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The Final Whistle: Ole Miss beat itself against Arkansas

Uh, what?

Ole Miss Athletics

Ole Miss could not get anything going on Saturday and fell 33-21 to Arkansas, dropping to one win and three losses on the season. It wasn’t pretty and the momentum was never in favor of the visitors.

Believe it or not, the Rebels’ defense began the game with a three-and-out. However, the first offensive possession was more fatal than productive.

Matt Corral looked for Elijah Moore over the middle, but Moore was met by a Razorback defensive back and took a shot. He returned later in the afternoon but was not a big factor early in the game. Moments later, the offense faced a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard-line and fumbled.

The Hogs began the scoring with an 11-play, 95-yard drive that was anchored in an early roughing the kicker penalty. The yellow flag extended an early opportunity for the Rebels to get off the field.

On the other side of things, Ole Miss’ offense couldn’t get rolling and the first quarter finished 7-0. The highlight of the first 15 minutes came on a Mac Brown bullseye.

It went downhill quickly from there. Arkansas made the most of the possession and tacked on three points. Behind 10-0, Corral threw only his second interception of the season to Hogs defensive back Vito Calvaruso, who made it 17-0 with a 35-yard interception return.

Lane Kiffin was visibly upset and the Rebels had a lot of ground to cover.

Neither the offense that scored 48 points against Alabama, nor the defense that made the necessary stops down the stretch against the Tide, could make anything happen. Corral went 10-of-17 with two interceptions, Jerrion Ealy averaged 3.3 yards on nine carries and Snoop Conner saw two touches for -3 yards.

Things were not good. It looked like a Matt Luke-coached team and Ole Miss went to the locker room down 20-0 at halftime.

The Rebels received the ball to begin the second half and faced a 4th-and-3 on their first possession. Snoop Conner ran up the middle to move the chains and when they faced fourth-and-8 from the 21-yard-line later in the drive, Kiffin didn’t hesitate and the analytics saw Corral hit Moore for 16 yards. The trend continued and Conner ran for no gain on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard-line. It was disheartening, disappointing and disarming.

Arkansas could not take advantage of the turnover and wide receiver Treylon Burks dropped a wide-open third down catch that forced a punt. There was hope for Ole Miss.

The aggressive game plan continued and Conner scampered for eight yards on a 4th-and-seven that set up the first points of the game for offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby and his offense. Elijah Moore continued to be incredible at getting open and hauled in his tenth reception of the game for six points.

If not for two yards on fourth down and goal, Ole Miss would have had the lead. And as things started to turn in favor of the Rebels, the defense recovered a fumble. Corral took over and needed to get in the end zone to stand a chance. Instead, he threw his third interception of the game and put the pressure back on a D.J. Durkin and Chris Partridge group that couldn’t defend a fly through the first 14.5 quarters of the season.

With the game on its shoulders, a defense that was one of the worst in the SEC through the first three games made a play. Jon Haynes stepped up and held on to a tipped pass that should have been caught by the Arkansas wide receiver.

Corral threw his fourth interception. Ole Miss had one turnover through its first three games and had five on Saturday. That simply won’t do.

The fourth quarter began with a 20-7 deficit and the ground game began a drive that ended in favor of the Rebels. Seven straight runs by Conner, Ealy and Corral put the Rebels in the red zone. On the eighth play, Corral found Jonathan Mingo for 21 yards to close the gap.

A crucial third down stop showed “indisputable evidence” to move the chains on what might have been a three-and-out for Ole Miss. Arkansas wide receiver Treylon Burke followed it up with a catch that deserves a shoutout. Yes, it was blown coverage and yes, it was poor defense, but it was a great snag.

Brown came on to punt again four downs later. However, this time, the most explosive offensive play came on a fake kick. Linebacker MoMo Sanogo broke a tackle and the biggest run of the day, which kept Ole Miss in the game.

Ealy found the paint four plays later to make it a five-point game at 26-21 with five and a half minutes left in the game. It wasn’t anywhere close to over, but Arkansas held the advantage until it turned the ball over on downs and gave Ole Miss the ball with under four minutes to play. The game was Kiffin and company’s to lose.

Corral threw a pick-six, his fifth of six interceptions on the day, and the Rebels went on to lose. It was not a positive day. There was little to go off of. It was bad.