FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Dan Skipper has used his 6-foot-10 frame to block seven field goals in his career. Arkansas’ senior left tackle even saved the Razorbacks from almost-certain defeat with one of those blocks this season.
But his most-impactful deflection came in a far different situation last November.
Everyone remembers the wild lateral by Hunter Henry and subsequent run by Alex Collins to pick up a first down on 4th-and-25 with the Hogs trailing in overtime at Mississippi.
What often gets lost in the memory of that play is Skipper’s impact. As Henry was wrapped up well short of the first down, he flung the ball over his shoulder and it appeared destined to land in the hands of an Ole Miss defender. Then Skipper intervened, leaping to tip the ball away and cause a bounce that caromed into the hands of Collins, who raced 30 yards to keep the Hogs alive.
“He used all 6-foot-10 of him,” Henry told The Clarion-Ledger. “It was basically like a jump ball in basketball. It was very critical because the defensive line were all going after it, and he tipped it to the perfect dude.”
Arkansas scored two plays later and quarterback Brandon Allen tallied the 2-point conversion as the Hogs stunned the then-No. 19 Rebels, 53-52.
“I don’t get speechless a whole lot, but I got pretty quiet for a few plays trying to sort though all that just happened,” said Arkansas tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr. “Obviously a fun memory for all involved for a lifetime.”
Had it not been for the Razorbacks’ improbable upset, the Rebels would’ve played for the SEC title. Instead, Alabama — who Ole Miss had beaten earlier that season — went to Atlanta as the SEC West representative and won its second-straight conference crown on the way to the national title.
For Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze, the effects of the “Hunter Heave” still linger and represent a major opportunity lost for his program.
“I don’t voluntarily go watch it,” said Freeze during the SEC teleconference Wednesday. “I assure you if I were to see it, it still would make my stomach turn. It was a crucial play in that game that ultimately cost us from going to Atlanta. It was a smart play by Hunter Henry. Their kids finished the game, and we didn’t finish that play. It does bother you.”
Arkansas remembers the 2015 game fondly, but the No. 22 Hogs (4-2, 0-2 SEC) insist they’re locked into earning a third-straight win over the No. 12 Rebels (3-2, 1-1) this Saturday (6 p.m. CT, ESPN) at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
“If we can make it less wild and be effective, I’d like that,” Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said earlier this week. “But I think it’s a very good football team that you’ve gotta prepare for and expect everything.”