Felix Jones threw the first punch of the game and the University of Arkansas never let Ole Miss up off the canvas after that.
Jones' 100-yard kickoff return on the opening kickoff jumpstarted the No. 15 and SEC-leading Razorbacks to a 38-3 rout of the Rebels Saturday afternoon before an announced crowd of 73,445 at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
"The kickoff return set the tone for the whole day," Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt said. "We talked about it last week that Felix Jones was a block away from a kickoff return. it set a positive tempo."
The win made the Razorbacks (6-1, 4-0) bowl eligible, but more importantly kept them as the only league team without a loss, kept their title hopes alive and extended their winning streak to six.
"It's a great feeling," Nutt said. "We all worked hard and sacrificed to get here. We are fired up and looking forward to the opportunity. I'm really proud of our seniors. They keep everything in balance for us and have tremendous focus. They lead our team and come ready to work everyday."
Darren McFadden and Peyton Hillis both added short scoring runs in the opening half as Arkansas raced out to a three-touchdown lead early on while winning its sixth straight game for the first time since 2003.
Freshman quarterback Mitch Mustain rebounded from a sluggish effort in the previous week's 63-7 rout of Southeast Missouri State with an efficient 12-of-15 effort for 157 yards and a touchdown with no turnovers against the Rebels (2-6, 1-4).
He beat a blitz and hooked up with McFadden for what turned into a 70-yard screen pass for a touchdown late in the third quarter to boost the Razorbacks lead to 28-3 with just over a minute left in the third quarter.
"We did a great job preparing, but they're a good team so we knew we had to execute," Mustain said. "Things just keep getting better, but we just have to take care of business. Hopefully we can make it to a big bowl and have a lot of fun with this."
It was appropriate that McFadden (17 carries for 65 yards, 2 catches for 85 yards) took it to paydirt seeing as how he recovered Mustain's fumble - the rookie signal caller's only mistake of the game – when he was sacked on the play before the score.
"I caught the ball and turned around and the offensive line had everyone sealed off," McFadden said.
Placekicker Jeremy Davis, who had missed a 54-yard field goal attempt as time ran out in the first half, nailed a career-long 44-yarder with 11:56 left in the game to boost the Razorbacks lead to 31-3.
Back-up quarterback Casey Dick then capped the scoring with a 45-yard bomb to true freshman wideout London Crawford and Davis' PAT capped the scoring with 9:16 left in the game.
Mustain and Dick combined to go 14-of-18 passing for 205 yards and two touchdowns while the Razorbacks rushed for 141 yards.
The win kept Arkansas with in essence a two-game lead in the league's Western Division since it beat Auburn (7-1, 4-1) on the Tigers' home field earlier this month.
"It seemed like everything just clicked," Hillis said. "I'm excited about how finished. It was huge to hold them to three points.. Teams have to respect our offense because we are so talented and balanced."
After Jones weaved his through the entire Ole Miss defenders for the electric opening score and then Arkansas' defense held, the Razorbacks' offense took its first possession to the house.
It looked to have covered the 57 yards in just three plays, but holding wiped out McFadden's 43-yard dash for a score.
Still he took a screen pass for 15 yards, Jones went for 5 and then 6 and McFadden took a direct snap and then capped the 8-play jaunt with a 4-yard touchdown run and Jeremy Davis' PAT put Arkansas up with 9:43 left in the opening quarter.
The Razorbacks then moved it to 21-0 early on in the second quarter with a 11-play, 57-yard drive that featured two 9-yard screen passes for Mustain to Hillis, a 15-yard bullet from Mustain to Marcus Monk to the Ole Miss 1 and then Hillis diving in for the score with 8:27 left before intermission.
The Rebels did break up the shutout on Joshua Shene's 27-yard field goal with 2:34 remaining until halftime.
It was the only points they would score all day, just a week after losing 26-23 at Alabama and was the Rebels biggest margin of defeat this season.
"This (Arkansas) is a very good football team," Ole Miss head coach Ed Orgeron said. "We didn't start very fast and they did...There is no way we had the same mental attitude we had against Alabama. This is the SEC and you have to be mentally prepared for every team. Any time you score three points, I don't think anybody did a good job."
Ole Miss linebacker Patrick Willis, who led his team with 13 tackles and is a Butkas Award semifinalist with Arkansas' Sam Olajubutu, summed it up.
"I didn't feel like we played that bad, but when you look up at the scoreboard and see 38-3, it looks like they murdered us," Willis said.
Jones rushed 9 times for 41 yards and Hillis caught 6 passes for 43 yards in the contest, where the Razorbacks rolled up 346 yards total offense and kept Ole Miss to 245.
The Razorbacks will now make their first Central Arkansas appearance of the season when they battle Louisiana-Monroe in a 6 p.m. game next Saturday at Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium.
Felix Jones returns the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown.
Felix Jones smiles as he nears the goal line on his kickoff return.
Arkansas 38, Ole Miss 3
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