Ole Miss rose four spots to No. 16 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll Sunday, but more than rankings are ascending for the Rebels.
Coach Lane Kiffin and his squad will try to add to last weekend’s incredible Southeastern Conference victory when Ole Miss (4-1, 1-1) hosts West Division foe Arkansas (2-3, 0-2) in Oxford, Miss.
This week’s game, however, will have a tough time topping last week’s offensive outpouring in a 55-49 instant-classic home victory over then-No. 13 LSU.
In that thriller, the Rebels rallied from a 49-40 deficit in the final 8:34, notching two touchdowns and denying a desperation 25-yard pass into the end zone by the Tigers on the last play.
Rebels quarterback Jaxson Dart turned in his best outing of the season, completing 26 of 39 passes for 389 yards and a career-high four touchdowns to go with 50 rushing yards and a score.
By accounting for 439 yards and five TDs, Dart earned Co-Offensive Player of the Week honors in the SEC.
Ole Miss running back Quinshon Judkins topped the century mark for the first time in 2023 with 177 yards on 33 carries and scored one TD apiece via rushing and receiving.
However, in a night of Rebels mass production — 706 yards of it — the defense made consecutive stops for the win.
That resulted in the record crowd of 66,703 climbing from the stands, storming the field and eventually causing the school to receive a $100,000 SEC fine Sunday for violating the competition area policy.
Kiffin said after stopping LSU’s Jayden Daniels to clinch the big win that the attention will turn to Razorbacks 6-foot-3, 247-pound signal-caller KJ Jefferson.
“I think he gets bigger every year,” the fourth-year Rebels coach said Monday. “I mean, this guy is so hard to bring down and so challenging to play against. He always brings his great game against us also. We’ve got to tackle really well.”
The Razorbacks lost a 52-51 explosive matchup two years ago in Oxford that also came down to the final snap.
In that one, Jefferson (326 passing yards, three TDs) and running back Raheim “Rocket” Sanders (139 yards on 17 carries) had impressive outings as then-No. 13 Arkansas scored a touchdown on the final play of regulation to bring the deficit to one point.
However, a failed two-point pass intended for Treylon Burks while Jefferson was being pressured awarded the Rebels.
Last Saturday in his team’s 34-22 loss to Texas A&M, Jefferson’s offense managed just 174 yards, including his 48-yard TD pass to Andrew Armstrong in the closing minutes.
In Arkansas’ third straight setback, the Aggies’ pass rush harassed Jefferson and sacked him seven times for 41 yards.
“Everybody being on the same page: O-line, tight ends, running back, including myself to be able to transfer protection or know where the pressure is coming from,” Jefferson said of his squad’s needs. “Make sure everyone is on the same page. That’s what it boils down to, just communication up front.”
The Razorbacks defeated Ole Miss 42-27 last season at home as Sanders had career highs in rushing yards (232) and TDs (three).