Ole Miss football grades: Failure all around after Arkansas loss
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Ole Miss football earned the type of report card you used to hide from your parents as a kid.
No phase of the game succeeded in a 42-27 loss to Arkansas at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium on Saturday. The Rebels (8-3, 4-3 SEC) did well in the fourth quarter to save some face on the scoreboard, but the truth of this game is that Arkansas (6-5, 3-4) ensured it was over before the second half began.
Here are our grades from a bad day for the Rebels.
This was a weird game for Ole Miss on offense, and not in a good way. The Rebels moved the ball reasonably well at times. They hit plenty of big plays, too.
But they didn't score their first touchdown until early in the fourth quarter.
Repeatedly, Ole Miss entered Arkansas territory. Repeatedly, it left without scoring points.
The Rebels also turned it over three times, their first three-turnover game since a season-opening win against Troy. Nothing short of a 'D' will suffice here despite a nice day from Quinshon Judkins and Zach Evans on the ground.
Lane Kiffin knew the Ole Miss defense would have a hard time with returning Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson if he played.
He was right.
Turns out, the Rebels couldn't stop the Arkansas running game either. Raheim Sanders had more than 200 yards rushing and three touchdowns by the end of the third quarter.
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Special Teams: F
Ole Miss didn't have any disasters on special teams, but it racked enough up small violations to warrant a failing grade.
Jonathan Cruz missed a field goal. The Rebels launched a kickoff out of bounds. They took a silly kick-catch interference penalty.
It's not the end of the world if your special teams don't do anything to help you win, but at minimum you ask that unit not to make any silly mistakes. Ole Miss didn't do that.
Arkansas is not multiple scores better than Ole Miss on paper. It probably isn't better than Ole Miss on paper at all.
With that in mind, Kiffin and his staff have to take some accountability for this performance. Perhaps Ole Miss didn't bounce back well enough from the crushing Alabama defeat. Perhaps it was looking ahead to the Egg Bowl. Perhaps the Rebels just didn't execute well enough.
Either way, the coaching staff no doubt had a part to play in this failure.
It wasn't unreasonable to think that Ole Miss might lose this game. The game closed as a pick 'em with some sports books.
But nobody saw the Rebels losing this way. It was without a doubt their worst performance of the season, and they should be graded accordingly.
David Eckert covers Ole Miss for the Clarion Ledger. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach him on Twitter @davideckert98.