Arkansas led one time in Saturday’s game, but it was when it counted the most. Connor Limpert’s 34-yard field goal put the Hogs up 38-37 with four seconds left in the game.
That allowed the Hogs to escape from Oxford with their third win of the season against five losses. To get to a bowl game the Hogs need six wins. Bret Bielema and his team aren’t counting to six, they have their mind on beating Coastal Carolina. However, media members and fans can look ahead.
The cynical person would say who cares if they go to a bowl since it would be a minor one. The answer is simple it’s a chance for the players coming back, which is the majority of the team with a small senior class, to get extra practices.
Plus, going from 2-5 to bowl eligibility would be like being down 31-7 with 20 minutes gone in the game then win it 38-37. It appeared early on Saturday the Hogs had quit on Bielema and the coaches. I know that probably makes him mad for people to say that, but to the outside world that is the way it appeared.
But as everyone found out the next 40 minutes of that game the players had done anything but quit. Safety Santos Ramirez had a strip tackle on an Ole Miss wide receiver and then recovered the fumble. The Hogs marched down the field and scored. On Ole Miss’s next possession, the other Arkansas safety Josh Liddell picked off a Jordan Ta’amu pass and returned it into Rebels territory. Once again the Hogs scored and instead of a blowout at halftime it was 31-21 Ole Miss, but it was clear the momentum had amazingly switched to the other sideline.
Arkansas got the ball to start the second half and once again they scored. That was all the scoring in the third quarter, but the fourth period was filled with fireworks.
Ole Miss got two field goals to stretch the lead out to 37-28 and they had the ball. It appeared the Hogs’ comeback would fall short. However a fumble by Jordan Wilkins allowed Kevin Richardson to scoop and score. That pulled the Hogs to within 37-35 and set up the heroics for Limpert’s heroics.
Arkansas will now take on Coastal Carolina on Saturday at 3 p.m. CT as the Hogs celebrate homecoming. This isn’t a very good Coastal Carolina team so one can assume the Hogs win. It would benefit the Hogs tremendously if they could win and basically use it as a bye week in some ways. Play the starters, but let them put it away quickly then substitute out.
That game will be Arkansas’ seventh in as many weeks. Since the bye week fell on Sept. 16 that left the Razorbacks facing 10 games in as many weeks. That seems to be a scheduling quirk by the SEC, but that is a story for another day.
Getting back to the Coastal Carolina game, if the Hogs can rest some of its key players, at least the second half that should allow them to get freshened back up for the final three games. They won’t be easy.
The Hogs will play its final road game of the season on Nov. 11 when they go to Baton Rouge to take on a talented LSU team. Arkansas will then return to Reynolds Razorback Stadium to face Mississippi State on Nov. 18 then six days later put a wrap on the regular season by hosting Missouri. The Hogs will host the Tigers at 1:30 p.m. and it will be a national telecast on CBS.
Arkansas is now at the point if they can win the final three home games that will get them to six wins on the season and allow them to go to a bowl game. Playing in Fayetteville hasn’t guaranteed the Hogs a win since they are 1-2 this season. But the losses were to TCU who was ranked No. 4 until Saturday’s loss to Iowa State. Auburn was No. 11 in the nation when they beat the Hogs. Arkansas beat New Mexico State for its lone win in Fayetteville.
In addition, Bielema’s teams have had success in Baton Rouge. They are 1-1 there, but very easily could be 2-0. In Bielema’s first season in 2013, LSU rallied late for a 31-27 victory. In 2015, the Hogs blasted LSU 31-14 in one of the best games a Bielema-coached team has played at Arkansas. Teams don’t usually go into Baton Rouge and beat the Tigers in a night game like that.
Mississippi State will not be an easy game at all for the Hogs. The Bulldogs went into College Station on Saturday night and beat Texas A&M 35-14. Nick Fitzgerald may very well be the best quarterback in the SEC. Missouri has been a thorn in Arkansas’ side since the two started playing. The Tigers are 2-1 against the Razorbacks. However, the two teams have won at home each time they have played and Arkansas took a 28-3 win in 2015 in Razorback Stadium.
The Ole Miss win guarantees nothing as far as the next four games, but it is still mathematically possible the Hogs can go to a bowl game and that is something to play for in a season that went sour early.