Arkansas beat Ole Miss, 53-52, in overtime Saturday in Oxford to give the Razorbacks a crucial win in their race towards bowl eligibility and to knock the Rebels out of their perch in control of their destiny in the SEC West division race.
Twice in overtime, Ole Miss thought they had the game won, but a miracle fourth-down conversion and a two-point conversion penalty extended the game for Arkansas, and the Razorbacks took advantage.
Ole Miss got the ball first in overtime and Chad Kelly scored his third rushing touchdown of the day to give Ole Miss the lead. During Arkansas' turn in overtime, the Razorbacks were forced into a fourth-and-25 after Marquis Haynes forced a fumble of Brandon Allen that the Razorbacks recovered. On the ensuing fourth down, Hunter Henry caught a pass from Allen, but was being brought down short of the first down before he tossed the ball backwards. Alex Collins picked it up and scrambled to the 11-yard line to pick up an improbable first down.
Two plays later, Allen completed a touchdown pass, his sixth of the day, to Drew Morgan to pull within an extra point of forcing a second overtime. But Bret Bielema presumably did not want a repeat of the four-overtime game against Auburn from two weeks ago, and went for two points and the win. Again, the Rebels thought they had the win secured when Marquis Haynes stopped Allen, but a facemask penalty gave the Razorbacks a lifeline. The second time, Allen punched in the two-point conversion to end the game, give Arkansas the road win and turn over control of the West to the winner of this evening's LSU-Alabama game.
Overtime was fitting for a game which was tied at the end of every quarter and was a back-and-forth affair, with nearly every score immediately matched on the ensuing drive by the opposing team. Arkansas had success with deep crossing and post routes targeting the Ole Miss safeties and spreading the Rebel defense with short passes in the flats to tight ends. Drew Morgan, Dominique Reed, Jared Cornelius and tight end Hunter Henry all had over 60 receiving yards, with Morgan pulling in three touchdowns and ringing up 122 yards.
Arkansas tied the game at 45 with under a minute left in the game via a Brandon Allen pass to Reed, but Ole Miss had all three timeouts remaining. After the Rebel drive ended on a fourth-down incompletion near midfield, Arkansas got in range to attempt a 47 yard field goal as time expired. But Tony Bridges elevated to block the Cole Hedlund attempt, which sent the game to overtime.
The most surprising factor of the game was the play of both quarterbacks. Both offensive lines allowed pressure, but Chad Kelly and Brandon Allen often stepped up away from the pressure to get the ball off for a pass attempt or run the ball with success. Kelly ran for 102 yards in regulation to lead the Rebels in rushing, to go along with three rushing touchdowns, while Allen tacked on a couple of nice runs capped by a 22-yard scramble.
Additionally, both quarterbacks eclipsed 350 yards passing, with Kelly hitting for 368 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions while Allen set career highs with 442 yards and the six touchdowns. Laquon Treadwell was Kelly's most prolific pass-catcher, as the Illinois native racked up 132 yards, his fifth straight game with at least 100 receiving yards a touchdown.
Ole Miss' running game continued its revival since the return of Laremy Tunsil, as the Rebels racked up 222 yards, with Jaylen Walton complementing Kelly with 76 yards of his own on 13 carries. Arkansas was led by 108 rushing yards for Alex Collins, but the Razorbacks' rushing game garnered 2.5 yards less per carry than the Rebels.
The Rebels now enter a bye week with pair of rivalry games to come at home against LSU and at Mississippi State. After ten weeks straight of games, the Rebels need the bye week, but given the nature of this loss and the Razorbacks taking away the Rebels' control of the West, what will their psyche with two weeks to prepare for the Bayou Bengals? Can Hugh Freeze circle the wagons and win a pair of games that the Rebels will likely be underdogs, or will the Rebels fold and end up 7-5 and battling the Razorbacks in the bowl pecking order?
For Arkansas, the second straight win over Rebels could serve to propel Bielema's squad to another strong close to the season. At 5-4 with games to come against LSU, Mississippi State and Missouri, the Razorbacks should beat Missouri to gain bowl eligibility. And neither the SEC's southernmost Tigers coming off the Alabama game nor the Bulldogs potentially looking ahead to an Egg Bowl match-up will be eager for a physical match-up against Arkansas.