The Sports Network
By Pat Taggart, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: Fresh off a disappointing defeat, the 21st-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks hope to get back on track this weekend against the Ole Miss Rebels in an SEC showdown.
Ole Miss fell to 3-3 last weekend with a 23-10 loss to Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The 10-point effort marked the worst offensive showing to date for the Rebels, who are 1-2 in league action.
"I thought our guys played hard," said head coach Houston Nutt after the loss. "We helped them. We were the least penalized team in the league coming in and then man, we just can't help a good team."
In a game that featured the type of scoring found in an SEC basketball game, Arkansas fell to Auburn last weekend by a 65-43 final, the highest-scoring non-overtime game in league history. The Razorbacks are now 4-2 overall and are set to play back-to-back games at home, beginning this weekend.
Arkansas owns a narrow 29-26-1 series advantage over Ole Miss.
Ole Miss has been a solid offensive team this season, as it is generating 32.7 ppg and 396.7 total ypg. The Rebels do most of their damage on the ground, as the running game accounts for 218.8 ypg at a clip of 5.1 yards per attempt. Of the 24 touchdowns scored by the offense to date, 14 have been of the rushing variety. Brandon Bolden is the team's leading runner with 570 yards and five touchdowns, and he is also the leading receiver for Ole Miss with 15 catches. Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli has struggled a bit, completing only 56 percent of his passes for 933 yards and seven touchdowns with six interceptions. He is second on the roster with 302 rushing yards and three scores.
Opponents are scoring 31.0 ppg against Ole Miss, which is allowing 355.0 total ypg. The Rebels have been strong against the run, yielding a mere 113.0 ypg at a clip of 3.4 yards per carry. The pass defense hasn't been nearly as impressive, however, as opposing quarterbacks are throwing for 242.0 ypg with 12 touchdowns and only one interception. The fact that the Rebels don't force turnovers has led to the mediocre record.
Against Alabama last week, Masoli connected on 18-of-40 passes for 110 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He also led the team with 40 rushing yards, but the Rebels finished with a mere 243 total yards and lost the time of possession battle by more than five minutes. Sure, Ole Miss did post 5.1 yards per rushing attempt, but the passing game wasn't nearly good enough.
Defensively, Ole Miss actually did a great job of keeping Alabama in check. The Tide were able to move the ball through the air, but only 100 rushing yards were surrendered by Ole Miss on 34 attempts by Alabama, one of the nation's most feared rushing teams. Anytime a team is able to limit the Tide to two offensive touchdowns in Tuscaloosa, the defense deserves some praise.
"The defense came up big at times," said Nutt. "They kept excellent pursuit and excellent swarming. They really played good all game long."
Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett, widely considered one of the nation's top signal callers, suffered a concussion against Auburn and was forced from the game. Rather than fall apart, the Razorback offense rallied around backup Tyler Wilson, who completed 25-of-34 passes for 332 yards and four touchdowns. Sure, Wilson did throw a pair of interceptions, but he was forced to throw on almost every down in the fourth quarter as his team attempted to fight back. Arkansas posted 566 yards in that tilt, and Greg Childs made nine catches for 164 yards and two touchdowns. Clearly, it's hard to blame the Razorback offense for the loss.
"We matched them for three quarters, and I was really happy with the way our guys rallied around Tyler Wilson," said Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino after the game. "They all played hard. I really thought we would find a way to win the game, but we came up short. Obviously turnovers affected us in the fourth quarter, and it was the difference in the game."
The team's defense, on the other hand, put forth a miserable effort, allowing Auburn to march up and down the field en route to seven touchdowns and 470 yards. Six of the scores came on the ground, as the Razorbacks permitted 330 rushing yards on 49 attempts, an average of 6.7 yards per carry.
Mallett is listed as questionable for this weekend's tilt, and while Wilson proved capable of playing quite well in relief, Mallett will clearly be missed if he can't go. He has completed 69.2 percent of his passes thus far for 1,844 yards with 14 touchdowns and six interceptions. Childs has made 37 catches for 527 yards and five scores, while Knile Davis has run for 294 yards to pace the backfield. Arkansas is averaging 32.3 ppg and 480.0 total ypg with 25 touchdowns to date.
Opponents are registering 23.3 ppg against Arkansas, which is yielding 330.3 total ypg. The Razorbacks are permitting 13.4 yards per pass completion, and that figure needs to decrease in a hurry. The run defense could stand some improvement as well, although the numbers against the rush were actually solid before the Auburn game.