Hogs roll over Rebs

The Ole Miss Rebels, supposedly fighting for a possible bowl berth and winning season, gave one of their worst performances in recent memory, falling to the Razorbacks in Fayetteville, 35-3, in what could only be decribed as a disaster. The Rebs fell to 3-6 overall while the Hogs kept their winning season hopes alive and are currently 4-5.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark - The inspiration for the Ole Miss-Arkansas game here Saturday was supposed to be "keep the bowl hopes alive."

But after an inspired Arkansas team whipped the Rebels in every phase of the football game, jumping to a 21-0 lead and then coasting the rest of the way, one has to wonder if there was any motivation at all to keep the dream afloat.

"We didn't play with much intensity or focus," said Rebel DT Michael Bozeman. "I'm afraid we had some guys quit after things started going the wrong way early in the game. We started the game flat and got flatter."

As flat as Grandma's biscuits when she forgets to add the yeast.

Dropped passes, penalties, missed assignments, a lack of emotion and a failure to execute the most simple aspects of football all led to a 35-3 lopsided loss that left little room for explanation. It was all there in living color - a collapse the likes of which this program had not seen in a long, long time.

After all, this was not an Arkansas team that had dazzled anyone. This was not an Arkansas team that was captivating the imagination of the college football world. This was a team, like the Rebels, waiting on its unhappy ending. All that was left to be determined was which team would give in to an exasperating season and which one would continue the fight.

"I wish I could pinpoint what was wrong. If I could, I would fix it," said Coach David Cutcliffe, looking like he's just seen a train wreck.

In retrospect, he probably had. A train wreck of a performance by his football team.

The game began with a bad omen of things to come. The Hogs had the ball on their own 22 facing a third-and-eight. Under pressure, QB Matt Jones, who seems to produce a lot of wizardry against the Rebels, threw up a prayer down the Rebel sideline. Hog receiver Chris Baker went over Rebel defender Charles Clark and made a brilliant catch to keep UA's opening drive going. From there, anyone paying attention knew the verdict - five plays later, touchdown Hogs on a short burst by FB Peyton Hollis.

7-0 with 12:22 left on the first-quarter clock was little concern for the Rebels, but what unfolded in the next 13-odd minutes all but sealed their fate.

After swapping punts, the Rebs moved into Arkansas territory and seemed to be in good shape facing a second-and-two, but three cracks up the gut fell short and turned the ball over on downs at the Arkansas 47.

"No matter what play is called there, that's just a total team failure when you can't get two yards in three tries," said senior OG Doug Buckles. "It was almost like we didn't know the down and distance and weren't aware of anything."

With good field position, the Hogs, and Jones, took off again. This time, a third-and-16 did the Rebs in. Jones lofted a pass toward the Hog sidelines, between double coverage to 6-6 freshman WR Marcus Monk, and presto, first-and-10 at the Rebel 35. TB DeCori Birmingham took it the final 11 yards and the score was still a manageable 14-0 with 1:42 to go in the first stanza.

Well, not for long.

On the first play of the second quarter, after the Rebel offense had sputtered again, Jones long-legged around right end on an option play, got CB Travis Johnson in a 2-on-1 with Jones and the pitch man, kept the ball and sailed 72 yards for the score. He circled around the end zone and slam-dunked the ball over the goalpost cross bar.

At 21-0, it was - for all intents and purposes - game, set, match - just one play into the second quarter.

"Our contain man followed the fake to the running back going the other way and when Jones came to the other side there was nobody there," said a very frustrated Defensive Coordinator Chuck Driesbach. "We worked on that for two weeks. It's a basic Arkansas play. We bit on the fake and he was off to the races."

Adding insult to injury, Arkansas put together another 51-yard drive on their next possession after the Rebs dropped a pass to keep their offensive effort going. The knife in the heart was a bootleg keeper by Jones on fourth-and-1 from the Reb 26 down to the Ole Miss 5. The last five yards met little resistance from the Rebs as the Hogs scored on two cracks up the middle. 28-0, 9:30 to go in the second quarter.

With 1:12 to go in the first half, the Rebs got the ball on their own 19 and marched down the field like they knew what they were doing. A 13-yard screen to TB Vashon Pearson converted a 3rd-and-12, then QB Ethan Flatt hit Kerry Johnson for 10 yards and Bill Flowers for 20 and 24 yards to the Hog 16 with :14 seconds to go. After an incomoplete pass left six ticks on the clock, the Rebs had to settle for a 33-yard field goal by PK Jonathan Nichols.

The Rebs' last official gasp came after they received the opening kickoff of the second half and drove with some authority to the Arkansas 36, but from there three incompletions and a one-yard completion foiled their efforts for a comeback.

Arkansas put the icing on the cake with a 65-yard drive capped by a 23-yard Jones to TE Jared Hicks TD pass with 7:19 to go in the third quarter.

At 35-3, the Hogs took their foot off the peddle and ate up clock, substituting liberally with the win, barring an earthquake, in hand.

The Rebs inserted QB Robert Lane, who provided some too-little-too-late excitement with a 50-yard run and later a 25-yarder to the Arkansas 16, but there would be no more scoring from the Rebs.

Postgame, the dumbfounded Rebs didn't have many lengthy explanations. Standard stuff - lack of execution, lack of intensity, lack of. . . .

With a winning season and chance for a bowl gone, all that's left is pride. With LSU waiting, we'll see how much of that the Rebels have left.

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