FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Bret Bielema did his best to remind anyone who was listening throughout the week that Arkansas’ only losses this season were to No. 1 Alabama and No. 6 Texas A&M.
That included the No. 22 Razorbacks, who clearly took their coach’s message to heart in a 34-30 win over No. 12 Mississippi on Saturday night.
The win didn’t have quite the suspense of Arkansas’ (5-2, 1-2 Southeastern Conference) thrilling overtime win over the Rebels (3-3, 1-2) a year ago, but it was every bit as important — especially following a deflating 49-30 loss at home to the Crimson Tide a week ago.
“I told the guys, ‘Let’s do whatever we have to do to protect this house,'” Bielema said. “They never wavered and needed help from the crowd, and they delivered.”
Austin Allen was at his usual best on Saturday night, completing 19 of 32 passes for 228 yards and three touchdowns. The junior now has an SEC-best 18 touchdown passes for the season, and he had plenty of help in the form of Rawleigh William’s career-best 180 rushing yards on 27 carries.
Despite the dynamic run-pass combination, the Razorbacks didn’t secure the win until Jared Cornelius’ 6-yard touchdown scamper on second-and-goal late in the fourth quarter.
“The offensive line kind of stretched, the defense jumped to the outside, I stuck my foot in the ground and the hole opened up like the Red Sea,” Cornelius said.
The win was the third in a row for the Razorbacks over Ole Miss, which has now lost three of its first six games a season after winning the Sugar Bowl.
Chad Kelly accounted for 342 yards of total offense for the Rebels, throwing for 253 yards and rushing for 89 more. The senior also threw for a touchdown and ran for two more, but he fumbled while scrambling on a fourth-and-16 to put an end to Ole Miss’ two-game winning streak.
Evan Engram led the Rebels with seven catches for 111 yards and a touchdown.
The two teams entered Saturday with the two most efficient quarterbacks in the SEC, and neither Kelly nor Allen disappointed. The duo combined for 571 yards of total offense.
It was Cornelius, however, who had the final say with his 6-yard touchdown run with 2:20 remaining.
“We’re in the games and competing,” Rebels coach Hugh Freeze said. “We’ve got to see the big picture, even though it’s hard to right now, sitting here.”
Ole Miss: The Rebels entered the game 102nd in the country in total defense, allowing 449.4 yards per game. They once again struggled on Saturday by allowing 429 total yards to Arkansas, a number that was more than 450 before the Razorbacks purposely took several large losses while running out the clock on the game’s final drive.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks still have offensive line concerns after allowing three more sacks of Allen, but they moved the ball consistently through the air and on the ground. That gives them renewed hope with only SEC games left on the schedule this season.
Arkansas was in danger of falling out of the rankings, but now it’s likely to once again push its way into the top 20 , perhaps even surpassing the Rebels. The Razorbacks’ only losses this season are to No. 1 Alabama and No. 6 Texas A&M.
Ole Miss: The Rebels are on the road for the second straight week, traveling to Baton Rouge to face LSU.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks play for the eighth straight week to open the season, traveling to No. 23 Auburn next week.
More AP college football: http://www.collegefootball.ap.org