Wild Rebels

On a football-perfect day in Oxford, Ole Miss played its best game of the 2009 season and won 30-17 against Arkansas.

The Rebels, led by all-everything player Dexter McCluster, moved out to a 14-0 first-quarter lead as they made sure to get the football into the senior's hands and let him work his magic.

McCluster ended the day with 123 yards rushing on 22 carries, along with 137 yards on seven receptions and a touchdown. He led the team in both statistics in this contest. It was his first 100-yard rushing and 1-yard receiving day of his college career.

"I knew I had to be patient and my time would come," McCluster said. "Today it came and it was a dream come true. I didn't know I had that many yards."

The Rebel defense was once again stellar, especially against the run. Arkansas had but 45 yards on 22 carries. In the second half, the rushing total for the Hogs was a minus 21 yards.

Ole Miss Jevan Snead, much maligned this season for not being quite up to last year's standards, was impressive in this one. The junior was 22-of-33 for 332 yards and two touchdowns.

"He's a bigtime player when he throws the ball to our guys," said Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt. "He's a winner and I'm so proud he's back on track."

Snead, who also had 17 yards rushing on four carries with a touchdown, credited the guys up front.

"I couldn't be prouder of my offensive line," he said. "They've been improving every single week."

Razorback QB Ryan Mallett was 12-of-34 for 254 yards and one touchdown.

Nutt said this game means a lot to his team in so many ways. The Rebels are now 5-2 overall and 2-2 in Southeastern Conference play.

"Confidence," he said, along with another win. "Now go back to a hostile environment. We'll think about this until 12 o'clock and then we'll think about Auburn."

The Rebels (5-2, 2-2 SEC) face the Tigers on the plains next Saturday at 11:21 a.m. Arkansas (3-4, 1-4) hosts Eastern Michigan.

Nutt said he wasn't pleased, however, the Rebels didn't put more touchdowns on the board. Ole Miss settled for three Josh Shene field goals against the Hogs.

I wish we'd have done better inside the 5-yard line," he said. "We're better than that."

Ole Miss, with 31 first downs, ended the game with 553 yards of offense, while Arkansas, which had but 13 first downs, had 299 yards.

Ole Miss took the opening kick and drove 72 yards for its first touchdown. The Rebels set the tone on the ground with McCluster and Brandon Bolden running the football.

Snead was the playmaker at that first drive's end, with a third and 10 run at the 17-yard line of 16 yards to the 1. Three plays later on third and goal from that point, the Rebel QB took it in untouchced around left end with nobody near him for the score. Shene was good, and the Rebs led 7-0 with 10:41 to go in the opening period.

Ole Miss added another touchdown before the end of the quarter, a Snead to Shay Hodge pass of 25 yards. The drive covered 80 yards in eight plays, with McCluster rushing it on six of the eight snaps. Shene connected for a 14-0 UM lead with 59 seconds to go in the first.

The Rebels had a couple of chances to put the Razorbacks in a huge hole but couldn't. Ole Miss drove deep into Hog territory, but Cordera Eason fumbled at the 26 and Raymond Broadway recovered for Arkansas. The drive stalled and the Rebs got the ball back.

Ole Miss then got another opportunity for a touchdown when the Rebels converted a 39-yard double reverse pass to the 4-yard line. McCluster took the snap, handed to Lionel Breaux, who gave it back to Snead who then threw to an open Markeith Summers, and Summers galloped to the 4 before being tackled.

But instead of a touchdown, the Rebels weren't successful on a couple of trick plays with the Wild Rebel that gained nothing. Snead wasn't able to connect with Shay Hodge on third down, and Shene was good from 22 yards with 4:12 left before halftime.

Arkansas came right back to score, a quick 7-play drive of 80 yards with Knile Davis taking it in from the 3. Alex Tejada convered the extra point, and the Rebel lead was only 17-7 with 2:15 to go before halftime.

Ole Miss had a chance to score before the end of the first half starting at its own 23. McCluster got it to midfield on the first couple of carries, but the Rebels weren't able to manage the clock for points, even with one timeout left. It cost them an opportunity for points. Snead was intercepted by Jerico Nelson on a heave toward the end zone, and Nelson returned it to his own 45 to end the Rebel threat.

Ole Miss dominated the stats in the first half, 298 total yards to 186 for the Hogs. Ole Miss had 18 first downs to Arkansas' 9.

On the ground Ole Miss had 175 yards and the Rebel defense had limited the Razorbacks to 66 yards rushing.

Mallett was but 6-of-18 through the air for 120 yards. Snead was 11-of-17 and except the interception at the end of the half had put together one of his best halves of the season.

Snead was picked off again on the Rebels' first drive of the third quarter, and the Hogs got points out of it. The Rebel defense stood tall as the Hogs got to the Rebel 23. A stop of Mallett by Johnny Brown, Allen Walker and their teammates forced a 42-yard field goal by Tejada to make it 17-10 with 9:40 to go in the third.

A couple of possessions later, Ole Miss got a touchdown on a 64-yard Snead to McCluster pass out of the backfield as the Rebel senior playmaker made a couple of nifty moves and simply outraced any and all defenders to the end zone. Shene was good and the Rebs were up 24-10 with 6:28 to go in the third.

"I caught the ball and saw nothing but green," McCluster said. "I got some key blocks and took it all the way."

Arkansas came right back and got a touchdown on a deep pass from Mallett to Carlton Salters, who took a tipped ball inside the Rebel 10 and raced into the end zone for a score. Tejada was true and it was 24-17 only 55 seconds after the Rebels had scored.

There was still nearly a quarter and a half left, but the Rebel defense would simply not break. Ole Miss added a couple of field goals by Shene late (39 and 19 yards, both in the fourth quarter), and let its defenders continue to dominate as they had most of the game.


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