Yet Another What Might Have Been

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – In a game that could have been won by Ole Miss – Arkansas isn't unbeatable – the Rebels stumbled their way to a 38-24 loss, falling behind 21-0 early.

Time and time again Ole Miss failed to capitalize, the final dagger coming of its own accord, a Wild Rebel formation as they were trying to move into the end zone from the Hogs' 1-yard line, trailing 38-24 with 4:32 to go in the contest.

Brandon Bolden took the snap and fumbled it, the ball was recovered by the red-clad Hogs, and that was your ole ballgame.

"I just dropped the ball and couldn't get on it fast enough," Bolden said.

An accurate evaluation indeed.

Ole Miss gave up big play after big play, on defense and special teams.

The story of the day: Arkansas got big chunks of yardage on offense and a record-setting punt return for a touchdown. And Ole Miss couldn't score touchdowns on first and goal from inside the 8-yard line twice.

It was a day of frustration for the Rebels, who clearly could compete with this Razorback team, as two substantial, stadium-clearing weather delays made it all the more weird.

Check out these numbers. The Rebels won most of the statistical battles – time of possession 36:11 to 23:49, first downs 21-16, passing yards 327-267, total yards 512-464.

But they lost the war.

It was the first Razorback victory since Houston Nutt left Fayetteville for Oxford. Had the Rebels executed the entire game, taken advantage of their opportunities inside the 8-yard line, and not given up big plays, as has become their trademark, Nutt would have been 3-0 against his old home state.

Injuries have certainly played a part in the Rebels' 3-4 season so far. They now find themselves in last place in the SEC West at 1-3. Arkansas, aiming for a major bowl bid, is now 5-2 overall and 2-2 in league play.

Powerhouse Auburn is up next in Oxford on Saturday at 5 p.m.

Early in the contest, after an exchange of turnovers, including an interception by Allen Walker of a Ryan Mallett pass, the Razorbacks got on the board in a hurry after recovering a fumble. Mallett hit D.J. Williams on a 46-yard pass, the big gainer in the drive. Three running plays later, capping a 65-yard drive, Knile Davis scored from the 2-yard line.

Ole Miss punted back to Arkansas after being unable to move it. This time it took Mallet and company three plays to move 80 yards, the scoring play a 23-yard pass from Mallett to Greg Childs for the touchdown.

Leading 14-0, the Hogs would get more soon, this time on a 97-yard punt return by Joe Adams, a record for his school in the punt return for touchdown department.

That made it 21-0 and awfully tough for Ole Miss, even though it was still the second quarter.

Ole Miss finally got on the scoreboard with a field goal by Bryson Rose to cut the lead to 21-3. But the Rebels needed more. They were poised to get more at that point with first and goal at the 3-yard line after D.T. Shackelford scooped up a Hog fumble at the 22-yard line and returned it to the 3. Three running plays later and the Rebels were back at the 5-yard line.

Passing yardage and return yardage were where Arkansas had Ole Miss at halftime. Through the air, Mallett was 7 for 14 for 136 yards, an interception, and a touchdown. Jeremiah Masoli was 9 for 15 for 86 yards.

Ja-Mes Logan

Arkansas had 120 first-half punt return yards to the Rebels' 6 yards, and that included the 97-yarder for a score. Total yards had 189 for UA and 145 for UM.

The third quarter opened with Arkansas moving from its own 20 deep into Rebel territory where Ole Miss' defense stood tall. Two sacks of Mallett, by Jonathan Cornell and Justin Smith, and again by LaMark Armour, forced a field goal of 46 yards by Zach Hocker for a 24-3 UA lead.

Ole Miss answered quickly. In three plays the Rebels had their first touchdown of the game. On second and 10 from the UM 37, Jeff Scott ripped off a beautiful run of 45 yards to the Hog 18. On the very next play, Masoli hit Ja-Mes Logan in the end zone for a touchdown. It was 24-10 with 10:30 to go in the third quarter.

Minutes later there was a storm delay and the stadium evacuated. When play resumed, Ole Miss was to receive a punt from Arkansas with 5:06 left in the third.

Ole Miss had the momentum and great field position after a Hog punt following the 58-minute storm delay. But as bad a series as they've had all year followed. From the Hog 47 after a nice punt return by Jesse Grandy of 20 yards, Masoli gained seven but the play was called back due to an illegal formation.

On first and 15 the Rebs had to burn a timeout after the penalty. When play resumed, a reverse was snuffed out and Masoli - having one of his best days as a Rebel going 21 for 36 for 327 yards and three touchdowns - threw incomplete. On second and 15 Masoli, the Rebs' leading rusher on the day with 98 yards on 15 carries, shuffle passed to Brandon Bolden for nine yards. On third and six, Massoli had 20 yards of daylight to his left but threw incomplete out of bounds. He obviously should have run to get the first down, which he would have had. Ole Miss then fake punted but failed to gain the first-down yardage.

Arkansas couldn't move it on their next possession and the Rebs got it back. Ole Miss moved 80 yards in eight plays, capped by a pass of 43 yards from Masoli to Markeith Summers that was set up by a 46-yard run by Masoli.

At 24-17 Ole Miss was right back in it, but Arkansas said, not so fast, guys from Mississippi.

Knile davis racad 71 yards for a touchdown, the second play of a short drive, to make it 31-17.

Ole Miss answered with a 5-play drive, as Summers caught another Masoli touchdown pass, this one of 22 yards.

It was Arkansas 31, Ole Miss 24. And there was another storm delay, this time 31 minutes.

After the delay, Andrew Ritter put the Rebel defenders in a hole with a kick out of bounds. Arkansas, as it its custom, moved quickly and scored in five plays from its own 40.

Tyler Wilson, playing the entire second half for the injured Ryan Mallett, drove his team downfield. And from the 22 on the drive's second play, Davis raced in untouched to make it 38-24.

That made it 38-24 and tough for the Rebels. But the men in red and blue came roaring back.

They drove it inside the 5-yard line, and this time from the 1-yard line, Bolden's fumble in the4 Wild Rebel all but sealed it for a Razorback team fit for the taking on this day.

Check out these. The Rebels won most of the statistical battles – time of possession 36:11 to 23:49, first downs 21-16, passing yards 327-267, total yards 512-464.

But they lost the war.

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