NOTEBOOK: Freeze OK with ruling on Arkansas’ 4th-down conversion
After Arkansas pulled out what seemed like an improbable win over Ole Miss on Saturday, the Internet and social media spent the rest of the weekend debating: Was the Razorbacks’ fourth-and-25 conversion legal?
That’s how far the Hogs had to go to keep the game going after Ole Miss scored a touchdown on the opening possession of overtime for the touchdown lead. Brandon Allen threw short to tight end Hunter Henry, who pitched the ball backward while in Tony Bridges’ grasp. The ball hit the ground and bounced into the hands of Alex Collins, who took it down the sideline 31 yards for a fresh set of downs.
Arkansas scored two plays later, got another chance on its two-point conversion when Marquis Haynes grabbed Allen’s facemask on a sack and stunned the home crowd with a 53-52 win.
The play was ruled a lateral, not a fumble, and therefore could be advanced. That’s the interpretation Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze got from the Southeastern Conference office, one the coach didn’t disagree with.
“Their interpretation — and I would agree — was it was a lateral. It was a backward pass,” Freeze said during his weekly press conference Monday. “That is the differentiating thing.”
Similar to Jake Coker for Alabama, Paxton Lynch for Memphis and Will Grier for Florida, Allen spent most of the day picking Ole Miss’ secondary apart to the tune of a career-high 442 yards, exploiting man coverage over and over with the Rebels committing to stopping Collins and biting hard on the Razorbacks’ play-action off of it.
The Rebels have a week off before LSU comes to town on Nov. 21. Freeze said they’ll use the down time to conduct more individualized practices that become less frequent during a game week with the focus on game planning a specific opponent while the coaching staff evaluates everything from schemes to personnel.
“Is it the best call for our defensive staff to put them in those (one-on-one) situations?” Freeze said. “That’s what we have to evaluate. I’m certain there were some calls at times that we’d love to have back.”
Swelling for Conner
Safety Tony Conner returned to the field Saturday for the first time since tearing his right meniscus against Alabama on Sept. 19 and had some swelling afterward that will require the knee to be drained, Freeze said.
“They’ll drain it and see how he feels tomorrow, and we’ll kind of judge what we do with him this week based on that,” Freeze said.
Conner will have to have another surgery on the knee after the season. The junior had four tackles Saturday and has 14 on the year.
Reserve offensive tackle Christian Morris, who suffered a spinal contusion in the Rebels’ win over Texas A&M on Oct. 24, tweeted Saturday morning, “Devastated. My career is done. All my hard work…”
Freeze confirmed Morris’ situation Monday, adding that doctors from Jackson made the trip to Oxford and broke the news to Morris before Saturday’s game. Freeze said Morris will stay on scholarship and become a student assistant.
“It’s disappointing for him and I’m sure hurtful,” Freeze said. “We hate it for him. … We’ll support him and love him.”