Ole Miss football hosted Arkansas in the 2019 home opener on Saturday night, looking to bounce back from a road loss to Memphis that began the year with a sour taste.
Out of the gates, it was a tug-of-war. A choppy, uneasy tug-of-war.
The Rebels, wearing the most beautiful uniforms in college football, forced a three-and-out on the first Arkansas drive. With the defense and Vaught-Hemingway Stadium fired up, the proceeding punt brought an unwelcome jolt.
After the punt, inside linebacker Mohamed Sanogo, the SEC’s 5th-leading tackler in 2018, stayed down on the turf. He would be carted off of the field with an ankle injury, and Ole Miss lost a key component to a defense that played well in week one.
It will be interesting to hear the answer for why Sanogo was on the field in punt coverage in the first place.
Even in his absence, the Rebel defense stepped up and held Arkansas to 137 total yards in the first half. Razorback running back, and former ‘Last Chance U’ star Rakeem Boyd ran for less than 30 yards, unable get past the Ole Miss front seven. Considering he had seven carries go for 109 yards against the Rebels a season ago, all signs seemed positive.
With Mike MacIntyre’s defense playing as a cohesive unit, the offense couldn’t quite find a consistent rhythm, but showed signs of life.
Speaking of Mac’s unit, THEY HAVE A DAGGUM SHARK NECKLACE NOW!
BOW DOWN ALL OTHER DEFENSIVE CHAINS pic.twitter.com/NtfW91N5KS— 30-50 FERAL HOGS REBELLION (@RedCupRebellion) September 8, 2019
On its second possession, the tempo started to roll, receivers found single coverage in space and Matt Corral found them. The drive began with a 21-yard pass to Elijah Moore, and ended with a short out-route touchdown from 5’9, 181-pound sophomore.
In between the Moore bookends, Rich Rodriguez’s signature option balanced the air-efforts, and Corral read the defense like a novel. He gave when he was supposed to give, and kept when he was supposed to keep.
The offense put 240 yards on the board, but couldn’t maintain the scoring success. Ole Miss went to the locker room with a 10-3 lead.
With 5:33 remaining in the third quarter, and a fair amount of fans remaining in the stands, Arkansas faced a 4th-and-two in Ole Miss territory. Boyd took the handoff and Josiah Coatney blew him up in the backfield for one of the Landsharks’ 10 tackles-for-loss. It was electric.
From there, a 21-yard scamper from Scottie Phillips highlighted an eight-play, 71-yard scoring drive to go ahead 17-3. The wheels started rolling and this time, outside of a fluke fumble, they didn’t stop.
Moore finished with seven catches for 130 yards and eluded two tackles for his second touchdown of the game.
Phillips flashed his brilliance en route to a 143-yard, two-touchdown night of his own. Corral, who found a mojo, went 16-of-24 for 246 yards.
Perhaps the Rodriguez offense has truly arrived?
Now, it was not a perfect night by any means— but the defense kept Arkansas off the board until garbage time, the offense moved the ball, and Corral has his first win as a starting quarterback.
On to the next one.