Ole Miss rolls to 4-0 in SEC
By By Will Bardwell/staff writer
October 26, 2003
OXFORD Ole Miss fought through tackles, blocks and the elements on Saturday as the Rebels won their fourth straight Southeastern Conference game with a 19-7 victory over No. 20 Arkansas.
Now 6-2 overall and 4-0 in SEC play for the first time since 1970, Ole Miss pushed and shoved its way through the rain and past the Razorbacks, whom Rebels head coach David Cutcliffe called the toughest team his squad has faced.
Unable to bully the Rebels, Arkansas seemed to live and die by mistakes throughout the night. On their second possession of the game, the Razorbacks benefited from two Ole Miss infractions, making their way to the Rebels' 26-yard line.
But two busted plays by quarterback Matt Jones, including a sack by Ole Miss defensive end Jayme Mitchell for a loss of 15 yards, pushed Arkansas well out of field-goal range. Facing fourth down and 33, the Razorbacks were forced to punt.
The Razorbacks may have been shut out if not for an untimely Ole Miss turnover. Early in the second quarter, not long after rain began to fall, Manning was hit from behind by Arkansas cornerback Marvin Jackson as he prepared to throw. Jimarr Gallon recovered the fumble for the Hogs at Ole Miss' 12, and five plays later, Arkansas fullback Mark Pierce dove in from one yard out to tie the game at seven.
But when the Rebels needed to win the strength battle, they were able to do so. Facing fourth down and inches late in the second quarter, Tremaine Turner took a handoff 11 yards on a halfback draw to Arkansas' 23-yard line to keep the Rebels' drive alive.
Later in the drive, Ole Miss faced fourth down inside the Razorbacks' 10. Johnathan Nichols missed a 23-yard field goal, but Arkansas was flagged for an illegal substitution before the snap, giving the Rebels another chance. After a second penalty delay of game against the defense Nichols hit a 20-yard chip shot to give Ole Miss a 10-7 lead less than a minute before the half.
After an up-and-down first half that saw Manning complete 8-of-17 passes for just 70 yards, the veteran quarterback connected on 9-of-15 passes in the second half. Manning had 49 yards on 7-of-10 passing in the third quarter, and although the Rebels never reached the end zone in the second half, Arkansas never enjoyed good field position to begin its drives.
While Ole Miss' senior quarterback never looked truly comfortable, his Arkansas counterpart looked far less cozy. Jones, who has befuddled the Rebels' defense throughout his career, was held to a mere 18 rushing yards and completed just 12-of-29 passes.
Even when the Razorbacks seemed to near success on offense, their own mistakes cost them. Penalties hampered Arkansas all night, but the costliest error may have come from Jones.
Facing second and long deep in Arkansas territory, Jones was chased deep into his own end zone but escaped a tackle. He streaked upfield and reached the first down marker, but lost his grip on the ball in a swarm of Rebel defenders.
Ole Miss recovered, and soon thereafter, stretched its lead to 19-7 on a 25-yard Nichols field goal.
The Razorbacks' final hopes for a comeback were dashed with 2:23 remaining in the game when Travis Johnson made a leaping interception of a Jones pass in the end zone.