After nearly four years without winning a Southeastern Conference game at home, the Arkansas Razorbacks (2-2) took down the Ole Miss Rebels (1-3), 33-21 Saturday afternoon.
The Rebels managed to cut the Arkansas lead to five points in the fourth quarter, but a pick-six by redshirt senior linebacker Grant Morgan put a nail in the coffin of Ole Miss and gave the Hogs a 33-21 lead with 3:07 remaining in the game.
Despite a week full of anticipating an offensive shootout, defense was the story of the game. The Razorbacks recorded seven turnovers, including two pick-sixes and three interceptions from walk-on cornerback Hudson Clark. Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral was the victim of all seven giveaways as he threw six interceptions and lost a fumble. The Rebels also turned the ball over on downs four times, with three coming in the red zone.
“Hudson Clark getting three interceptions, that’s incredible,” Razorback head coach Sam Pittman said. “[Fans] have heard of him now. Three times at least.”
The return of sophomore wide receiver Treylon Burks made a difference for the Hogs offensively. He racked up 11 receptions for 137 yards and an amazing toe-tapping, one-handed 7-yard touchdown grab in the fourth quarter to give Arkansas a 26-14 lead. Graduate transfer quarterback Feleipe Franks completed 21 of 34 passes for 244 yards and a touchdown along with an interception.
In the absence of junior linebacker Bumper Pool, who was tied for the SEC lead with 36 tackles, Morgan flew across the field, recording 19 tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack and the pick-six.
Redshirt freshman Jalen Catalon recorded nine tackles along with a pick-six and Greg Brooks Jr. had seven tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and an interception as well.
“Those [coaches] on defense, they get their team ready to play,” Pittman said. “They picked off six passes, they were in position to play well and Barry Odom is the real deal. I’m happy he’s a great friend of mine and I’m very happy he’s on the staff.”
After a three-and-out on its first drive of the game, Arkansas looked like it would start the game off slowly for the fourth week in a row. On the ensuing Ole Miss drive, the Razorback defense recovered a fumble on its own 5-yard line. Franks and company then drove 95 yards in 11 plays to cap off the drive with a touchdown from running back Rakeem Boyd, the first rushing touchdown of the year for the Hogs.
Time after time, the Arkansas defense held strong in the first half. On the Rebels’ first drive of the second quarter, Clark picked off Corral, setting up an Arkansas drive that resulted in a 23-yard field goal from A.J. Reed to give the Hogs a 10-0 lead.
Just 10 seconds after the field goal, Catalon came screaming down the middle to intercept Corral’s pass and returned it 35 yards untouched to extend the Arkansas lead to 17-0.
The offensive struggles continued throughout the second quarter for Ole Miss. The Rebels recorded just 61 total yards and converted just one first down in the quarter.
With 1:41 remaining in the half, Reed nailed a 32-yard field goal to give the Razorbacks a 20-0 lead going into halftime. Arkansas held the country's No. 2 total offense, which was averaging 16.3 first-half points entering the game, to zero points through two quarters.
The big story of the first half was the return of Burks, who caught five passes for 78 yards, including a 56-yarder in the first quarter. Burks also led the Hogs with 30 rushing yards on two carries in the half.
“We need to get him the ball as much as we can,” Pittman said. “We didn’t know if he was going to be able to play, and he probably played about 80 percent...He was healthy enough to play, but he wasn’t his regular self. I anticipate his touches going up.”
Arkansas’ defense was anchored by Morgan’s 11 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack. The potent Rebel rushing attack was held to 2.2 yards per carry in the first half and Corral was 10-17 through the air for 102 yards and two interceptions.
Through four weeks, the Razorbacks have proved that they are a top-tier defense in the conference.
“We talked about it throughout the week that we wanted to be able to set the standard on what other teams did against these [SEC] offenses,” Morgan said.
The Hogs have a bye week next week, but will return to action against the No.11 Texas A&M Aggies at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 31 in College Station, Texas. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.