High on the Hog

It took a little late-game suspense, but Ole Miss turned back the Razorbacks and gave Houston Nutt a happy return to Fayetteville with a 23-21 win.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - The week-long discussion surrounding Houston Nutt's expected ovation upon entrance to Reynolds Razorback Stadium was all for naught, as Nutt one-upped the Hog faithful by having Ole Miss run out simultaneously with the Razorbacks.

The confused fan base couldn't decide whether to boo Nutt or cheer for Arkansas.

Sixty game minutes and a countless number of chewed fingernails later, Nutt finally heard the vehement negativity from the 74,000-plus assembled. Only at that point, ovations and welcomes were secondary. The Rebels, Nutt's new team, were too busy celebrating to notice.

Ole Miss grabbed a two touchdown lead on the road and frantically held on late to defeat Arkansas 23-21 in front of the fifth largest Fayetteville crowd in Arkansas history.

The victory was emotional and sweet for the five former Hog coaches, but the Rebels' triumph was about much more. Eight games in, Ole Miss is 4-4 overall, 2-3 in the SEC and only two wins away from bowl eligibility.

Ole Miss had a 13-point fourth-quarter lead whittled to just two in the final seconds, but with Arkansas (3-5, 1-4) attempting to drive for the winning points, the Rebel defense responded, like it had most of the night, with a stop to allow Jevan Snead to take a knee and Nutt to walk off Frank Broyles Field a winner.

Nursing the 20-7 advantage a minute and a half in to the final period, Arkansas cut its deficit to six on a fourth-and-six at the eight-yard line when Casey Dick found Lucius Miller in the end zone at the 4:38 mark.

The Rebels engineered one final drive on the ensuing possession spearheaded by Snead hitting Mike Wallace down the right sideline on second down for 42 yards and a first down that put Ole Miss at the Razorback 27. Four rushes by Cordera Eason later, Josh Shene hit his third field goal of the night, a 28-yarder that extended the lead to nine with 1:45 left.

The Ole Miss fans in attendance began a deafening chant of "Houston Nutt", but the jubilation started early, as the Hogs weren't lying down.

Dick completed three long passes and put Arkansas in the end zone in under 40 seconds. An extra point cut the separation to two, and the Hogs lined up for an onsides kick. Alex Tejada got the big hop he was looking for, and Arkansas recovered the kick, although the referee made the call that the Razorback was out of bounds. After a short review, the call was reversed, and Arkansas was back in business.

The Razorbacks appeared to have the necessary yardage for a game-winning field goal, but on a long pass attempt, Arkansas was signaled for pass interference, resulting in the Hogs facing a second-and-31 from their own 32. Three straight passes fell incomplete, and the Rebels had escaped.

The offense established a rhythm during the second half, but it was the Ole Miss defense that provided the highlights. Peria Jerry and Marcus Tillman dominated the Arkansas front and constantly harassed Dick.

In what Nutt called the play of the game, Fon Ingram grabbed a tipped pass just before halftime and returned the interception 38 yards inside the Hog 10-yard line. Ingram was brought down with two seconds left in the half, and Shene knocked through a field goal to give Ole Miss a 13-7 lead at the break.

The Rebels opened the scoring with a Shene 39-yard field goal that completed a nine-play, 58-yard drive that covered nearly five minutes.

Then the two teams traded touchdowns, as Michael Smith scampered 13 yards on fourth down on the first drive of the second quarter, and the Rebels' Shay Hodge took back the lead on an eight-yard scoring strike from Snead 1:58 before the half.

The 13-point Ole Miss lead was achieved with just more than 13 minutes remaining in the fourth when Wallace got his first receiving score of the year on an 11-yard slant route.

That was the end of the scoring before Arkansas started the comeback.

Wallace finished the day with 120 yards on five catches, to help Snead complete 14-of-27 for 209 and touchdowns. The sophomore also threw one interception.

Eason topped the Rebel rushing attack, especially during the second half when Ole Miss put together its best run game of the season. The Meridian native gained 81 yards on 19 carries, the second best game of his career.

Dexter McCluster netted 52 yards on 11 attempts, and Wallace toted the ball twice for 17 yards. The wideout also put up 85 yards of kick return yards, generating 222 all-purpose yards.

Dick led Arkansas on 20-of-38 passing for 282 yards, two touchdowns and the one pick. Meanwhile, playing one week after a concussion and a shoulder injury, Smith rushed for 129 yards on 19 attempts.

Ole Miss returns home to face Auburn at 11:30 next Saturday.

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