Hitting the road for the first time in the 2019 season, Arkansas traveled to Oxford and Vaught-Hemingway Stadium to face the Ole Miss Rebels.
Beating FCS Portland State, 20-13, in their season-opener, a win would have allowed Arkansas to already match their 2018 win total. Instead, it was not to be.
Redshirt freshman Matt Corral threw touchdown passes, and senior Scottie Phillips ran for 143 yards and two scores.
Corral found sophomore Elijah Moore for his first of two touchdown receptions with 8:41 left in the first quarter to get the scoring started. Senior Connor Limpert got the Razorbacks on the board with a 36-yard field goal midway through the second quarter. With less than three minutes remaining in the half, redshirt junior Luke Logan added a 33-yard field goal to extend Ole Miss’ lead to 10-3.
Completing 7-16 passes for just 98 yards, Arkansas quarterback Ben Hicks struggled in the first half. Looking to inject some life in the offense, head coach Chad Morris made the decision to go with Texas A&M graduate transfer Nick Starkel in the second half.
The decision paid off as Starkel completed 17-24 passes for 201 yards and a score.
Following a 69-yard fumble return for a touchdown by junior defensive back Kam Curl, Arkansas had cut the lead to 17-10 with 13:31 to play.
However, Corral engineered a six-play, 59-yard touchdown drive that resulted in him finding Moore for the second time to extend the lead to 24-10. Phillips’ 26-yard touchdown run with 6:03 left was the knockout punch.
Junior Rakeem Boyd led the Razorbacks’ ground attack with 67 yards on 17 carries. Freshman Trey Knox was the team’s leading receiver, catching six passes for 88 yards.
“Got a group of young men and coaches that are deeply invested in this program and there’s a lot of disappointment,” Morris said.
“Our first loss last year wound up beating us twice.
“And as I shared with our team in there, it’s about responding. That’s what we’ll do.”
Naturally, Morris was asked about the quarterback situation.
“This isn’t the time or place right now to address it. We’ll get back and evaluate like we always do. I thought that we needed a spark to start the second half.
“I thought he (Starkel) threw the ball well. Had a couple of mistakes. We had a trick called and it was to the right and he threw it to the left. Again, those things happen at times. I thought he threw the ball well.”
Regardless of who gets the nod at quarterback, Arkansas will have revenge on their mind on September 14. Hosting the Colorado State Rams in the return game of a home-and-home, CSU upset the Razorbacks in 2018, 34-27.
Saturday’s meeting was the 66th all-time between Arkansas and Ole Miss. Using Arkansas’ records, the Razorbacks still hold a 36-29-1 edge in the series, but have now lost two straight.
The Razorbacks last beat the Rebels on October 28, 2017 in Oxford when they were coached by Bret Bielema.