OXFORD, Miss. — – Fourth quarter comeback wins are not the preferred game plan for No. 16 Mississippi. However, as long as the Rebels keep getting it done, coach Lane Kiffin will remain satisfied.
Ulysses Bentley IV scored the go-ahead touchdown with 7:49 remaining as Mississippi put together two consecutive fourth quarter scoring drives to rally to beat Arkansas 27-20 on Saturday night.
The latest win followed last week’s 55-49 victory over LSU, as the Rebels (5-1, 2-1 SEC) erased a nine-point deficit over the final eight minutes. This time, the Razorbacks held a 20-17 edge entering the final eight minutes.
“We’re very pleased because traditionally Arkansas is a team we’ve struggled with,” Kiffin said. “We got down again and outscored them 10-0 at the end. Our defense got stops and we won the turnover battle 2-0. You want to win these kind of games.”
The Rebels got a decisive 75-yard, 12-play scoring drive, capped by Bentley’s six-yard touchdown run. Bentley finished with 13 carries for 94 yards.
Mississippi followed the late scores with defensive stops, including an interception by John Saunders, Jr. The stops sandwiched Caden Davis’ 22-yard field goal with 2:43 remaining to seal the win.
K.J. Jefferson led Arkansas (2-4, 0-3) with 25 of 39 passing for 252 yards, including touchdown passes of 3 and 17 yards to Ty Washington, who finished with seven receptions for 90 yards. The first scoring pass lifted Arkansas to an early 7-0 lead.
The Rebels answered with consecutive first quarter scoring drives, capped by a 27-yard field goal from Davis and a 1-yard scoring run by Quinshon Judkins. Mississippi added a 6-yard touchdown pass from Jaxson Dart to Dayton Wade for a 17-7 halftime lead.
The Razorbacks got field goals a career-best 56 yards and 26 yards from Cam Little in the third quarter, and then Washington’s Washington’s 17-yard scoring reception to take a 20-17 lead. The Rebels then scored the final 10 points.
Arkansas finished with 288 yards of total offense, but managed only 36 yards rushing. The Razorbacks had 10 penalties for 70 yards along with the two turnovers.
“It’s hard to win a game when you can’t run the ball,” Arkansas coach Sam Pittman said. “There’s way too much pressure on our quarterback. Our offense has got to find a way to run the football.”
Dart finished 16 of 25 for 153 yards passing while Judkins added 18 carries for 65 yards as Mississippi finished with 349 yards of total offense. Ashanti Cistrunk added a first quarter interception that set up a scoring drive.
“They ran all over us last year,” Cistrunk said. “This time we did a better job with the run and we made plays tonight.”
Arkansas: Despite four consecutive losses, the offense – 191 points in six games – offers a chance against the remainder of the schedule. Unfortunately, the defense has surrendered 38, 34, 34 and 27 points during the four-game slide. Three consecutive home games close the schedule, but it may be too late by then for Arkansas to climb back to the .500 mark.
Mississippi: The bottom line was the Rebels avoided an upset loss despite an inspired effort from Arkansas. The win keeps Ole Miss in the race for the SEC West Division title and an open date could not come at a better time after successive emotional comeback wins.
“The week off is good. We have a lot of challenges coming up,” Kiffin said. “We have a lot of hard places to play. A lot of places where it’s hard to get a win.”
Tre Harris, the most productive of the Mississippi receivers, was injured on the second play of the game and returned for only one other series. Harris has a team-high six touchdowns on 16 receptions.
“He has a lower body injury,” said Kiffin, who did not elaborate on the injury or future playing status. “He’s tough. He tried to go but he couldn’t.”
Arkansas acknowledged injuries in the postgame press conference but did not name specific players.
“We got several injuries throughout the game. It was a hard-hitting game,” Pittman said. “We’re going to let our training staff evaluate (the players) but I think we have some guys that are going to be out.”
The No. 16 Rebels are the third-highest ranked of seven SEC teams in the Top 25. The home win will secure the current ranking and should launch a climb toward a top-10 slot.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks visit No. 11 Alabama on Saturday.
Mississippi: An open date before a visit to Auburn and former coach Hugh Freeze on Oct. 21.