Arkansas whack Ole Miss
No. 15 Arkansas can scratch one goal off its list. After missing the postseason the last two years, the Razorbacks are bowl eligible again.
They’re also the only team with a perfect Southeastern Conference record, so they hope this is just the beginning.
“Nothing like being bowl eligible, but we’ve got more things to accomplish,” coach Houston Nutt said. “We’re in the driver’s seat in the SEC. We’re the only team undefeated, so let’s try to win the conference.”
Felix Jones returned the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, and Arkansas defeated Mississippi 38-3 Saturday. The Razorbacks led 14-0 after the first 5:17 and were never seriously threatened.
Arkansas (6-1, 4-0 SEC) lost its opener this year 50-14 to Southern California, but has bounced back well.
Jones was second in the nation with a 31.9-yard average on kickoff returns last year, but hadn’t shown the same explosiveness on special teams this season.
“We’ve been saying for the last three weeks we were a block away,” Nutt said.
Jones caught the opening kickoff against Mississippi (2-6, 1-4) and started upfield patiently, waiting for an opening. He then broke up the middle and untouched down the left side.
“I’ve got to let them set up and let them get into their blocks before I even can think about doing anything,” Jones said. “Otherwise, I’m going to be by myself, and that’s what I didn’t want. I have to be patient and wait for the hole.”
It was the second straight week Arkansas had started the game with a quick touchdown. Darren McFadden scored on a long run on the Razorbacks’ first offensive play in a 63-7 win over Southeast Missouri State.
Arkansas also scored on its first offensive possession against Mississippi to lead 14-0. With the ball at the Rebel 4, McFadden lined up in a shotgun position while quarterback Mitch Mustain was out at wide receiver. McFadden took the snap and ran up the middle for a touchdown.
The Razorbacks ran a variation of that play several times — including earlier that drive when McFadden took the snap and handed off to Jones.
“This was a little wrinkle that we put in,” Nutt said. “Just kind of kept them off balance. I thought we made a couple good first downs and a touchdown with it.”
Peyton Hillis scored on a 1-yard run in the second quarter, and Arkansas led 21-3 at halftime.
McFadden, who entered as the SEC’s leading rusher, was held to 65 yards rushing. He did score on a 70-yard reception late in the third quarter when he took a screen pass and raced past a few defenders down the left sideline.
That play was reviewed and upheld by the officials, then a scoreboard replay appeared to show McFadden’s foot stepping on the sideline. Even though the play already had been upheld, the Arkansas fans let out a startled “Ohhhhh” when the play was shown. It was unclear whether the officials had access to that specific replay when they were reviewing the play.
Arkansas hasn’t allowed 20 points in regulation since the loss to USC.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran for 79 yards and Brent Schaeffer was 11-of-30 for 118 yards for Ole Miss. The Rebels lost at Alabama 26-23 in overtime last weekend, but coach Ed Orgeron said they weren’t as ready to play against Arkansas.
“There is no way we had the same mental attitude we had against Alabama,” he said. “This is the SEC and you have to be mentally prepared for every team.”
Mustain, now 6-0 as a starter for Arkansas, had an efficient game throwing mostly short passes. The freshman went 12-of-15 for 157 yards.
“We did a good job executing,” Mustain said. “I think that’s what it came down to. Execution by everybody — really made me look good out there.”
Casey Dick replaced Mustain in the fourth quarter and promptly threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to London Crawford.