LITTLE ROCK — On Arkansas’s second possession against Ole Miss, quarterback Tyler Wilson made one of his typical plays. The senior from Greenwood stood in the pocket — knowing he was going to get hit — and threw a 42-yard touchdown pass to tight end Chris Gragg for an early 10-0 lead.
Unfortunately for the Razorbacks, Wilson made a lot of atypical plays after that in the Razorbacks’ 30-27 loss at War Memorial Stadium.
Wilson completed 24-of-43 attempts for 297 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. That doesn’t sound bad by itself, but compared to his normal stats is sub-par for Wilson.
“He made a couple of bad reads and threw the ball a couple of times where he maybe shouldn’t,” Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino said.
His 297 was the third-worst yardage total for Wilson this season. But the other two came with extenuating circumstances. He threw for just 196 in a War Memorial Stadium loss to Louisiana-Monroe, but missed the entire second half with a concussion. He threw for just 230 yards against Auburn in a 24-7 win. His quarterback rating against Ole Miss was 119.9 — the second-worst of the season behind a 101.1 performance in a loss to Texas A&M on Sept. 29 — well below his season average of 158.3.
“They did a number of things. I thought they did a really good job disguising some stuff,” Wilson said. “But it comes down to us executing … I missed a couple of throws you’d like to have back. We’ve got to execute better offensively.”
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said the defense played a few variations designed to confuse Wilson.
“We just had a mixture. Come after him some,” Freeze said. “But we’re playing all those freshmen (on defense), and when you do come after him you’re going to have some one-on-one matchups. Against guys like Cobi Hamilton, you try not to do that a lot.”
Hamilton was Wilson’s regular target and caught 12 of Wilson’s 24 completions for 146 yards. But Hamilton only had five catches for five yards in the second half.
“There was a couple of times that they broke on Cobi and there were a couple of times they were really early (getting to the ball),” Petrino said. “A couple of times they were jumping Cobi. When that’s the case, you’ve got to throw it to somebody else.”
The Rebels’ defense had a total of 18 passes broken up in seven previous games for an average of 2.6 per game. Arkansas quarterbacks had 35 of their passes broken up this season for an average of five per game. But on Saturday, the Rebels got their hands on 10 of Wilson’s passes. While they got two interceptions, Ole Miss had plenty of other chances.
“They’re very aggressive in the secondary; they made a number of plays,” Wilson said. “They bit on a lot of our short routes. We didn’t hit any deep balls that I can think of. Cobi had one, but I had to have a better throw. Unfortunately, we didn’t take advantage of throwing the ball outside and making plays on it.”
Wilson shrugged off any speculation the hit on the Gragg TD — which left him with a mild limp — affected his play.
“Yeah, there were a couple of shots — there and I took one on the chin later,” Wilson said. “But that’s football, you’ve got to play through it.”
Saturday’s loss was the second of the season for Arkansas in Little Rock. Considering Wilson was on three Greenwood teams that won state titles in War Memorial Stadium, his final appearances in the Razorbacks’ home-away-from-home — being knocked out of the ULM loss and losing to Ole Miss — won’t be fond memories.
“You want to win here to finish things out. Little Rock has been good to me, unfortunately not this year,” Wilson said. “But we’ve got a lot of games left to play and there’s a lot left for this team to accomplish.”