up gobs of yards and points — and has been for too many weeks in a row — but the rest of the team is running smoothly. That comes from good preparation during the week.
How does this not deserve an A? Arkansas threw a curveball into the SEC West standings and needs just one more win to become bowl eligible. Equally important, the Hogs got a big win before a national TV audience. Of note: Arkansas has beaten Ole Miss two years in a row while Ole Miss has beaten Alabama those same two years. Once Arkansas figures out the other teams in the conference, it can jump back right into the thick of things again.