Well, Arkansas covered.
What will hurt about this game is that opportunities were there. There were a few times when Arkansas had momentum, but some
bone-headed awful what were they freaking thinking get it together come on man wtf highly questionable coaching decisions.
The most egregious came early in the third quarter. The Razorbacks appeared to be firing on all cylinders after catching an interception (!), scoring a touchdown a few plays later to cut Ole Miss's lead to three, and then forcing a three-and-out on the Rebels' next drive, and Javontee Herndon actually returned a punt 31 yards (!!!!!!!) to put Arkansas in great position to tie or take the lead.
But then, immediately after Alex Collins picked up a first down on an 11-yard run, the Hogs called another Jonathan Willams halfback pass. You've seen this play before. It worked at Rutgers. Arkansas ran it twice against Auburn last week, and it failed BOTH TIMES. So naturally, the coaches felt the need to pull it out on first down when the Hogs were having plenty of success running on Ole Miss on normal, non-gimmicky plays, and this time, Williams wasn't even able to get a pass off, and took a nine-yard loss.
Bielema on half back pass: I don't second guess calls. You make the call and you have to execute it— Bo Mattingly (@SportsTalkwBo) November 9, 2013
Facing a 2nd-and-19 after that was blown up, Arkansas netted 0 yards on the next two plays and that was that.
Bo Wallace found Ja-Mes Winston on the Rebels' next drive for a 75-yard touchdown, and the Rebels scored again on their next drive on a 52-yard pass to Donte Moncrief after Tevin Mitchell missed a tackle in the open field.
Bielema: we do tackling drills every day but obviously Tevin has struggled in that department. We are going to get some other guys in there— Bo Mattingly (@SportsTalkwBo) November 9, 2013
Equally confounding was a decision on the game's opening drive. After Brandon Allen completed a 25-yard pass to Julian Horton (!!!!!!!!!) to reach the Ole Miss 37-yard line, Arkansas was in a 3rd-and-5 situation when the coaches decided to run a designed quarterback draw with, wait for it, AJ Derby.
Derby, who has netted exactly four yards rushing in his previous appearances this season, who turned the ball over twice in the only two drives he appeared in last week, was entrusted with a third-down run on the game's opening drive. He lost two yards. Arkansas kicked a field goal.
Also, after Ole Miss scored late in the second quarter to take a 20-10 lead, Arkansas took over at its own 16 yard line with 45 seconds left, two timeouts, and a kicker who'd already made a 51-yard field goal in the game. The Hogs took a knee. Sure, the odds of scoring in that situation are long, but don't you at least owe it to yourself to take a shot? The number of great runs by Williams and Collins far outweighs the fumbles they've had this season, and Ole Miss got the ball first after halftime. Just take a chance. What does Arkansas have to lose at this point?
Alex Collins didn't get a carry until late in the first quarter, and only had 10 carries overall but ran for 57 total yards. Williams had 14 carries for 67 yards. Korliss Marshall, whom the coaches said was being moved to safety, had three carries for 42 yards.
Otherwise, it was Brandon Allen's best passing day since the season opener. He was 18-of-32 for 193 yards and two touchdowns. His one interception was bad - thrown into triple coverage, but the game felt out of hand by that point anyway.
Arkansas' receivers led the team in receiving, with Herndon, Horton, and Keon Hatcher catching 11 of Allen's 18 completions. And the defense actually caught two interceptions, which was cool.
Arkansas now has two personal foul penalties on touchback kickoffs this season, which I'd like to think is a record. A Dan Skipper holding penalty wiped out a big Collins run at the end of the first quarter, effectively ending another drive.
But ultimately, this game will be remembered by those play calls and blown opportunities. But hey, Michael Qualls would like to remind everybody it's basketball season.