Hogs Not Bowled Over

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas tailback DeCori Birmingham knows Matt Jones has a better vertical leap, which is why he gave the quarterback modest marks after the senior dunked a football over the crossbar Saturday afternoon.

Tight end Jared Hicks said his good friend deserved a 9, factoring in the fatigue that set in while Jones sprinted 72 yards down the right sideline to get to the end zone.

Senior Jeb Huckeba laughed and admitted the slam impressed him, while center Skye Peterson shouted "sweet dunk" in Jones' direction after the game.

Jones cost Arkansas 15 yards in the second quarter because of an excessive celebration penalty during the Hogs' 35-3 win against Ole Miss.

But, judging by the party in the winning locker room, it was a small price to pay for finally having a little fun.

"We just needed a win," Huckeba said. "That's been the phrase going around for the last three or four weeks. Today, everybody showed up and we played a total game and we did get the win. It puts life back into us."

Jones and the Hogs had plenty of fun slamming the door on a four-game losing skid in front of 63,474 shivering fans in Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Arkansas (4-5, 2-4 in Southeastern Conference) unleashed six weeks of frustration against Ole Miss (3-6, 2-4), holding onto bowl hopes behind four first-half touchdowns and one of its best defensive performances in the must-win game.

The Hogs, who claimed their first victory since beating Alabama 27-10 on Sept. 25, can clinch a seventh consecutive bowl trip with wins at Mississippi State next Saturday and against LSU in Little Rock on Nov. 26. Huckeba believes the Razorbacks can do that after gaining much-needed confidence Saturday.

But coach Houston Nutt only had one immediate concern minutes after the Ole Miss win.

"I thought we forgot the words to the fight song," Nutt said. "I'm not kidding you. It's so good to sing it and so good to see our guys smiling in the locker room. There's not a greater feeling than that.

"After last Saturday in Columbia (South Carolina, a 35-32 loss), it was just devastation. It was the toughest loss since we've been here as a staff. It was hard."

The Razorbacks were inspired by a team meeting last Tuesday and counted on their playmaker to snap the funk.

Jones collected his second consecutive 100-yard outing, running for a season-high 126 yards against the Rebels. He provided the biggest highlight -- and the knockout blow -- when he faked an option pitch to Birmingham, juked a defender and outran Rebels' safety Eric Oliver for a 72-yard touchdown run.

Jones capped the longest run of his career, which gave Arkansas a 21-0 lead, with the emphatic dunk over the crossbar.

"I don't blame him at all," Huckeba said. "If it would've been a close game, I don't think he would've done it. At that point, it looked like we were going to dominate the game.

"The thing about it is, it's Senior Day. It's his last game. I'm all for it. I laughed and I loved it."

One week after throwing two costly interceptions against the Gamecocks, Jones also put together an error-free passing day, completing 11 of 16 passes for 108 yards and 2 touchdowns. He found tight end Jared Hicks for 2- and 23-yard scores in the second and third quarters, respectively, helping the Hogs to the 35-3 lead.

Jones left the game with a slightly strained right hamstring (he insisted it won't affect him this week). He combined for 234 yards and 3 touchdowns after less than three quarters of work.

"Everybody knows he's a playmaker," said Ole Miss defensive lineman Michael Bozeman. "We practiced against his scheme. We just didn't stop him."

Ole Miss also couldn't muster the same type of production from its quarterbacks, failing to get in the end zone in a game it also had to win to keep bowl hopes alive.

Quarterbacks Ethan Flatt and Robert Lane combined to complete 15 of 34 passes for 168 yards. Lane added a team-high 94 rushing yards and the Rebels finished with 343 yards. But Ole Miss was 2 of 15 on third and fourth downs.

The biggest misfire came in the first quarter when Ole Miss trailed 7-0 and faced third-and-1 on Arkansas' 47. Running back Brandon Jacobs was dropped by senior Elliott Harris on third down, and defensive linemen Jamaal Anderson and Keith Jackson stuffed the junior on the next play.

Arkansas regained possession and Birmingham scored an 11-yard touchdown nine plays later to give the Razorbacks a 14-0 lead.

"It's tough to put a finger on why we played so poorly," said Ole Miss coach David Cutcliffe. "At third and less than a yard and fourth and less than a yard, we needed to stay on the field and it was a risk we needed to take."

Ole Miss' only score was place-kicker Jonathan Nichols' 33-yard field goal just before halftime, which cut Arkansas' lead to 28-3.

The longest play the Razorbacks' maligned defense surrendered Saturday was a 50-yard run by Lane after the game was out of hand. The young unit kept an opponent out of the end zone for the first time this season.

Arkansas was penalized eight times, but didn't commit a turnover, ground out 297 rushing yards and held the ball 10 minutes and 22 seconds longer than the Rebels. The all-around effort helped Arkansas improve to 7-1 against Ole Miss in Fayetteville.

More important, Birmingham said it restored the Razorbacks' confidence – and postseason hopes.

"It's been four weeks since we've had a win," Birmingham said. "To me, right now, this is the greatest feeling. This game was really important for us.

"We needed this game to gain momentum for the rest of the season, and to get a win the way we did was unbelievable."

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