By Drake Priddy
Arkansas falls to the Ole Miss Rebels 27-20 for their fourth straight loss.
Just like in recent weeks, the Arkansas defense kept the offense in the hunt for most of the game. It has become too often that the Razorback defense is creating opportunities that the offensive unit cannot capitalize on.
Last week, Ole Miss put up 706 yards of total offense and 55 points on a respectable LSU defense. On Saturday night, Arkansas held the Rebels to 349 yards and 27 points. The Razorbacks might have come up a touchdown short, but the defense gave it their all today.
To start the game, Arkansas forced the Rebels to go three and out, which set up an Arkansas touchdown. The defense would then go on to stop Ole Miss at the Arkansas nine-yard line but resulted in a Rebel field goal.
Unfortunately, the offense would throw an interception on their next drive that would set up a Rebel Touchdown from the Arkansas three-yard line. The Razorback offense would then be forced to punt on their next four possessions, three of which being three and outs, and one that went eight plays for 37-yards. Arkansas would not score again until the start of the second half.
Redshirt Junior linebacker, Jaheim Thomas, and Junior nickel, Jayden Johnson, both are finding it tough for the offense when they are not capitalizing on defensive stops.
“It gets tough, but at the end of the day we’ve got to keep encouraging our offense,” said Thomas. “Keep encouraging them, telling them to keep high hopes for the team, keeping high hopes for the defense, for the offense. So just going out there and still making the plays.”
“Everybody’s got to fly their plane,” said Johnson. “We can’t do everybody’s job. We can only do our job. What the offense has going on, we can’t let that affect us on the field.”
The Arkansas offense had trouble scoring the rest of the first half, but it was not because of a lack of effort on the defensive side. The Hog Defensive held Ole Miss to 191 yards of total offense through the first half and kept them off the board on four of their seven possessions. Thomas credits his coaches’ gameplan for their success today.
“Just buying into the game plan that our coaches set for us every week,” said Thomas. “Just knowing that we’ve just got to make a play and being able to make that play when the opportunity comes and just stuff the run.”
The Arkansas defense also saw an early exit from the redshirt sophomore Chris “Pooh” Paul Jr. due to injury before the half. The defense would see Freshman Brad Spence and redshirt senior Antonio Grier Jr. fill in his place for the rest of the game. The raw defensive unit lives on the next man up mentality, Thomas and Johnson go in depth about that mentality.
“When your number gets called, just no setbacks,” said Thomas. “Just go out there and just play, and have no letdowns, just play.”
“I would just say it is a next-man-up mentality,” said Johnson. “We all know that it can go either way. When they come in, we just talk to them. We like, ‘You’ve been playing football, it’s just next man up. Take advantage of what you got in front of you.’”
To start the second half, Arkansas would finally put more points on the board via a field goal. The defense would then turn around and force Ole Miss to turn the ball over on downs that would result in another Arkansas field goal.
The Razorback defense would then force the Rebels to punt on their next possession resulting in a Razorback touchdown to put the Hogs up 20-17. Ole Miss would then grind 75 yards on 12 plays to score and retake the lead 24-20.
The Arkansas offense would then be forced to punt yet again. Ole Miss would then march down the field to the Arkansas four-yard line where the Arkansas defense made their stand forced the Rebel field goal to put them up 27-20. The Razorback’s fate would be sealed with a Rebel interception with 1:42 left in the fourth.
The Ole Miss offense sped up their tempo on their last drive that was the final blow
to the Razorback’s chances. Thomas and Johnson, both credit the Rebel’s fast paced offense for their success today and their last drive.
“They sped up the tempo, and then a lot of things just came down to us,” said Johnson. “We were beating ourselves. I had a couple missed tackles that drive that led them to score. Just got to work on that and get better.”
“Just like he said, tempo,” said Thomas. “When a team tempos, you just got to hurry up, get the call, and get ready and get aligned. Just like he said, missed tackles, those are things we’ve got to buy in on this week so we can go out there and play our best football.”
The Arkansas defense yet again held their own against another formidable offense this week and will get another chance, as they head to Tuscaloosa next week to face the Alabama Crimson Tide. But with no surprise the Arkansas defense is ready for the challenge they face and are not afraid of another tough hard fought game.
“I don’t think it’s tough, we just got to keep doing what we doing and keep fighting,” said Johnson. “Find the little details that’s holding us back and attack those the right way and I feel like we’ll be in good hands.”
“Like he said, you know, just another opportunity to showcase our talent,” said Thomas. “Another opportunity to showcase the world, shock the world. Go out there and beat those guys.”
Arkansas travels to Alabama next Saturday and will play at 11:00 am on the SEC Network.