OXFORD, Miss. — When Arkansas scored a touchdown Saturday on the last play of regulation to pull within a point Sam Pittman opted to go for two to try and win the game.
As we know now the play didn’t work. Even if it had the play wouldn’t have stood. Arkansas had an offensive lineman get called for ineligible receiver down field. It’s almost certain had Cam Little been asked to make the PAT the game would have gone into overtime.
But kicking the PAT there would have been the wrong decision. Arkansas’ defense was spent and Ole Miss was scoring with ease while the Hogs were also putting points on the board, but having to do it by driving mostly.
“It was a heck of a football game,” Pittman said. “Obviously we were a point short. I’m proud of the effort of the kids. Obviously we made way too many mistakes on defense, the ball got behind us several times. Not a very good defensive performance, obviously. I was proud of KJ Jefferson, the offense kept answering the call. Basically, the difference in the game was we put the ball on the ground once and missed a field goal, and they didn’t. Of course, obviously, we didn’t convert on the 2-point. But I’m proud of our kids. I liked the grit and the fight that they had offensively, coming back to score there at the end of the game. I told them on that last drive, if we score with little to no time left on the clock, we’re going to go for two and make it. I loved the play call. We had three options there on the play, and we just didn’t convert it.”
Despite the play not being successful Pittman rightfully so had no regrets for making the decision.
“Going down to that last one I told the offense that if we score with little time left on the clock we’re going to try to win the game,” Pittman repeated. “And while I wish the outcome was different I’d do it again.”
Jefferson, Treylon Burks, Rocket Sanders, Trey Knox, Warren Thompson, Trelon Smith and the rest of the Arkansas had a great game. Sanders, who had the fumble that Pittman referred to, had 17 carries for 139 yards which was his best game of his young career.
The Arkansas offense put up 39 first downs which is a single-game school record. Arkansas totaled 676 yards, its most in a game since producing 663 total yards against Mississippi State on Nov. 19, 2016. The 676
yards are the fourth-most in a game in school history.
Jefferson ran for three scores in a game for the first time in his career, and became the first Razorback quarterback to have two games with at least two rushing touchdowns in the same season since at least 1997. Jefferson also completed a career-high 25 passes on 35 attempts, throwing for 326 yards, one touchdown and one interception, his second 300+ yard passing game of the season. Jefferson became the third Arkansas QB to throw for 300 yards against Ole Miss in series history, and the first since Brandon Allen
in 2015 (442 yards).
The defense playing as it did is somewhat puzzling since they looked tired. But the Arkansas offense had the ball for 35 minutes, 35 seconds compared to 24:25 for the Rebels. Ole Miss had 611 yards of total offense with 324 of that coming on the ground. Also, Arkansas has much more depth than they had last year on defense.
The defense did have an outstanding series with 6:17 remaining in the third quarter. Lane Kiffin opted to go for a fourth-and-one on his own 34. Linebacker Grant Morgan and the defense stuff the play at the Hogs took over at the Ole Miss 33. At that point, the Rebels were up 24-21.
On first down, Jefferson passed 15 yards to Tyson Morris for a first down at the Ole Miss 18. Then Dominique Johnson ran for three on first down to the 15. At that point Jefferson made a pass he would have liked to have back. He had a streaking Thompson at the goal line, but Jefferson’s throw was high and incomplete. After another three-yard run by Johnson the Hogs settled for a Little field goal that tied the game at 24.
But then Ole Miss running back Snoop Conner scored on runs of 34- and 1-yards. The Rebels led 45-38 heading into the final 1:22 of the game when it got completely crazy and wild. Jefferson scored on a 10-yard run with 1:22 remaining to tie the game at 45. It took Ole Miss two plays and 15 seconds to regain the lead when Matt Corral hit Braylon Sanders for a 68-yard touchdown when the wide receiver got behind an Arkansas defensive back for a 52-45 lead.
But then Jefferson took the Hogs 75 yards in nine plays scoring on the final play of regulation. Pittman saw Jefferson’s pass with one second remaining and was pleased to see Thompson come down with the touchdown.
“”I thought he overthrew it, to be honest with you, when it was in the air,” Pittman said. “He went up and caught it. That was a great drive, to go down, we had 6 seconds on the clock and ended up with 1, but it was a really well-executed 2-minute drive by the offense, and I wish the results were different. But I think I’d do it 100% of the time in the situation that we were in. Ole Miss was just scoring, we were too, but they were scoring easily. We had to work for a little bit of ours, but theirs were coming in bunches and in a bunch of yards. So, I thought that’s what I wanted to do and we just didn’t convert it. I was very proud of KJ. He’s a competitive son of a gun. He ran the ball well, and threw it.”
Arkansas and Auburn will kickoff at 11 a.m. on Saturday in Reynolds Razorback Stadium with the game televised on CBS.