LITTLE ROCK - Arkansas
used to print up t-shirts that said "Unbeaten in the Rock."
The only ones the Razorbacks could print up about Little Rock this season would be "Winless at War Memorial."
's 31-yard field goal gave Ole Miss
a 30-27 win over Arkansas, who lost both of its games in Little Rock this season on the last play of the contest.
"You have to give Ole Miss some credit without a doubt," Razorback head coach John L. Smith said. "They are a very good football team and very athletic. They fought.
"And I am proud of our guys," Smith added of a team that trailed 24-17 after three quarters. "We fought back and battled, battled, battled, but just didn't make quite enough plays. But I am proud of them, I am proud of our coaches. We had a chance, just had to make a play and maybe a couple of more plays and we get there."
Arkansas (3-5, 2-3) – who had its two-game winning streak ended before an announced crowd of 55,378 fans – had tied the game 27-27 with 2:07 remaining.
That came when senior tailback Dennis Johnson
– who had 27 carries for a career-high 161 yards rushing – put the team on his shoulders.
He had runs of 21 and 20 yards and then banged into the end zone from five yards out.
"Willing the team to win, I told myself we are not going to lose this game," Johnson said. "If they put the ball in my hands, I am going to do everything I can to win."
Johnson became the first Arkansas running back to top 100 years this season.
"Dennis did a great job of hanging in there and continuing to battle and running as hard as he could," Smith said. "We had a few openings, had a chance to get it down and got it in the end zone. That's all you can ask.
"We hold them to three field goals, but I guess that was one too many," Smith added. "We should have held them to two."
But Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace
(29-of-37 passing for 278 yards and a touchdown) led his team 61 yards in eight plays and gave Rose the chance to be a hero.
He calmly drilled the field goal to keep former one-year Arkansas State
head coach Hugh Freeze undefeated as a head coach in the state of Arkansas.
"Offensively, we sputtered the whole second half, but made a drive when we had to and the game was on the line. Our team grew up some today, won on the road in this tough conference, against a very good football team."
The Rebels (5-3, 2-2) had not won an SEC game since 2010 until last week after going 0-8 in league last season under former head coach Houston Nutt
Ole Miss dropped Auburn
41-20 at home and followed that up with its first SEC road win this week.
"I'm thrilled," Freeze said. "Our word for the week in our character traits program was courage. The football team, every facet of it, made a play at some point that really meant a lot to the outcome of the game.
"I wasn't happy at halftime with our defensive staff," Freeze added. "But they took it in stride and what a job they did in the second half."
The loss came despite Arkansas having a 464-355 total offense advantage and the efforts of Johnson and senior wideout Cobi Hamilton
, who had 12 catches for 146 yards as he completed a marvelous career in Little Rock.
Hamilton caught 40 passes for 789 yards and eight touchdowns in Little Rock with an average of 98.6 yards per game and 19.7 yards per catch.
He also became the first Arkansas receiver to have over 10 catches in three games in his career and extended his streak to 30 games of at least one catch.
"I felt like people thought we could win," said Hamilton, who now is fourth all-time on the single season catch list with 58 and sixth in career catches with 143. "We just didn't finish and ran out of time. It hurts."
Hamilton passed Marcus Monk, Greg Childs
, J.J. Meadors, Richard Smith and Anthony Lucas
The Razorbacks also played without starting wide receiver and back-up quarterback Brandon Mitchell
, who was suspended for the game for a violation of team rules.
"It's a team rule at this point," Smith said.
Will he return this season?
"Let's just let that sit," Smith said. "We anticipate yes. But I don't..we'll have more answers on that (later)."
It was the first time since 1993 that Arkansas failed to win a game in Little Rock. The Razorbacks went 0-3 in 1992 and 0-2-1 at War Memorial a year later.
The loss was likely a crippling blow to Arkansas' hopes of getting six wins this season and getting into a bowl.
"I'm not sure people are thinking about that," Hamilton said. "For me personally, I am trying to take it one game at a time. I am just trying to play whoever our opponent is that week. I want to focus on them and try to beat them and go and compete."
Razorback senior quarterback Tyler Wilson
had a rare off day as he went 24-of-43 for 297 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Wilson – who did move into second on the Arkansas all-time completion list with 492 while passing Ryan Mallett
, Casey Dick
and Barry Lunney on the day - also had several other near picks, but Ole Miss dropped at least three.
"I don't expect this team to slump any," Wilson said. "Obviously it is a disappointing loss, you want to continue to move forward and I think this team has what it takes to do that. We are just going to come out and battle hard next week."
Ole Miss linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche
had one of those picks for the Rebels.
"It was tough, but I knew we were prepared and we had prepared the right way all week," Nkemdiche said. "Nobody was intimidated. We weren't scared of the players they had, we just wanted to do it for each other and bring home the win. (Wilson) is a great quarterback, so we had to do different things against us."
Arkansas jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter by scoring on its first two possessions.
Wilson hit Hamilton on the first play of the game for a big gain, but the Razorbacks had to settle for a 22-yard field goal by Zach Hocker
after driving 71 yards in 15 plays.
Wilson missed a wide open Jonathan Williams
on what would have been a touchdown pass.
The second possession – a nine-play, 75-yard one – culminated with Wilson perfectly leading tight end Chris Gragg on a 42-yard TD pass.
Both Gragg – just back from injury after missing several games - and Knile Davis
were lost for the game due to injuries during a second quarter that Ole Miss dominated.
"Both were legs," Smith said of the injuries. "I don't know if it is knee or ankle yet. Might be a hamstring or pulled groin. Could be a number of things."
The Rebels moved within 10-7 when Wallace hit Vince Sanders
on a 4-yard TD pass with 13:47 left before halftime.
Ole Miss then took the lead soon after Charles Sawyer
blocked a punt, picked it up and dashed to the Arkansas 22.
The Rebels needed four plays before back-up quarterback Barry Brunetti
cashed in a one-yard run and Rose added the PAT for a 14-10 advantage at the 7:44 mark.
"As I look at it, any time you get a punt blocked…we get a turnover and we immediately go three and out and then we get the punt blocked," Smith said. "That to me was crucial. When you get a punt blocked, there is over a 90 percent chance you are going to lose and I take that very personal so if there is anybody to blame, it's me. We didn't get it blocked."
Arkansas regained the lead 17-14 when Wilson drove his team 95 yards in 13 plays and tossed a six-yard TD pass to Alex Voelzke
with 1:21 left in the half.
It was the first catch of walk on Voelzke's career.
But Ole Miss responded by racing down the field, covering 75 yards in 10 plays in just 61 seconds.
After what appeared to be an illegal sub by the Rebels went uncalled, Jeff Scott
scored from the 1 and Rose's PAT lifted Ole Miss ahead 21-17 with 20 seconds left in the half.
"For our team to fight, to continue to battle, go down 10-0 and come back to take the lead, make good plays was great," Freeze said. "We were very poised."
The Rebels lead grew to 24-17 after a Wilson interception at midfield ended up in a Rose 27-yard field goal with 3:20 left in the third quarter.
Arkansas appeared to be on the verge of tying the game on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to wide open tight end Austin Tate
But even though there was no one in the backfield with Wilson, Arkansas was called for an illegal formation – having five men in the backfield.
That was because of four players being off the line of scrimmage.
"We were called for illegal formation," Smith said. "That was it. I will have to wait and look at the film…It is always the way it is one every call. Coaches always disagree."
Hocker's 42-yarder brought Arkansas to within 24-20 with 13:23 left in the game.
Rose then boomed a 54-yarder as Ole Miss took its 27-20 lead with 10:06 remaining.
That set up the late game theatrics from Johnson and then Rose in a second half in which Arkansas scored a touchdown and a field and only allowed three field goals.
"We struggled the second half," Smith said. "…They did a good job making some adjustments and we struggled with running the ball and we struggled on throwing it. The good thing is that they fought back and with a couple of minutes left we take it on down."
Linebackers Ross Rasner
and A.J. Turner
both had 10 tackles to lead the Razorback defense.
Arkansas will host Tulsa
next week in Fayetteville in another 11:21 a.m. start.
"It's like I told them after the game," Smith said. "To this point, you have shown great character, class.' They have done everything we have asked and continued to battle and they are going to do the same and they are not going to start pointing fingers and any of that stuff. They are going to do exactly what they have been doing- they are going to handle this with character and class and move on to the Tulsa game."
Arkansas defensive end Austin Flynn
(41) closes in on Jeff Scott
makes a catch.
juggled this pass, but eventually tucked it away for a catch.
Dennis Johnson fights to get outside against the Rebels.
Photos by Marc F. Henning, Hawgs Illustrated
Arkansas and Ole Miss coaches and players talk about the Rebels' 30-27 win over the Razorbacks Saturday on a last-second 31-yard field goal by Bryson Rose that left the home team winless at War Memorial Stadium this season.