FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Houston Nutt’s return to Arkansas is in the past now, and the coach’s new team has given itself quite a bit to play for this November.
Jevan Snead threw two touchdown passes, and Ole Miss held off an Arkansas rally to give Nutt a 23-21 win over his former team Saturday night. Now the Rebels are two wins from becoming bowl eligible for the first time since the Eli Manning era.
“We have some goals in sight,” Nutt said after the game. “It’s going to be a happy plane ride.”
Nutt has a chance to take the Rebels back to the postseason in his first season after coming over from Arkansas. Ole Miss (4-4, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) hasn’t been since Manning led the team past Oklahoma State in the 2004 Cotton Bowl.
The Rebels aren’t out of the woods yet though. Ole Miss faces Auburn, Louisiana-Monroe, LSU and rival Mississippi State. The Rebels need to win two of those games to be eligible for a bowl.
Ole Miss was eliminated from bowl contention in October the last two years.
Nutt coached the Razorbacks for 10 seasons before leaving after last regular season to take over at Ole Miss. He and the Rebels were booed as they took the field.
“This game was different,” Nutt said. “It was emotional and it was very hard.”
The Rebels led 23-14 with 1:45 remaining, but Arkansas quickly cut the deficit to two with 1:07 to play on Casey Dick’s 22-yard touchdown pass to Greg Childs. The Razorbacks (3-5, 1-4) then tried an onside kick, and Arkansas’ Aaron Fenton appeared to recover it.
Officials initially ruled the play out of bounds, but the call was reversed on review, giving the Razorbacks the ball. London Crawford caught a pass near the Ole Miss 20, but it was called back for offensive pass interference, and Arkansas didn’t threaten again.
Nutt’s final months at Arkansas were tumultuous. Shortly after the 2006 season, offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn and quarterback Mitch Mustain abruptly left the team. Nutt’s 2007 included plenty of fan unrest — planes were spotted towing anti-Nutt banners at games.
Bobby Petrino replaced Nutt at Arkansas, and although this has been a rebuilding year, it’s been low on drama compared to the Razorbacks’ recent history. The Hogs hope to reach a bowl, but they now face an uphill climb — starting with a big game next weekend against No. 19 Tulsa.