pigs drive away Ole Miss; Bowl qualified for third straight year – SWARK Today

Razorback senior wide receiver Matt Landers (#3) of St. Petersburg, FL makes an over-the-shoulder catch for a touchdown against Ole Miss Saturday night at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, AR.

By Otis Kirk

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas is now eligible for senior night after a dominating 42-27 win over No. 14 Ole Miss at Razorback Stadium with 71,365 fans in attendance.

The Hogs led 35-6 at halftime and then scored on the second play of the third quarter to take complete control of the game. Ole Miss scored 21 points in the fourth quarter but it was too little too late as the outcome of the game was never in doubt. Sam Pittman was happy about the win.

“I’m really happy for the kids and the coaching staff,” Pittman said. “What a beautiful job they did. We beat a good team tonight. A really good soccer team but our kids were ready to play. And when you win turnovers three to nothing and let the ball run like Rocket (Sanders) and the guys did, that was just a really great team effort.

“Our defense flexed but didn’t break and it was 42-6 when they finally started scoring. We played a great football game. We’re Bowlable for the third year in a row and it feels incredibly good.”

Rocket Sanders and the running backs were challenged by Pittman earlier in the week, and the sophomore took it to heart. He ran 24 times for 232 yards and three touchdowns. It was his 68-yard sprint on the second play of the third quarter that allowed the Hogs to take complete control of the game. That was his third touchdown of the game and gave the Razorbacks a 42-6 lead.

It was quarterback KJ Jefferson and wide receiver Matt Landers who dug the early hole for Ole Miss. On Arkansas’ second possession of the game, Jefferson took the Hogs on a seven-play 69-yard drive that ended with an 8-throw. Yard touchdown pass to Landers with 8:28 in the opening quarter. The big play before the touchdown was Jefferson dashing 23 yards to the Ole Miss 8.

On Arkansas’ next possession, the Hogs rushed for 73 yards in eight games. The drive ended with Jefferson throwing a 23-yard touchdown pass to Landers. The Hogs were 14-0 with 3:44 remaining in the opening quarter. Pittman spoke about Jefferson setting the tone for the offense.

“You know the first two scores, it wasn’t the first two drives, but we didn’t really play clean on the first two scores and he just made everything possible,” Pittman said. “He made them happen with his feet and made some really good plays and Landers made some really good catches. The one over his head, second touchdown, was an incredible pass and catch.

“But we didn’t play well up front early in the game. We were trying to figure them out and KJ was just doing plays. And then our offensive line took over until the shot on goal (second half). We have to finish better. We were up, 42-6. We need to finish better and do more first downs. But they’re tough because they know you’re not going to throw the ball as often as before.

After Jonathan Cruz hit a 45-yard field goal for the Rebels, Jefferson the Hogs struck again. Jefferson threw a 20-yard touchdown to wide receiver Ketron Jackson for a 21-3 lead, leaving 14:03 in the first half. Once again, the big plays on the seven-game 75-yard drive were a 28-yard run by Sanders and a 20-yard run by Jefferson.

Ole Miss added another field goal from Cruz, this one from 32 yards, with 4:38 remaining before halftime.

After Cruz’s field goal, Arkansas took the ball again this time in seven games for 75 yards. Sanders appeared to score on a 50-yard touchdown run, but a holding penalty nullified it. But after the penalty, Sanders had back-to-back runs of 22, 8 and 20 to get the touchdown. His 20-yard touchdown streak put the Hogs 28-6 with 2:20 before the break. Pittman spoke about Sanders and the Hogs being able to break through the holding penalty and score.

“That was really big because a lot of times you get a run like that and it’s called back for holding, then you miss a field goal, you get fired, you’re not in field goal range and our kids in two games get blocked on it and came back and scored a goal,” Pittman said. “I thought that was great. I think that was our first really full game this year. It was a full game. I think that says a lot about our team. We were focused and ready to go and our coaches did a great job getting them fit.”

But the hogs weren’t done yet. Linebacker Drew Sanders took a Jaxson Dart pass and returned it to the Ole Miss 48. Sanders finished a six-play 48-yard drive and an 8-yard touchdown run with five seconds remaining in the first half.

In the fourth quarter, Ole Miss scored three touchdowns. The first was a 1-yard run by Quinshon Judkins with 14:02 in play. The two-point conversion was not good.

Ole Miss followed with a 48-yard run for a touchdown from Stau Zach Evans on his next possession. Dart passed by two points and Arkansas then led 42-20. With 2:55 left in the game, Dart threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Malik Heath to set the end of the game. Ole Miss tried onside kicks after the final two touchdowns, but Arkansas recovered from both.

Jefferson returned after missing the LSU game. He was 17th of 22 passes for 168 yards and three touchdowns. He also added 47 yards on eight rushes. The Hogs finished the match with 503 total rushing yards, including 335 rushing yards.

The Rebels had an amazing total offensive yards of 703 yards, including 463 yards on the ground. Dart was 21st of 36 passes for 240 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Judkins had 24 rushes for 214 yards and a touchdown. Evans also had an amazing night, ending with 17 carries for 207 yards and a touchdown. Heath had nine receptions for 140 yards and a touchdown.

In addition to interceptions, Sanders had 10 tackles, four solo and 0.5 tackles for losses. Myles Slusher, returning from a one-game suspension, had eight tackles, four solo and one loss.

Arkansas (6-5, 3-4) will travel to Missouri for Friday’s game against the Tigers. Missouri (5-6, 2-5) defeated New Mexico State 45-14 on Saturday. They need a win over Arkansas to qualify for the Bowl.

“Missouri is a really good football team,” Pittman said. “They play really well. Really good defence. They’ll be eligible for the bowl if they can win next week, and of course we’re aware of that. And we can customize which bowls we have a bit more available for by winning, so we want to do that. We still want to win. Missouri is a rival of ours and we will certainly be ready for that.”

Kick-off is scheduled for Friday at 2:30 p.m. and will be televised on CBS.

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