Ole Miss head football coach Lane Kiffin did not try to hide his disappointment after a tough 30-24 home loss to Alabama on Saturday night.
But he knows that his Rebels (8-2, 4-2) must come to Fayetteville ready to play this Saturday night’s 6:30 p.m. game with Arkansas (5-5, 2-4) or his team will be looking at at losing three of its last four games.
“We had a chance to finish the (Alabama) game and didn’t do it so it is what it is and we have got to move on,” Kiffin said. “Arkansas is a really talented team that played, really in a lot ways outplayed LSU Saturday and really had a bunch of chances with back up quarterbacks to beat LSU. So that tells you a lot about how good they play at times.”
The Razorbacks are coming into Saturday night’s 6:30 p.m. game off of the 13-10 home loss to LSU, who clinched a share of the SEC Western Championship and a berth against No. 1 Georgia in the league title game with that win.
The Ole Miss loss later on Saturday clinched that berth for the LSU.
“Well, it is my job to lead,” Kiffin said. “Like I said to you guys, I went through stuff Saturday night and Sunday morning and you have to fight that. As a coach during that 24 hours (after) that there was not an hour or 15 minutes of some thought of ‘if I do something there or give it to a different player, call a different play, manage a situation different – that is just how I am wired.
“So I just have to teach them that you have to get to a point where you have to realize that we are not going to win the game. You can’t go backwards. Hopefully they will follow my lead.”
Kiffin, whose dad Monte was an assistant coach and defensive coordinator at Arkansas under Frank Broyles from 1977-79, lived in Fayetteville from ages 2-5.
He is wary of playing at Reynolds Razorback Stadium, the Razorbacks home, which is over twice the size it was when his dad was coaching at Arkansas.
“It is a difficult place to play at night and with the weather so have got to get back on track and have a really good week and prepare really well,” Kiffin said.
Kiffin is not worried about his team playing in likely cold weather, but admits it does bother him.
“I think our players are good,” Kiffin said. “I’m the issue. I’ve tried everything. I was freezing during that game (Saturday). I even went and stood on the little bit of sun that was on that end during the game, just trying anything.
“ I have cold weather issues, but luckily I don’t think our players do, because I didn’t see that at all out there. And you do see some teams, especially receivers, shut down in that weather. I didn’t see any of that.”
The two teams have played a couple of wildly different contests since Kiffin and Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman were both hired in December, 2019.
The Razorbacks downed the Rebels 33-21 in Fayetteville in large part to intercepting Matt Corral six times, three by Arkansas defensive back Hudson Clark.
The Rebels then grabbed a 52-51 win last season in Oxford when the Razorbacks’ two-point conversion and bid to win the game failed.
“It is a reminder to me that every game that is played is independent of a different game,” Kiffin said. “The year before had been low- scoring and we really struggled against that defense. I would not have predicted that high-scoring game with over 100 points between the two.
“So every game is different, every game is different and that is just a really good reminder. You can go into a game and look at LSU and Arkansas and most people would have said that is probably going to be lopsided based on top of what had happened the week before with Liberty versus Alabama outcomes.
“It just shows you that every game is different and every week is different.”
Arkansas started the season 3-0, but has lost 5 of its last seven games while Ole Miss began the year 7-0 before losses at LSU (45-20) and to visiting Alabama (30-24) sandwiched around a road win at Texas A&M (31-28).
“I think how hard they play, especially answering the call after the Liberty game and coming back with LSU with an early kick,” Kiffin said of what he mosts likes about Arkansas. “To play as hard as they did for four quarters with whatever – seven sacks – and played really well upfront (defensively), says a lot.”
Kiffin is planning on Arkansas having starting quarterback KJ Jefferson back against Ole Miss after he was limited physically in the loss to Liberty and missed the LSU game.
“It sounds like KJ will be back just from what they’ve said,” Kiffin said. “I feel like Sam doesn’t play a lot of games in the media. He just kind of says what it is with injuries and stuff. I think he’s been pretty open, and they expect him back.”
Kiffin does not know yet if TCU transfer tailback Zach Evans (6-0, 215) will play after suffering a concussion. He has teamed with true freshman Quinson Judkins (5-11, 210) to form a tough 1-2 punch.
Judkins has rushed for 1,171 yards and an Ole Miss single-season record 15 touchdowns while Evans has rushed for 692 yards and 7 more scores.
“We just walked through today, so I don’t have anymore information on that,” Kiffin said. “That has been an issue statistically scoring-wise when he goes out and not kind of having that 1-2 punch. So, it is what it is.”
Ole Miss is averaging 259.8 yards rushing and 225.9 passing per game this season with USC transfer Jackson Dart (6-2, 220) at quarterback.
Dart has passed for 2,121 yards and 15 touchdowns and rushed for 503 yards.
Tight end Michael Trigg (17 catches, 156 yards, 3 TDs) dressed against Alabama, but did not play.
“He came back and practiced last week, Kiffin said. “I don’t think he was fully prepared to play in the game from all that time off and coming back. So, he may be this week.”