"The Hogs, awake from their morning nap, are now having Ole Miss for lunch."
Indeed that is just what happened Saturday in Oxford as the Razorbacks spotted the Rebels the first 17 points, scored the next 29 and then held on for a 29-24 win before 57,951 fans at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Redshirt junior tailback Dennis Johnson rushed for a career-high 160 yards on just 15 carries with his 52-yard scoring dash late in the second quarter starting the comeback.
After Arkansas went up 29-17 on Zach Hocker's 23-yard field goal with 11:31 left in the game, Ole Miss made it interesting at the end.
Quarterback Randall Mackey (18-of-30 for a career-high 219 yards and 2 TDs) threw a 4-yard TD pass to Donte Moncrief to cut it to 29-24 with 1:23 left in the game.
Andrew Ritter's onside kick was recovered by Rebel tight end Jamal Mosley, but Eric Bennett picked off Mackey and returned it 46 yards to the Ole Miss 11 with 32 seconds left to seal the deal.
"There was a tremendous onside kick," Petrino said. "I don't know if I have ever seen one that good before. They kicked it right at 10 yards and a guy jumped up and got it."
Tyler Wilson scored on a pair of 1-yard TD runs as Arkansas (6-1, 2-1) held off the upset bid of Ole Miss (2-5, 0-4), who lost their 10th straight SEC game.
The Arkansas defense, after giving up 250 yards in the first half, gave up just 120 yards in the second half and allowed just seven points.
The Razorback defenders had 10 plays for lost yardage.
"You saw the energy of the players," Petrino said. "You saw playmakers make plays and that really helped."
It was a tough loss for former Razorback and current Rebels head coach Houston Nutt to stomach.
"I'm really proud of our guy's effort today," Nutt said. "I thought we played extremely hard. I wish we had the third quarter back. There were a couple of series on defense where we didn't do anything. I wish Donte Moncrief (who dropped a third quarter bomb) would have caught one more pass. I think that would have put us over the edge. We needed something in the third quarter to give us confidence. We needed to go ahead and finish it."
Wilson was just 13-of-28 passing for 232 yards on the day, but had some big connections in the second half with Joe Adams (4 catches, 124 yards).
"I thought their (the Rebels) gameplan was to have the ball and milk the clock based on zone coverage there," Wilson said. "We didn't have a whole lot of possessions in the first half. In the second half we got more offensive possessions and had better execution."
Ole Miss jumped out to its 17-0 lead on Bryson Rose's 23-yard field goal in the opening quarter along with Mackey's 31-yard TD pass to Moncrief and the quarterback's 3-yard run, both in the second quarter.
"We didn't start very good at all," Petrino said. "We weren't executing well. We missed some things offensively for the limited time we had the ball. They had a good plan. They ran the ball and kept it there. We didn't have many opportunities and some of that is our own fault."
It was all Arkansas from that point on, starting with Johnson ripping off his 52-yard dash in which he broke several tackles.
"He gave everybody energy, starting with that touchdown run," Petrino said of Johnson. "In the second half, he was the fastest guy (on either team) running the ball."
That scintillating score and Hocker's PAT at the 5:11 mark made it 17-7 at intermission.
"I think the touchdown before half helped us," Petrino said. "We knew we got the ball back. We told our players, go score a touchdown coming out of the locker room and get a stop, and we are right back in it. That's how it went."
Petrino didn't want to talk about the adjustments his team made to shut off a Rebels' rushing game that had just 23 of its 151 yards rushing after intermission.
"I don't like to talk about adjustments, but our coaches did an excellent job with it," Petrino said. "We certainly shut down some of the things they were doing in the first half and our players just tackled better in the second half."
Arkansas – who had a 438-370 total offense advantage - took advantage of the initial second-half possession by cashing in on Hocker's 33-yard field goal to cut it to 17-10 with 11:55 still left in the third quarter.
Arkansas tied it 17-17 when Wilson plunged in from the 1-yard line and Hocker knocked through the PAT with 6:48 left in the third quarter.
The big play in that series was a 67-yard completion from Wilson to Adams, who moved into fourth on Arkansas' all-time catch list with 141 grabs.
"We have confidence in each other and make sure the guy next to us is doing the right thing and that you are doing the right thing," Adams said. "We told the guys last night that we wouldn't lose this game. When we got down 17-0 we had to push through."
He scored again from the 1-yard line, this time on a bootleg at the 3:22 mark, as the Razorbacks jumped ahead 24-17.
Arkansas had a chance to go up 31-17 on the next possession, but Johnson fumbled near the goal line. That positioning still turned into points for the visitors.
After great penetration by defensive tackle Robert Thomas with the Rebels at their own 1, Jerry Franklin hauled down Jeff Scott for a safety and a 26-17 advantage with 14 seconds left in the third quarter. Thomas worked free past former Arkansas offensive lineman Matt Hall, making it tough for the tailback.
"Without watching the film, I'd say it was a missed block," Nutt said. "We were just trying to gain a yard. We were hoping to get out of the end zone with a throw first. It is easy to come in here and second guess. I guess we should have run a quarterback sneak to get a yard. But I felt like Jeff Scott could hit a home run when we were backed up."
Nutt, whose team had outgained Arkansas, 250-128, at half but had just 120 total yards after intermission, is under fire in Ole Miss.
"We had some really good effort and attitude out there against a team ranked tenth," Nutt said. "I'm trying to keep these guys with a good effort and attitude. We do not need to ever give up, never quit and fight no matter what people say. I'm really proud of how they played."
Arkansas will travel next week to face an improved Vanderbilt team in another 11:21 a.m. kickoff.
Dennis Johnson gets loose on his 52-yard touchdown run that started Arkansas on its rally from a 17-0 disadvantage.
Johnson arrives in the end zone.
Jake Bequette tries to bring down Ole Miss quarterback Randall Mackey as Robert Thomas (96) tries to get in on the play.
Ole Miss defensive back Frank Crawford and a teammate break up a pass intended for Cobi Hamilton.
Razorback linebacker Jerico Nelson tries to bring down Ole Miss running back Brandon Bolden.