BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
Ole Miss head football coach Lane Kiffin was well aware that his team might not be as sharp against visiting Arkansas on Saturday night as it was in an electrifying 55-49 home win over LSU the previous weekend.
But the No. 16 Rebels (5-1, 2-1) had enough to rally from behind in the fourth quarter and down the Razorbacks 27-20 at Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium.
“Anytime you have an emotional game like we did last week, it is a big challenge for players to get up again and win,” Kiffin said. “We have actually struggled with that at times here.
“That (Arkansas) is a very tough team, a very physical team that was down to the last play in Baton Rouge against LSU. So we knew they were going to come play hard. They got after us last year.”
Ole Miss avenged a 42-27 loss to Arkansas (2-4, 0-3) in Fayetteville last season with its much maligned defense – which gave up 623 yards total offense to LSU – limiting the Razorbacks to 286 yards on Saturday night.
It came on a night when the Rebels offense had 389 yards total offense and was 0-of-9 to start the game on third down conversions.
“I am really proud of our defense,” Kiffin said. “Even though that is not the way we draw it up on offense, the defense over and over put us in position to win the game. The turnovers were huge because we are going to need that.”
Arkansas, which plays at Alabama next Saturday at 11 a.m., lost its fourth straight game.
“If you win the turnover margin 2-0 and have 196 yards rushing to their 36, you are going to win a lot of games,” Kiffin said.
Arkanas quarterback KJ Jefferson was 25 of 39 passing for 250 yards with two touchdown tosses to redshirt freshman tight end Ty Washington (8 catches, 90 yards, 2 TDs) and a pair of interceptions while being sacked five times.
One of those interceptions came in the second quarter and was turned to the Arkansas 4 by Ashanti Cistrunck and it used to scored a touchdown, while the other one came on Arkansas’ last possession.
The Razorbacks were limited to just 36 yards rushing, which includes the sack yardage.
Rocket Sanders, who rushed for 24 times for 232 yards and three touchdowns against the Rebels last season, was limited to 15 yards on 8 carries this season.
“When you win like that, it’s great to see, but our defense took a lot of heat all week for the way they played a week ago, giving up a lot of yards and points and (getting) no turnovers,” Kiffin said. “To come back like this, sack KJ five times and two interceptions is huge…And we limited Rocket Sanders to 1.9 yards per rush.”
Arkansas rallied from a 17-7 halftime deficit to take a 20-17 lead as Cam Little hit field goals of 56 and 26 yards in the third quarter and Jefferson connected with Washington on a 17-yard scoring toss early in the fourth quarter.
Ole Miss regained the lead 24-20 on Ulysses Bentley IV’s 6-yard scoring run at the 7:49 mark and added a Caden Davis’ 22-yard field goal with 2:43 remaining.
Ole Miss, who has a bye next week before traveling to face Auburn, is 18-2 in its last 20 home games.
“Our crowd was really good again today,” Kiffin said. “The crowd was better than our offense. We won a game in the fourth quarter again. Back to back weeks we were down the fourth quarter and came back and won.”
Photo by Craven Whitlow