OXFORD, Miss. — Opposing quarterbacks have feasted on the Arkansas pass defense this season.
Bo Wallace of Ole Miss was the latest to fatten his statistics on the Razorbacks’ porous secondary. The junior quarterback threw for a career-high 407 yards on 26-of-33 passing with three touchdowns and two interceptions for a stellar 200.3 quarterback rating in Saturday’s 34-24 victory. It was the fifth-most yardage thrown for by an Ole Miss quarterback.
With reliever Barry Brunetti, Ole Miss finished with a total of 419 passing yards. It was the first time since a 27-26 loss to Vanderbilt in 2012 that the Rebels topped the 400-yard passing mark.
Arkansas gave up two long TD passes to Wallace, blowing open what had been a tight game.
Late in the third quarter, Ole Miss led by 10 when he hit Ja-Mes Logan for a 75-yard TD pass. Just more than three minutes later, he found Donte Moncrief for a 52-yard score and suddenly Ole Miss led comfortably heading into the fourth quarter at 34-17.
“Obviously getting very frustrated,” Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema said. “Any time that you put yourself in the position we were in today, have a chance to win a game and you can’t pull it out just because of, you know, some things that fundamentally broke down for us. We obviously can’t give up long pass plays. Those two pass plays absolutely, positively killed us.”
Bielema said mental mistakes on the long TDs were ones his team has made before — misplaying coverages and missing tackles.
“The first one. … The over the top, Eric Bennett, it was a double move,” Bielema said. “He actually is on top of the guy on the first move and then he kind of did a flinch and he stopped his feet, and that receiver never broke stride and he went on past him, and then we were trailing for the rest of the play. That was the breakdown there.”
The second was a result of a missed tackle by cornerback Tevin Mitchell and then a poor route to the receiver by other players in the secondary after the catch.
“(It) was just relatively, a pretty simple hitch screen, and we come up and Tevin missed a tackle, obviously,” Bielema said. “The worst breakdown of that play is we missed a tackle, obviously, but what we’ve got to do is leverage the ball there. … We missed a tackle there, he comes down, we should leverage the football, our guy takes an inside path to the football, and it breaks the rest of the way for a touchdown.
“It’s fundamental football of defensive guys understanding how to leverage the ball so other guys can make tackles.”
During the school-record seven game losing streak — which includes a school-record six straight Southeastern Conference losses — such performances are common for the Arkansas defense. In seven losses, opposing quarterbacks have completed 135-of-200 for 1,839 yards, 19 TDs and only three interceptions for a combined 173.1 QB rating.
Wallace’s 78.8 completion percentage wasn’t the best effort against Arkansas; that was turned in by Auburn’s Nick Marshall, who missed just once for an 87.5. Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M completed 76.7 percent of his throws, followed by Florida’s Tyler Murphy with 72.7. South Carolina’s Connor Shaw (67.9) was the only QB during the losing streak to throw for less than 70 percent against the Razorbacks.
Bielema said that run of poor play will result in some personnel changes in two weeks against Mississippi State in Little Rock.
“We do tackling drills every day. We try to get creative, but obviously Tevin’s really struggling in that department. That’s why I went with D.J. Dean,” Bielema said. “We’re just going to have to get some other guys in there and rotate through, and that’s also part of recruiting. … I knew that was going to be a position that we just didn’t have a lot of depth at, and guys are breaking down.
“Unfortunately, we just don’t have a lot of answers right now.”
For the fourth time in the last six games, Arkansas gave up more than 500 yards of offense. Ole Miss finished with a total of 531 to join Texas A&M (523), South Carolina (537) and Alabama (532) in reaching half a 1,000 against the Razorbacks.