OXFORD, Miss. — The University of Central Arkansas Bears slapped Johnny Reb smack in the face Saturday night.
Johnny Reb came out in the second half with a passion and a club and walloped the Bears with a heavy dose of Southeastern Conference football.
Ole Miss, trailing 20-14 during a first half in which the UCA offense had it on its heels, almost totally shut down the Bears the second half and produced scoring drives of 74, 75, 70 yards on the way to a 35-point onslaught and a 49-27 victory at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Hugh Freeze’s debut as Ole Miss coach.
It was UCA’s first football game against an SEC opponent.
The game turned dramatically on weird fumble and a superb pass by Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace in the third quarter.
The Rebels got their offense in rhythm and drove 74 yards in 10 plays on their second possession of the second half. Wallace, who ravaged the UCA defense all game, with keepers, fumbled high into the air as he was going into the end zone, but it turned out to be somewhat of a jump pass to Ja-Mas Logan, who recovered the ball in the end zone to give Ole Miss a 21-20 lead with 6:33 left in the period.
On the Rebels’ next drive, Wallace stood in the pocket under pressure and hit Donte Moncrief perfectly in stride in a seam in the Ole Miss defense for a 53-yard touchdown.
Before a crowd of 50,554 (the largest a UCA team has played before), the Rebels poured it on the fourth quarter.
Before a final mopup drive by UCA that resulted in a 15-yard pass from Wynrick Smothers to Dezmin Lewis, the Bears had two first downs and were held to three-and-outs in the second half.
The Rebels held the Bears to 110 yards the second half, 75 of that on the Bears’ late touchdown drive, capped by a nice diving reception on a 15-yard pass from Wynrick Smothers.
Ole Miss amassed 565 yards, 334 the second half.
“Give Ole Miss credit for that second half, particularly that defensive line, which found another gear,” said UCA coach Clint Conque. “Their offense got into a rhythm, and we lost a couple of linebackers and they took advantage of our youth and inexperience. We didn’t get our eyes in the right place on defense and their defense just wore down a young offensive line.”
Wallace and Barry Brunetti accounted for 136 of the Rebels’ 235 rushing yards, finding seams on the read option.
In the fourth-quarter, Brunetti capped a 70-yard drive with an 11-yard TD pass over the middle to Jamal Mosley. Then, after Frank Crawford intercepted Smothers and returned to the UCA 25, Ole Miss scored 11 seconds later on a 25-yard pass to Philander Moore. Brunetti rushed 11 yards for Ole Miss’ final touchdown, giving the Rebels a 49-20 lead with 5:57 left.
On a humid afternoon and night, the Bears made the Regels sweat.
After Ole Miss took a 7-0 lead on a 25-yard run by Wallace, UCA countered with a drive that produced a 3-yard touchdown run by backup quarterback Jacoby Walker.
Ole Miss drove 75 yards to a 10-yard run by Jaylen Walton but UCA counted with a 75-yard, 10-play drive to Terence Bobo’s 2-yard run. Then, the Bears stunned the Rebels with a 62-yard pass from Smothers to Al Lasker to take a 20-14 lead with 8:24 left in the half.
“We’ll take a lot of positives from this,” said Conque. “We’ll learn a lot from this.”
“They’ll be a good team in their division,” said Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze.
The Bears are on the road again next week at Murray State, which took a beating from Florida State on Saturday.