Ta’amu leads Rebels on 97-yard, game-winning drive as Ole Miss defeats Arkansas, 37-33
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – With a touch over two minutes left in the game, the Ole Miss offense huddled in its own end zone, trailing by two points and staring at 97 yards between the line of scrimmage and the Arkansas goal line.
The Rebels traveled the 97 yards in only seven plays, using just 1:20 off the clock to score on a 5-yard Scottie Phillips touchdown run that earned Ole Miss a 37-33 win over Arkansas at War Memorial Stadium Saturday.
Ole Miss quarterback Jordan Ta’amu said the offense was calm when they took the field for the final drive.
“I just told them, ‘Let’s go. Let’s do this. I have confidence in you boys. It’s just like any other day.’ Our offense is fast and I knew we could do it.“
Ta’amu threw for 387 yards and ran for another 141 to lead the Rebels to their first conference win of the season. Ta’amu threw for two touchdowns and ran for another to lead the Ole Miss offense. He completed passes to eight different receivers.
“I think this is one of my most complete games,” Ta’amu said. “I was just being smart with the ball and making right decisions and right reads.”
Ole Miss (5-2, 1-2 in the SEC) took the game’s initial lead when Luke Logan hit a 36-yard field goal only 2:11 into the game to put the Rebels up 3-0.
From there, Arkansas took control. The Razorbacks (1-6, 0-4) scored 27 first-half points and Ole Miss was able to keep pace on a Ta’amu 18-yard run and a 6-yard scoring catch by DaMarkus Lodge to pull the Rebels to within 27-17 at the half.
In the second half, the Ole Miss defense stepped up, limiting the Hogs to just two field goals in the third quarter. Sandwiched between the two kicks was another big play by the Ole Miss offense.
Facing a third-and-11 at the Rebels’ 34, Ta’amu found Octavious Cooley down the right sideline and hit him with a 66-yard scoring strike. Logan’s kick temporarily cut the Arkansas lead to six points, 30-24. The second Razorback field goal increased the lead to 33-24 heading into the fourth quarter.
In the final period, the Landshark defense bent, but did not break as Ole Miss shut out the Hogs the rest of the way. Arkansas possessed the ball three times in the fourth quarter and were forced to punt twice before throwing the game-sealing interception.
Trailing by nine, Ole Miss previewed the game-winning drive by mounting a 10-play 84-yard drive. The Rebels hit paydirt on a 2-yard Isaiah Woullard touchdown. Logan’s kick inched Ole Miss to close the gap to 33-31. On the drive, the Rebels only faced one third down and earned five first downs.
Ole Miss gave up one first down on the ensuing possession and forced the Razorbacks to punt. Reid Bauer got off what appeared to be an average punt, but the kick took an incredible roll, coming to rest at the Rebels’ 3 to set up the historical, game-winning drive.
The series got off to an inauspicious start as Ta’amu’s first-down pass short-hopped Braylon Sanders. On second down Ta’amu found A.J. Brown over the middle for 20 yards. After another incompletion, Ole Miss pulled off the biggest play of the drive.
Ta’amu found tight end Dawson Knox on a crossing route and the Brentwood, Tenn., native made his way up the left sideline for 48 yards to the Arkansas 29. The Razorbacks’ defense lost track of Ta’amu on the next play and the quarterback scampered for 15 yards to the Arkansas 14 to put Ole Miss firmly into Logan field-goal range.
Logan would not be called upon.
Phillips ran for 9 yards on first down and followed it up with the 5-yard game-winning rush.
Rebels win!! I’m somewhere in the bowels of War Memorial Stadium waiting for Coach Luke to come to the postgame presser. Video of game-winning TD. Sorry it’s so shaky. I was excited. 💙❤️#HottyToddy pic.twitter.com/jnxaFextkx
— The Rebel Walk (@TheRebelWalk) October 14, 2018
Ole Miss failed on a 2-point conversion attempt but led 37-33.
“For him (Ta’amu) to lead a comeback this year and have that many yards rushing and passing, that’s a pretty special night.“
Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke on Ta’amu’s performance
As for Ta’amu, he indicated neither he nor his offensive teammates were worried when they took the field on their own 3-yard line. “I was calm. I blocked out the noise,” he said.
“In the huddle, everyone was calm. Everyone knew we were going to win. Everyone knew we were going to drive down.”
Jordan Ta’amu on the mood in the huddle before the game-winning drive
Ta’amu’s 528 yards of total offense puts him in second place in school history–behind only the legendary Archie Manning.
Arkansas returned a short kick into Rebels’ territory, but a penalty pushed the Hogs back to their side of the field.
On first down, Cole Kelley overshot his receiver over the middle and the ball landed safely in the arms of Zedrick Woods to seal the game.
The Rebels return to Oxford next week to host Auburn. Kickoff is set for 11:00 a.m.
Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers.
He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio.
A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series.
Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time.
He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk.
Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.