Hogs Strike Early And Often

FAYETTEVILLE — Felix Jones waited patiently for his teammates to set up their blocks and for a hole to open up in the middle of the field.

That's all Jones needed to end his even longer wait to break a long kickoff return this season. He saw the opening and took it.

Jones caught the opening kickoff a few feet in the end zone, darted through a hole created by his coverage team and sprinted 100 yards untouched for a touchdown.

The return was a prelude of what was to come in No. 15 Arkansas' 38-3 win over Ole Miss in front of a crowd of 73,445 in Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

"It all started with the blockers up front. They made it happen," Jones said. "They opened up a hole, I followed my blockers and there it was. All I had to do was run fast and hit it."

Heading into Saturday, Arkansas' coaches emphasized that their players couldn't overlook Ole Miss, which has little to play for at this point but the role of spoiler.

But Jones' second career 100-yard kickoff return gave Arkansas (6-1, 4-0) the momentum to jump out to a 21-point first-half lead and cruise to its sixth straight victory and become bowl eligible for the first time in three years.

For a third straight game, the Razorbacks set the tone by building a double-digit lead in the first quarter. They led 10-0 at No. 8 Auburn and 14-0 against Southeast Missouri State.

It was much of the same Saturday.

Arkansas had no trouble taking a 14-0 advantage in the first quarter against a struggling Ole Miss team, and before the Rebels (2-6, 1-4) could recover, the Razorbacks led 21-0 early in the second quarter.

"When you jump on them 14-0, or take the opening kickoff back, it sends a strong message to them that we're going to be here all day long," Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said. "We had a lot to play for, and our guys realized that."

With the win, the Razorbacks remain atop the Southeastern Conference's western division with five games remaining.

But perhaps more importantly for a program that has struggled through back-to-back losing seasons, Saturday's victory gives Arkansas the six victories needed to qualify for a bowl game.

"I've never went to a bowl before, and I'm kind of excited," said running back Peyton Hillis, whose 1-yard touchdown run extended Arkansas' lead to 21-0 with 8:27 remaining in the second quarter.

"I hear about all the good things that happen during the bowl, and I'm just really looking forward to it."

Arkansas never gave Ole Miss a chance to pull off the upset, and Jones' kickoff return was an indication of how the rest of the game would play out. The Razorbacks broke off big plays, and the Rebels let opportunities pass them by.

When asked afterward if Jones' opening kickoff took the "wind" out of his team's sails, Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron said, "I don't know if we had a lot of wind in our sails going into the situation."

Arkansas didn't get much offense in the first half, but it was more than enough to build a 21-3 halftime lead.

After struggling with his accuracy a week ago against Southeast Missouri State, quarterback Mitch Mustain was efficient, completing 8-of-10 passes in the first half and finishing 12-of-15 for 157 yards and one touchdown.

Running back Darren McFadden scored his first of two touchdowns five minutes after Jones' kickoff return. Arkansas' defense took over from there.

"It feels real good for the offense to step up and light the scoreboard up," Arkansas linebacker Matt Hewitt said. "It just motivates us (the defense) a little bit more just watching those guys do good.

"It tells us that if they're going to do good, we've got to do good."

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