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That one popped.
No. 17 Ole Miss did not have many defensive stops, but it had one big one when it foiled No. 13 Arkansas’ two-point conversion pass with no time remaining to hold on for a wild, 52-51, victory in front of 60,256 Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi.
“We won,” a relieved Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin sighed after holding his hands in prayer as the game ended. “So, finally, we can go have some popcorn. And I won’t leave the interview early.”
Kiffin, whose team improved to 4-1 overall and 1-1 in the SEC, left a pre-game interview early with CBS last week before losing at Alabama, 42-21, after saying, “Get your popcorn ready.” His team then promptly fell behind 28-0 to Alabama by halftime.
This week, Ole Miss never trailed after tying the game 14-14 in the second quarter and taking a 21-14 halftime lead. There would be four more ties before it was done – 24-24, 31-31, 38-38 and 45-45 – and there could have been one more.
But Arkansas coach Sam Pittman chose to go for broke after quarterback K.J. Jefferson’s 9-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Warren Thompson got the Hogs (4-2, 1-2 SEC) within 52-51 with no time remaining. Jefferson’s two-point conversion pass to wide receiver Treylon Burks, who was crowded by Ole Miss defenders, fell incomplete, and it was over.
“We didn’t really stop ’em,” Kiffin said. “They just happened to go for two.”
And Ole Miss had its first victory over a ranked opponent in the regular season since 2017 when it won at No. 14 Mississippi State, 31-28.
The rare defensive stand ended an offensive showcase that featured 1,287 yards and 14 touchdowns divided equally. The yards were nearly even, too, as Arkansas outgained Ole Miss, 676 yards to 611.
Jefferson, a native of Sardis, Mississippi, near Oxford, completed 23 of 35 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns for Arkansas while rushing for 85 yards and another three touchdowns on 20 carries in front of several members of his family.
Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral rushed for more – 94 yards on 15 carries and two touchdowns while completing 14 of 21 passes for 287 yards and two touchdowns.
Jefferson tied the game 45-45 with 1:22 to play on a 10-yard run. But Corral answered that two plays from scrimmage later as he found wide receiver Braylon Sanders for a 68-yard touchdown and 52-45 lead with 1:07 to play. Corral also threw a 67-yard touchdown to Dontario Drummon to tie the game at 14 in the second quarter.
“Who would’ve thought it – 52-51? I told them, if it was, 3-0, I’d take it,” Kiffin said. “Our quarterback was unbelievable. He made a great play to Braylon. He’s unbelievable. We knew were were going to have to run him.”
Raheim Sanders rushed for 139 yards on 17 carries for Arkansas. Ole Miss had two 100-yard rushers as Henry Parrish Jr. gained 111 on 18 carries, and Snoop Conner put up 110 on 12 carries with three touchdowns. Conner’s 51-yard scored put Ole Miss up, 31-24, with 3:34 left in the third quarter. And his 34-yard score gave Ole Miss a 38-31 lead early in the fourth.
“We managed to play as bad defense as physically possible just to keep the crowd around until the last play,” Kiffin said. “But we’ll take it. All right. Hotty toddy!”