The Arkansas Razorbacks were narrowly defeated by the Ole Miss Rebels in Little Rock, Ark., on Saturday.
Hogs fans watched as their team lost another game to a beatable opponent in War Memorial Stadium for the second time this season.
The Rebels won their second consecutive game against SEC opponents and took another big step in returning winning football to Oxford.
All of Arkansas’ usual top players put in solid performances, but the supporting cast failed to do the little extra things needed to put the Hogs over the top.
Here are the winners and losers from the Razorbacks’ Week 9 game against Ole Miss.
Dennis Johnson played his best game of the season against Ole Miss. He rushed for 161 yards and had an additional 19 receiving yards, both season highs.
Johnson has effectively stepped into Knile Davis’s role as the starting running back. He is ranked eighth in the SEC in yards-per-attempt.
But the question still remains, why did it take so long for the coaches to allow Johnson to step into the role? Davis has not had as many opportunities to carry the ball in the last three games and still has 17 more attempts this season than Johnson.
This season has been filled with many “what if?” questions for Arkansas. One of the biggest questions at the end of the season will be what would have happened if Johnson had been trusted as the primary running back sooner.
On an ordinary day, Tyler Wilson’s 297 passing yards and two touchdowns would be considered a win. But Wilson ran into a problem that has plagued the Arkansas offense all season: he just does not have the targets.
Cobi Hamilton put in another solid performance with 146 receiving yards. Chris Gragg returned from injury to gain 55 receiving yards and a touchdown.
But of the seven receivers Wilson utilized, only two were wide receivers, the rest were running backs or tight ends.
Hamilton cannot carry the entire burden of Arkansas’s wide receivers. When Wilson does not have targets, he throws interceptions. Whenever Wilson throws interceptions, Arkansas loses. Wilson has not thrown any interceptions in games that Arkansas has won.
It has to be frustrating for one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC to put in solid performances and still not manage to come out of games with a win.
Arkansas held Ole Miss to 77 rushing yards. That is the fewest rushing yards the Rebels have had this season. Even against Alabama.
That is not a horrible performance against a team that primarily runs the ball. Ole Miss is ranked No. 6 in the SEC in rushing behind Texas A&M, Alabama, LSU, Florida and Georgia.
The Hogs allowed Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace to rush for 38 yards, but he did not have any touchdowns and did not have his way with the Razorbacks defense for the entire game.
Wallace did have three runs for over 10 yards, but the Hogs allowed Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M to rush for 104 yards and Kolton Browning of Louisiana-Monroe to rush for 69 yards.
In that context, 38 yards is a huge improvement for the Razorbacks’ defense.
While the Arkansas rushing defense showed improvement when facing a rushing team with a rushing quarterback, the Hogs’ passing defense remained the same.
Bo Wallace had 29 completions during Saturday’s game; his most of the season. His 278 passing yards were his second best of the season.
The coverage just was not there. Of Wallace’s 29 completions, 18 were for 10 yards or fewer. Arkansas gave up some big plays too, but opposing offenses that generate a steady rhythm by developing a short passing game have caused a problem for Arkansas all season.
If Arkansas is to pull out a victory against Tulsa next week and upset one of its ranked opponents in the weeks following, the defense has to figure out how to disrupt an opponent’s short game.
It was a step forward for the Razorbacks when it came to stopping the run, but their passing defense still needs a lot of work.
Arkansas has had a disappointing season, but the times at Ole Miss have been desperate the last few years.
Before beating Auburn, the Rebels had not won a game against an SEC opponent in 16 games. They had no wins in the SEC last season and only one in 2010. And that was against Kentucky.
Ole Miss has not had back-to-back wins over SEC opponents since November of 2009.
Ole Miss’s wins over Arkansas and Auburn are something that their fans have been waiting for for three long years.
The fact that the Rebels avenged their narrow 29-24 loss against Arkansas last season makes it that much sweeter.