For the first two-and-a-half quarters on Saturday, the University of Arkansas offense was either not very offensive at all or extremely offensive - depending on how you use the word.
But late in the third and early in the fourth it came alive just in time behind true freshman quarterback Casey Dick as he threw three touchdowns - two to Marcus Monk - in that time to rally the Razorbacks past Ole Miss 28-17 before over 53,000 fans in Oxford, Miss., on Saturday, win their first SEC game of the season and end a three-game losing streak.
The win was probably best summed up by Arkansas defensive tackle Keith Jackson, one of the players who sung the fight song after the game to the Razorback fans who made the trip.
"I just want to think my team and thank the fans," Arkansas defensive tackle Keith Jackson said after his team had sung the fight song five times after the game. "We just went out there and kept competing and kept fighting and came out with a victory. The fans played a big role in this game and we just had to congratulate them and sticking with us through these tough losses."
Dick was 17-of-24 passing for 175 yards and and threw three second half touchdowns - during a stretch where he was completing his last 12 passes of the game for 158 yards - just a week after seeing the first action of his career in a 14-10 home loss to South Carolina.
"We had trouble in the first half converting plays and getting some consistency going, but you just kind of hang in there and the big guys up front did a great job protecting me just giving me time back there to make some plays and that's what we needed in the second half," Dick said. "We just wanted to come out here and open things up."
He was just 5-of-11 in the first half for 21 yards before missing his first pass of the second half and not throwing an incompletion from that point on in a game in which Arkansas (3-6, 1-5) eliminated Ole Miss (3-6, 1-5) from bowl consideration a week after South Carolina had done that to the Razorbacks.
"He came in and I was upset at him in the first half because I thought he could have done a couple of things better," Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt said. "But you talk about a competitor. He came back and he hit some crucial throws. We had to throw the ball to win it because they were stacking it and we could not block 72 (Ole Miss defensive tackle Michael Bozeman). We had to throw the football."
That late surge helped Arkansas (3-6, 1-5) - who had lost its last three league games by a total of 11 points, get its first win since an Oct. 8 win nonconference win over Louisiana-Monroe. The only other win this season had been one over Missouri State on Sept. 3.
It happened during a game where Arkansas - who got 38 yards rushing from Felix Jones and just 32 from Darren McFadden - lost starting center Kyle Roper to injury.
"We knew he was going to have a hard time, but we didn't think it would be that tough and we had to get him out," Nutt said. "We went with Jonathon Luigs at center, had to move Jeremy Harrell in there. It's just such unbelieveable courage. I didn't think we were going to make a first down in the first half. We shot ourselves in the foot and their defense was just outstanding."
It was his defense - which got a 41-yard interception return for a score in the first half from Randy Kelly for its only points - stepping up in the second half with four guys from Little Rock leading the charge.
"Marcus Harrison, Jamaal Anderson and Keith Jackson, Desmond Sims and (true freshman) Antwain Robinson comes in today and gives us an unbelieveable relief," Nutt said.
Down 17-7 deep into the third quarter, Dick hooked up wideout Marcus Monk for a 24-yard touchdown late in the third to get to within 17-14 and and then hit Peyton Hillis on a 4-yard scoring toss as Arkansas surged ahead 21-17 with 12:20 left in the game.
Dick kept his hot streak going and went back to Monk again for another 24-yard scoring toss, one that combined with Chris Balserio's extra point that had Arkansas suddenly ahead 28-17 with 5:06 left in the game.
"This is what we brought him (Monk) to Arkansas for," Nutt said. "He got a chance to really help us today. He came up so big."
Nutt, who has taken a lot of heat over his playcalling this season, noted that final score did not come from an audible when asked by announcer Chuck Barrett.
"That was a called play and I called it, Chuck," Nutt said while laughing and then sounding like former wrestler Handsome Jimmy Valient. "And I made some good calls today, brother!"
Dick said he made a conscious effort to find Monk in the second half.
"He is a big-play guy with a big body," Dick said. "We wanted to come out and get him involved - get him some touchdowns and get him some yards."
Dick led the Arkansas offense on second half drives of 73 yards in 11 plays, 63 yards in 11 plays and 62 yards in nine plays as the Razorbacks totally transformed an offense that had gained a paltry 51 yards total offense in the opening two quarters.
He also pointed out that the older quarterbacks - Robert Johnson, Alex Mortensen and Cole Barthel - were an influence on him during the game.
"A lot of guys helped me out - Robert Johnson, Cole and Alex - when I was on the sidelines," Dick said. "I appreciate those guys. I had a big visualization of just coming out here and winning big games and winning a game we just had to have."
Ole Miss took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter when Rebels' quarterback Ethan Flatt tossed an 8-yard TD pass to Larry Kendrick and Matt Hinkle added the PAT with 3:10 left in that frame.
Arkansas tied it 7-7 when safety Randy Kelly picked off a Flatt pass and raced back 41 yards for a touchdown, a play that held up on instant replay review and kicker Balseiro booted the PAT just as the second quarter got underway.
A fumble by Razorback freshman standout running back McFadden at the Arkansas 38 was recovered by Ole Miss and Kendrick eventually captilized on that with a 1-yard run with 5:37 left before intermission.
After a Jones' fumble, Ole Miss then pushed that lead to 17-7 after intermission when Hinkle kicked a 28-yard field goal at the 5:37 mark.
Dick hopes he firmly established himself as the starting quarterback for the Razorbacks with his second-half effort.
"I would hope so," Dick said. "I hope I gained their confidence and all the guys and the receivers and the team will believe in me now."
Arkansas 28, Ole Miss 17
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