If last week's shutout over LSU was a cathartic release, this shutout over Ole Miss was the affirmation.
In this offensively-oriented age of college football, this just doesn't happen. It was amazing to shut out LSU, but everyone knew they didn't have a great offense to begin with. They aren't built to have a high-powered offense. This Ole Miss team, though? They're in line with these hurry-up spread teams that have the ability to score and score quickly. Shutting them out is truly special, and indicative of how great this Razorback defense truly is.
For much of this season, people around the country have overlooked or dismissed the Hog defense's performances as more a result of the opposing offense having a bad day or not that great to begin with. No more. This defense is legitimately very, very good. Ole Miss had opportunities to score, but each time the Arkansas defense made a big play. LSU missed two field goals last week to help the Hogs get the shutout. The Rebels did not even attempt a field goal.
It should be noted that Ole Miss actually outgained Arkansas 316 yards to 311 yards. But the Razorbacks forced six turnovers and enjoyed a 27-yard average advantage in starting field position.
Despite taking a 17-0 lead into halftime, it was hard to feel confident because of Brandon Allen's hip injury that caused him to miss the entire second half. Arkansas' offense, already not exactly considered a strength of the team, was now even more handcuffed, and Adam McFain missed a field goal going into the half, so momentum wasn't really on Arkansas' side.
Sure enough, the Razorbacks came out of halftime and went three-and-out, and the Rebels started moving down the field a bit too easily - at least until they got to the Arkansas 38-yard line. Arkansas forced them into a fourth down, and Trey Flowers was able to break loose and sack Bo Wallace for a 14-yard loss, really one of the bigger offensive plays of the day for Arkansas.
The Razorbacks then started the ensuing drive at the Arkansas 45-yard line, and moved in for a field goal attempt, but McFain made it this time and Arkansas led 20-0
Then Ole Miss started driving again, and was moving down the field more easily than they had all night, but this time:
Rohan Gaines, who was suspended for the first half after a targeting penalty last week, found a way to - I guess you could say - make his presence felt in his limited time on the field this week. Unbelievable. What a moment.
It was a party from that point on.
The Arkansas Razorbacks lost 17 SEC games in a row over the course of 25 months. Now they've shut out two ranked teams in 8 days and are bowl eligible. That is absolutely incredible. You can't say enough about the coaching staff regarding how they kept the team together over the course of the losses the last two years. Any announced raise and extension - regardless of the amount - for Defensive Coordinator Robb Smith would be completely embraced by fans.
The Arkansas Razorbacks are bowl eligible. With a game to go. The Hogs go to Columbia on Friday with a chance to improve their bowl standing. If the Tigers beat Tennessee tonight, they'll be playing for the East division title. Not a bad way to kick off a big new corporate-sponsored rivalry.
But regardless, the Arkansas Razorbacks are bowl eligible. And that game against Missouri will not be the last game of the season. And that's cause for a major celebration.