Arkansas 38, Ole Miss 24
FAYETTEVILLE - And on the third year, the heavens opened and down came the rain, lightning did strike twice and the Razorbacks finally bit into their former head coach Houston Nutt and his Rebel Black Bears.
Knile Davis' fourth-quarter touchdown dashes of 71 and 22 yards and Joe Adams' school-record 97-yard punt return for a score were key plays as No. 23 University of Arkansas outlasted two weather delays and Ole Miss 38-24 Saturday. A capacity crowd of 73,619 fans were at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Davis' 22 carries, 176 yards and 3 touchdowns were all career highs for the sophomore from Houston and made him the first tailback to top the century mark this season for Razorbacks (5-2, 2-2).
"Well, it took five hours, but we got the win," Petrino said. "I'm proud of our football team. They played extremely hard."
That - and the public commit of one of the nation's best tight ends in Hurst (Texas) star Chris Barnett (6-6, 250) after the win - also helped ease away a little of the pain from last week's 65-43 humbling at Auburn.
"It feels good to get the win," Petrino said. "The thing I am most proud about is how we put last week behind us. That is one of the things I want to make sure they learn in life. If something doesn't go your way, put it behind you. I felt like we did that all week long. It's a giant step from last year."
It was the Razorbacks' first win over Nutt, who coached the UA program before leaving under pressure and Arkansas ended up hiring Petrino.
The Razorbacks, who were without quarterback Ryan Mallett due to a shoulder injury for most of the second half, had lost games in Fayetteville and Oxford to Nutt and the Rebels (3-4, 1-3), who recently adopted the Black Bear as its on-field mascot.
"We've been a team like this all year," noted Nutt, who took his first two teams to the Cotton Bowl, but has lost to Jacksonville State and Vanderbilt this season. "When you get an opportunity like the interception in the first quarter, you have to take advantage of that and get them down.
"We have been consistent at doing that — where we don't play together, offense, defense and special teams," Nutt added. "We have glimpses of really good things for a young group. In this league, you have to take advantage."
Davis has become more of the lead back in the last few games and certainly was on Saturday with 22 of 25 hand-offs given to him as Arkansas rolled up 197 yards rushing.
"The more reps I get, the more comfortable I get in the backfield," Davis said. "The offensive line gave me a lot of support back there and it gives me time to do what I've got to do. It was all very smooth today."
The game featured two weather delays - a 58-minute break for lightning inside a 6-mile range that was followed by a tremendous downpour of rain.
The second stoppage – when another storm got lightning within that range again – went for 32 minutes.
"When we went in, we made them get off their feet and we got the coaches to quit coaching," Petrino said. "We wanted them to relax and not talk football. During the second delay, we treated that one more like a halftime and didn't stretch as much as before."
After the first weather delay, Ole Miss cut what had been a 24-3 Arkansas lead down to 24-17 on a 43-yard pass from Jeremiah Masoli to Markeith Summers.
Davis answered with his 71-yard dash to give the Razorbacks their original 14-point lead back.
"That delay was a huge delay," Davis said. "I had to come out and get my body right, but as soon as I came out I read my keys, saw a hole and hit it full speed."
But Masoli - whose 425 yards of total offense (327 passing, 98 rushing) in a single game Saturday are second to the legendary Archie Manning's 540 - responded right back.
The Oregon transfer first dashed 46 yards and then hit Summers on a 22-yard scoring strike that cut it to 31-24.
That brought about the second weather delay on a day when Arkansas was out-gained 512-464 in total offense.
Davis' 22-yard run with 7:15 left in the game proved to be the final points on the day. Tenarius Wright recovered Brandon Bolden's fumble on a third-and-goal play from UA 1-yard line with just over four minutes left to seal the deal.
After not getting in on two plays at the goal line, Bolden backed up in the Wild Rebel and couldn't handle the snap.
"I just dropped it and couldn't get on it fast enough," Bolden said. Nutt was asked why the Wild Rebel instead of being under center so close to the goal?
"Well, we've scored that way a million times," Nutt said.
Arkansas got off the goal line when back-up quarterback Tyler Wilson (3 of 5, 71 yards) hit Cobi Hamilton on a 40-yard pass play and the Razorbacks basically ran out the clock from that point on.
The Razorbacks suffered three injuries to starting offensive players with Mallett (shoulder) and receivers Greg Childs and Joe Adams - both with ankle injuries all leaving the game and not returning..
"We are a bit banged up offensively," Petrino said. "But we'll take the win."
Mallett described his injury as a bruise and admitted it was tough for him to not finish a second straight game after a concussion at Auburn last week knocked him out.
"It's not what I wish for, hope for," Mallett said. "But it's part of the game, You're going to get nicked up."
Petrino made sure to note what Mallett's injury wasn't.
"He came in and went to see the doctors and there is no damage done to the labrum or the rotator cuff or anything like that," Petrino said. "But he had lost strength in his arm. We tested him in the first break to see if he could throw it with velocity and he had a hard time throwing a spiral and a hard time getting much on the ball."
Petrino said his updates on Childs and Adams were positive.
"They've both got ankles so we'll have to wait and see," Petrino said."But I didn't hear 'high' so I am happy about that. I am hoping that is not what this is."
Adams, who said his ankle was just a minor "roll," had a highlight play with his 97-punt return that bested former Razorback player and coach Ken Hatfield's school record of 95 set back in 1963.
"Coach has been telling me all year that I was going to get a return against Ole Miss and that's what I did," Adams said. "Usually when a ball is past the 10-yard line you are supposed to fair catch it, but I didn't know I was that far. I just caught it, the guys set the blocks up and I found a friendly butt and followed my guys."
Adams' dash with the punt return came after Arkansas native Tyler Campbell's 62-yard boot outkicked his coverage.
The return included a crushing block by Jarius Wright and only one Rebel getting a hand on Adams.
"It was kind of like in basketball, when a guy shoots a 3-pointer 5 feet behind the line and you're saying 'no, no, no' and then he made a great play and a great run," Petrino said. "He did a great job. We blocked it well and it was just a heck of a play." Petrino was pleased with the defense he saw in the first half, but not after intermission.
"We did real well in the first half and then the second half was a little bit different," Petrino said. "We weren't able to slow them down. They hot some big, big plays and made a good run at us.
"But I was proud of the way we finished the game running the ball," Petrino added. "Knile obviously did a great job of running the football, but our offensive line blocked very well and Van Stumon - our lead blocker - blocked well and the receivers competed hard all night long."
Mallett, coming off a concussion suffered against Auburn, was 13-of-24 for 196 yards and a score before exiting after the first delay due to a shoulder injury according to Petrino.
His day started off with an interception - thrown into coverage -- on his first pass and an incompletion on his second.
After throwing the pick, Mallett looked on as his defense got the ball back.
Bowing its back after the Rebels took over at the Razorback 28, the Arkansas defense got the ball back when Jake Bequette forced a Masoli fumble that was recovered by Jerico Nelson.
Mallett found a wide-open D.J. Williams and he raced for a 46-yard gain that extended another 10 yards when Ole Miss' Damien Jackson was called for a facemask at the end of the play.
That set up Arkansas with a 1st-and-goal from the 9 and Davis took care of that with consecutive runs of 5, 2 and 2, the last walking untouched in for a score.
Zach Hocker's 25th straight PAT without a miss this season push the Razorbacks ahead 7-0 with 9:50 left in the opening quarter.
It took only 3 plays on the Razorbacks' next possession to put up points – a drive that started with Davis' 25 yard dash.
Mallett then hit Adams for 32 yards and lofted a pass that Greg Childs hauled in with a great diving catch for a 23 yard TD connection.
Hocker's extra point was true and the Razorbacks led 14-0 with 4:33 remaining in the first quarter.
Ronnie Wingo's fumble deep in his own territory was picked up by Ole Miss defender D.J. Shackleford and returned to the Arkansas 3.
Nutt tried three straight running plays – combining to lose two yards – before settling for Bryson Rose' 23-yard field goal that cut it to 21-3 at the 1:40 mark.
The Razorbacks got those points back back on their first drive of the third quarter when Hocker drilled a 46-yard field goal.
Ole Miss then rolled to a score in three plays with Jeff Scott's 46-yard, tackle-breaking run being the key play.
Masoli's 18-yard pass to Ja-Mes Logan was the scoring play and Rose's PAT cut it to 24-10 at the 10:30 mark.
The win moves Arkansas out of the loaded SEC West cellar and hands it off to sole possession of Ole Miss.
The Razorbacks will host Vanderbilt next Saturday night at 6 p.m. for Homecoming.
Joe Adams sets sail on a 97-yard punt return for a touchdown.
D. J. Williams sets up his blocking after a reception.
Elton Ford has Ole Miss quarterback Jeremiah Masoli.
Greg Childs dives into the end zone.
Knile Davis breaks a tackle.
Tramain Thomas closes in on a receiver.
D. J. Williams fights off an Ole Miss defender.
Cobi Hamilton hauls in a fourth-quarter pass.
Knile Davis finds the end zone.
Anthony Leon gives chase against Ole Miss quarterback Jeremiah Masoli.
Ole Miss running back Brandon Bolden fumbled on the goal line.
Ryan Mallett fires a pass.
Photos by Marc F. Henning, Hawgs Illustrated
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