COLUMN: Bad Start, Bad Result

FAYETTEVILLE, ARK - The 8th-ranked Ole Miss Rebels played, for the better part of the first half, with bad field position, bad ballhandling and bad decision-making. The end result was a 17-0 halftime deficit that ultimately resulted in a costly one-sided loss.

On the road in the Southeastern Conference, it is imperative to get off to a good start and gain some momentum.

It is critical to take care of the ball.

It is important to make good decisions.

It is a must to play with an edge.

Against Arkansas here Saturday afternoon, the Rebels did none of the above and it resulted in a bubble-bursting shellacking to a Razorback team that seems to be hitting its stride as the regular season winds down.

But don't give the Hogs too much credit.

The Rebels gift-wrapped this one and consequently took themselves out of the conversation for any of the "big prizes" at the end of the rainbow.

Good start? Hardly.

The Rebs received the opening kickoff, proceeded to do nothing with it, had a 30-yard punt giving the Hogs great field position and let Arkansas score from 48 yards out on three gash-type plays.

7-0 with less than three minutes gone.

A Bo Wallace fumble gave the Razorbacks another short field and the end result was a short field goal for a 10-zip lead at 7:46 to go in the first quarter.

The Razorbacks got another short field after Kailo Moore, deep to return a kickoff, inexplicably fielded a kick headed out of bounds and stepped out on the two. Again, they took advantage by scoring a touchdown, but that, too, was Rebel-aided.

The Rebs appeared to have made a terrific goalline stand, but alas, in the tone of the day, they were offsides, the Hogs got another crack at the end zone from the one and scored.

Ole Miss righted the ship somewhat defensively - Arkansas didn't score any more points in the half, but the Rebel offense was plagued with another Wallace fumble, an interception in the end zone and Wallace getting his ankle banged up that cost Ole Miss two possessions without him.

To seal the deal on the kind of day it was, the Rebs' first two possessions of the second half saw good movement of the ball, but a failed fourth-down try deep in Hog territory and then the nail in the proverbial coffin - another pick thrown by Wallace, only to add insult to injury, this one was returned 100 yards for another Hog score that made it 27-goose egg late in the third quarter.

In a game of inches, the Rebs were off by feet at times.

Without question, it was Ole Miss' worst outing of the year and it came at the most inopportune of times.

With sky-is-the-limit implications, they just didn't seem to have the edge, the attention to detail, the will or the precision they had exhibited most of the season.

Yes, the Hogs are rejuvenated and playing with a different spring in their step, but the way the Rebels came out of the tunnel, they gave Arkansas some adrenaline, momentum and purpose.

The Rebs played hard, but they just didn't have that razor's edge that got them to 7-0 and a ranking as high as 4th in the nation.

So what's left after this head scratcher?

Two things.

Pride and a chance to better their postseason bowl standing.

What stands in their way? Mississippi State, who will roll into Oxford with just one loss and playing for a possible spot in the first four-team playoff.

To have a chance to derail the Bulldogs, the Rebels will have to regain the edge they had earlier in the year, before the heartbreaking loss to LSU in Baton Rouge and before WR Laquon Treadwell was left broken and inches short of victory against Auburn the following week in Oxford.

Despite this aborted effort in the hills of Northwest Arkansas, the Rebels have had a good season, but if they want to move it into the realm of memorable, they will have to wrangle and bring down their rival in the Egg Bowl next Saturday.

But to do that, they will have to play much, much, much - infinitely - better than they did on this rainy day in Arkansas.

Bad start, bad result, bad day.


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