OXFORD, Miss. (Ole Miss Athletics) – A balanced offensive attack and the revamped Ole Miss defense took center stage against Arkansas, powering the Rebels to a 31-17 victory in the 2019 SEC opener at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday.
The Rebels (1-1, 1-0 SEC) stymied the Razorbacks to 361 yards of total offense, the fewest allowed by Ole Miss since stifling UT Martin to 334 yards on Sept. 9, 2017. Ole Miss had a superb day on offense as well, tallying 483 yards (246 passing, 237 rushing) behind big days from redshirt freshman quarterback Matt Corral (16-of-24, 246 yards, 2 TD) and senior running back Scottie Phillips (26 carries, 143 yards, 2 TD).
The Landshark defense racked up 10.0 tackles for loss and three sacks, led by Jacquez Jones’ nine tackles and 1.5 TFL. Ole Miss showed up defensively when it counted, shutting down the Razorback offense to a 5-of-15 clip on third downs.
Ole Miss covered 85 yards on 13 plays to open the scoring on its second drive of the game, with Corral finding a streaking Moore down the sideline for a 21-yard reception on the first play of the drive. The freshman quarterback then used his legs for an 11-yard rush to get the ball to the one-yard line after the Rebels marched down the field. After falling back a yard, Corral found Moore for his first touchdown catch of the season from two yards out.
A Sam Williams (two tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1.0 sack) sack ended the first quarter with Ole Miss out front, 7-0. The Razorbacks could muster only three first downs and 46 yards of offense in the opening frame.
Ryder Anderson (four tackles, 1.0 TFL, 0.5 sack) and Jacquez Jones teamed up for an eight-yard sack in the second, but Arkansas used Mike Woods’ 30-yard reception to move the ball to the Rebel 21-yard line. The Rebel defense held strong as Arkansas kicker Connor Limpert gave the Razorbacks their first points with a 36-yard field goal that smacked the upright but still fell through.
The Rebels got the ball back with 5:30 left in the half after an Arkansas three-and-out. The third play of the drive was an electric 23-yard rush by a spinning-and-cutting Corral, who ran for 46 yards total on the evening. Luke Logan extended the Ole Miss lead to 10-3 just before the end of the half with a 33-yard field goal.
The Razorbacks, though, would have another shot before the break. Arkansas converted a 49-yard play after quarterback Ben Hicks alluded Ole Miss tacklers and Trey Knox caught a tipped ball. The Razorbacks failed to convert, however, when Limpert pushed a 43-yard kick attempt wide right.
A fortunate break came during the second half when Arkansas was called for an ineligible player downfield, nullifying what would have been a 52-yard touchdown. The Razorbacks would edge their way to the Rebel 30-yard line and go for it on fourth down, but Austrian Robinson (three tackles) came up with a huge stop to force a turnover on downs.
A nimble 18-yard gain by Octavious Cooley (two catches, 28 yards) pushed the ball across midfield on the following possession. Phillips would then use a 21-yard burst to reach the one-yard line. He’d punch the ball in on the very next play for a one-yard touchdown, extending the Rebel lead to 17-3.
The swarming Landshark defense forced a turnover on an Arkansas rush attempt on the next drive, with freshman Luke Knox recovering for Ole Miss. The Razorbacks stole the momentum right back, though, with a strip and a 73-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown on the next Rebel drive by Kamren Curl, cutting the Rebel lead to 17-10 with 13:31 left to play.
The Rebels regained a 14-point cushion when Moore caught the ball in space and juked out three defenders for a 46-yard score, giving the Rebels a 24-10 edge.
After yet another excellent effort on the defensive end from Lakia Henry (three tackles, 1.0 TFL) and Charles Wiley (four tackles, 1.0 sacks), Ole Miss freshman running back Snoop Conner (eight carries, 42 yards) broke through the middle for a 25-yard rush to set Ole Miss up with the ball back. Phillips then scored two plays later on a 25-yard run, carrying two defenders with him into the end zone to give Ole Miss a convincing 31-10 advantage.
Arkansas put together a quick seven-play, 81-yard touchdown drive behind quarterback Nick Starkel (17-of-24, 201 yards, 1 TD) with 1:21 left to play, but it was too little, too late as an onside kick attempt went out of bounds to ice the game.
Ole Miss hosts Southeastern Louisiana next Saturday, Sept. 14. The game will be televised on SEC Network Alternate beginning at 3 p.m. CT.