Razorbacks dismantle Ole Miss with 7 turnovers

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Sunday, October 18, 2020
Arkansas defensive backs Hudson Clark (17), Jalen Catalon (1) and Greg Brooks (9) celebrate after Clark intercepted a pass during a game against Ole Miss on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020, in Fayetteville. All three players had at least one interception and the Razorbacks intercepted six passes in their 33-21 victory over the Rebels.
Photo by Charlie Kaijo
Arkansas defensive backs Hudson Clark (17), Jalen Catalon (1) and Greg Brooks (9) celebrate after Clark intercepted a pass during a game against Ole Miss on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020, in Fayetteville. All three players had at least one interception and the Razorbacks intercepted six passes in their 33-21 victory over the Rebels.

FAYETTEVILLE — There is joy in Hogville again.

The University of Arkansas intercepted six Matt Corral passes and returned two for touchdowns to stun high-octane Ole Miss 33-21 before a jubilant homecoming crowd Saturday.

After snapping their 12-game home losing streak in SEC play, the Razorbacks ran over to their student section and celebrated with part of the 16,500 fans at Reynolds Razorback Stadium, who created a clear home-field advantage.

The Razorbacks (2-2) posted their highest interception total since picking off six passes in a 52-6 win over Mississippi State in 2003.

Arkansas is one bad officiating decision away from winning three consecutive games and being near the top of the SEC West.

“Our kids deserve to be happy tonight and celebrate,” Coach Sam Pittman said. “And yeah, I’m proud of them, proud of our staff, proud of the state. I’m proud of the fans that were out here, and I’m proud for them, because tonight they get to go out and be what the Arkansas fans should be. That’s happy and celebrating and having their chest stuck out.

“That’s what needed to be done for a long time, and we’re just honored to be a part of it.”

Ole Miss (1-3) outgained the Razorbacks 442-394 in total offense, but could not overcome seven turnovers.

“The theme of the day was the opposite of what the season had been,” Ole Miss Coach Lane Kiffin said. “The offense struggled, the turnovers, the two goal-to-go situations and no points out of that.

“At least it wasn’t us losing another game by a big score. My message to the team was that we can be really good if we play offense like we did prior, and defense like we did today.”

Pittman improved to 2-0 against the SEC’s other first-year head coaches, with one game remaining against a newbie in Week 9 against Missouri’s Eliah Drinkwitz.

Defensive coordinator Barry Odom and his staff crafted another masterful game plan against a powerful offensive unit, just as they had done in holding down the Air Raid of Mike Leach and Mississippi State in a Week 2 victory.

“Barry Odom is the real deal, and I’m happy,” Pittman said. “He’s a great friend of mine, and I’m also very happy he’s on the staff.”

Arkansas linebacker Grant Morgan was named the Crip Hall Award winner as the outstanding senior on homecoming after notching 19 tackles and a game-sealing interception return for a touchdown.

“We talked about it throughout the week that we wanted to set the standard for what other teams did against these offenses,” Morgan said. “That we played them so good they were able to say, ‘All right, we want to do what Arkansas did against these teams.’ ”

There were heroes all across the board for the Arkansas defense, which limited Ole Miss to 131 yards below its season average and 20 points below its scoring average of 41.7.

Morgan’s 23-yard interception return for a touchdown that put the game away came with 3:07 remaining.

Walk-on cornerback Hudson Clark, playing in place of the injured Montaric Brown, picked off three passes, including the last one with 1:28 left.

“We worked our butts off coming into the season and seeing it unfold like it has, coaches dancing, it was amazing,” Clark said.

Safety Jalen Catalon set the tone by starting the defensive carnage. He pounced on a mishandled Ole Miss handoff on fourth and goal at the 1 on the Rebels’ first possession.

Later, after a short A.J. Reed field goal had given the Razorbacks a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter, Catalon stepped in front of a Corral pass over the middle and returned his interception 25 yards for a touchdown.

Arkansas struggled to get its running game in gear, getting outrushed 242-150, but the return of Treylon Burks from a knee injury loomed large.

The sophomore from Warren had career highs of 11 catches for 137 yards, and he added 46 rushing yards.

Arkansas had no more important drive than a series early in the fourth quarter, just after Ole Miss had cut its deficit to 20-14.

Feleipe Franks engineered an 11-play, 70-yard series that ended on Burks’ one-handed catch in the back left corner of the end zone.

“The drive when it was 20-14 was huge,” Pittman said. “Treylon, what a catch he had in the corner.”

Said Burks: “The catch, it didn’t surprise me. I do it in practice. It’s just something I work on and something I want to get better at. I’m just glad we scored and we got a win.”

Franks completed 21 of 34 passes for 244 yards with 1 touchdown. Franks lost a fumble and threw an interception in a shaky third quarter, but each time the defense picked him up.

The Rebels trailed 20-7 when defensive lineman LeDarrius Cox recovered Franks’ fumble at the Arkansas 17.

On the next snap, Greg Brooks Jr. picked off Corral on the 2 line to snuff out the threat.

After safety Jon Haynes notched a tipped interception off Franks later in the period, Clark read an out route, jumped over the back of tight end Dontario Drummond and made his second interception at the Arkansas 29.

Corral, who had thrown just one interception and was the nation’s total offense leader with 407 yards per game, finished 20 of 38 for 200 yards, with 2 touchdowns and the 6 picks.

Morgan capped off the defensive gem by dropping into coverage and snaring a Corral throw over the middle with the Razorbacks leading 26-21. He weaved through the Ole Miss offense for 23 yards to score the clinching touchdown.

Arkansas led 20-0 at halftime, holding Ole Miss off the board in the first half for their first opening half shutout since a 23-0 win over Tulsa on Oct. 20, 2018.

The Razorbacks went 95 yards with their second possession of the game, cranking out an 11-play drive that took 4:11 off the clock. Ole Miss contributed a crucial error, a running into the kicker penalty on fourth and 3 from the Arkansas 12.

The Razorbacks did not let the mistake go unpunished. Burks swung left out of the backfield and took a swing pass 55 yards to the Ole Miss 13. Rakeem Boyd converted a fourth and 1 moments later, then crashed in from the 1 on the next snap for Arkansas’ first rushing touchdown of the season.

Pittman’s pride in the players, coaching staff and fans was evident.

“There’s a lot of coaching that’s about wanting, about selling, about all-in-together,” Pittman said. “I know it sounds a little corny or whatever, but it’s true, if you can get a lot of people with one common goal and nobody really cares who’s getting the credit.”

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