OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — Don’t try to make the argument to Mississippi coach Matt Luke that Saturday night’s 31-17 win over Arkansas wasn’t a work of art.
“It wasn’t perfect. But, it looked good to me. This win really gives us something to build on,” Luke said, whose club won the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams. “I told these men that we would fight through barriers and obstacles together and we played our hearts out together tonight.”
The Rebels (1-1, 1-0) got a big performance from Matt Corral, who finished 16-of-24 passing for 246 yards, including a pair of touchdown passes to Elijah Moore. Scottie Phillips added scoring runs of 1 and 26 yards and finished with a game-high 143 yards rushing as the Rebels finished with 483 yards of offense.
“I thought Matt Corral was good. He looked much more comfortable this week,” Luke said. “It was great to see Elijah make plays, too. This is an important win for us. We played with a lot of passion.”
Arkansas (1-1, 0-1) stayed within striking distance at 17-10 in the third quarter on a 69-yard fumble return for a touchdown from Kamren Curl. Quarterback Nick Starkel, who replaced Ben Hicks in the second half, had a 6-yard touchdown pass to Koilan Jackson in the final two minutes.
“It’s hard to win in the SEC on the road. It’s really hard when you make as many mistakes as we did tonight,” Arkansas coach Chad Morris said. “It’s frustrating to walk back in that locker room. Now, it’s about a response.”
Arkansas: It was a disappointing continuation of SEC woes. The Razorbacks have lost 12 consecutive conference games and are 1-17 since November, 2016, the final season under former head coach Bret Bielema. The defense, highlighted by Curl’s brilliant individual play, wore out in the final quarter. The offense took a huge step backward and had only one trip to the red zone while the issue was in doubt, capped by a 36-yard field goal by Connor Limpert.
“We can’t let this go on to next week,” Starkel said. “We have to live by the 24-hour rule and let it go. I think we will do that.”
Ole Miss: After closing last season with five consecutive SEC losses, winning the league opener was crucial. A roster filled with newcomers and underclassmen, along with two new coordinators – Rich Rodriguez on offense and Mike MacIntyre on defense – appears to be meshing as head coach Matt Luke predicted. The new-look units may not be ready to challenge the SEC heavyweights yet, but the encouraging conference win indicates the Rebels are trending up in a drive for bowl eligibility.
“We’ve got to get better,” Corral said. “Week by week, we’ve got to get on this stuff and get better. But, this is a good win, a team win.”
Trailing 10-3 midway through the third quarter, Starkel had a 38-yard touchdown pass to Trey Knox wiped out by an ineligible player downfield penalty. The Razorbacks turned the ball over on downs two plays later. Ole Miss answered with a 71-yard touchdown drive to build what proved to be an insurmountable 17-3 lead.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks play the next three games at home, beginning with Colorado State on Saturday.
Ole Miss: The Rebels host Southeastern Louisiana on Saturday in the second game of a three-game home stand.