OXFORD — Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace danced in the pocket for a few seconds and then double clutched. It looked like a play ripe to end with a bad decision.
Instead, the junior threw another beautiful pass in a career-day full of them, hitting Ja-Mes Logan in stride for a 75-yard touchdown that sparked the Rebels to a 34-24 victory against Arkansas on Saturday afternoon.
Wallace was 26 of 33 for a career-high 407 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions as Ole Miss (6-3, 3-3 Southeastern Conference) earned bowl eligibility for the second-straight season under coach Hugh Freeze.
“Six wins isn’t our goal, but it’s good to get it over with,” Wallace said. “We’re not trying to go to a 6-6 bowl, we’re trying to go to a nine-win bowl.”
Arkansas (3-7, 0-6) has lost seven straight. The loss assured there will be no postseason for the Razorbacks and first-year coach Bret Bielema.
Arkansas kept the game tight for much of the afternoon, pulling within 20-17 on Kiero Small’s 1-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter.
But the Rebels broke it open with two long touchdown passes — the 75-yard strike to Logan and a 52-yarder to Donte Moncrief — and the Razorbacks never seriously threatened again.
The throw to Logan was especially pretty. The 6-foot-3, 183-pound senior never lost his momentum as he snagged the throw and dashed to the end zone.
“I was close to not throwing it,” Wallace said. “But I just laid it up and he can really go get it.”
Wallace kept Arkansas off-balance all afternoon with short, medium and long completions. His receivers helped him out by gaining big chunks of yards after the catch, slipping past the Arkansas secondary with regularity.
Moncrief caught seven passes for 149 yards and a touchdown while Logan added five catches for 110 yards and a touchdown. It’s the first time two Ole Miss players have had at least 100 yards receiving in a game since 2003.
“I haven’t had receivers (like this) at other schools,” Freeze said. “I’ve followed Ole Miss football for a long time, and our group could arguably be one of the top receiving corps throughout (program) history.”
Jonathan Williams led Arkansas with 67 rushing yards while Alex Collins added 57 on the ground. Ole Miss outgained the Razorbacks 531-389.
“We want wins and it’s hard to say that a 3-7 football team is headed in the right direction but I think it is,” Bielema said. “It reminds me so much of different things I’ve seen and experienced with programs, it’s going through some really dark days to get to where we really want to be, and I hope that day comes soon.”
Ole Miss continues to take advantage of its current six-game homestand, winning three out of four at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium with two more remaining.
Wallace was efficient in the first half, going17 of 20 for 226 yards and a touchdown. The Rebels had a 13-3 lead by midway through the second quarter before Arkansas responded with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Allen to Hunter Henry to pull within 13-10.
Ole Miss got the ball back with 2 minutes, 43 seconds remaining in the second quarter, which was more than enough time to drive the field. The Rebels overcame two false starts during their methodical march downfield, and Wallace lofted a perfect 14-yard touchdown pass to Laquon Treadwell over the Arkansas secondary for a 20-10 lead going into halftime.
Wallace made his only bad mistake early in the third quarter when Arkansas defensive back Alan Turner grabbed an easy interception that gave the Razorbacks the ball on the Ole Miss 46. It took Arkansas just six plays to drive for the touchdown, pulling within 20-17 when Small, a 242-pound fullback, moved the pile for the 1-yard score.
But the Rebels’ third quarter malaise ended with Wallace’s long completion to Logan, which gave Ole Miss a 27-17 lead. On the Rebels’ next drive, Wallace completed a short pass to Moncrief, who skipped past one defender and rumbled 52 yards for the 34-17 advantage.
Wallace threw two interceptions, but they didn’t blemish a career day.
About the only bad news for Ole Miss was the ejection of freshman Robert Nkemdiche, who was tossed after throwing an Arkansas defender to the ground in the fourth quarter.
Nkemdiche, a 6-foot-5, 294-pound freshman, was the nation’s consensus No. 1 recruit in the offseason.
Arkansas pulled within 34-24 on Allen’s 20-yard touchdown pass to Julian Horton with 4:57 left, but the Razorbacks didn’t have the offense to keep up with Ole Miss. Allen completed 18 of 32 passes for 193 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Horton said the Razorbacks wouldn’t lack motivation for the final two games.
“It’s just about being prideful about our program,” Horton said. “We are Arkansas, and we’re trying to get back to the way we used to be.”