Ole Miss football beat Arkansas on Saturday, and Ulysses Bentley IV had seven of the last nine running back carries. Quinshon Judkins, who led the SEC in rushing yards as a freshman and ran 33 times for 177 yards in a Week 5 win over LSU, did not play. After the game, Lane Kiffin gave a simple explanation: he was going to ride the hot hand, and Bentley’s was smoking.
“He ran well today,” Kiffin said of Judkins, who ran 18 times for 65 yards and a touchdown. “Today Bentley ran really well.” We might not do this program the same way other people do it. It doesn’t matter what you did the year before, where you came from, how many stars you have, what you did in the portal, or anything else. And I think you can tell by the way we play. We’ll go to someone hot if they’re hot.
Bentley ran 13 times, gaining 94 yards and a touchdown. Each carry gained him 7.2 yards. Three of his runs were at least 10 yards long. The longest was a 32-yard scamper with less than six minutes left in the game that set up Caden Davis’s extra-point kick. He has run for 275 yards so far this season, which is an average of 7.4 yards per carry. That’s by far the best score he’s had in his five-year career, during which he played three seasons in the American Athletic Conference for SMU.
“That’s actually pretty consistent,” Kiffin said. “I’m the first to let you know when there are plays.” We don’t block the free safety on that touchdown drive, and he makes the other team miss. He makes someone miss in the hole on the last run. It’s a great story about a guy who just fights, even when he hasn’t been given carries. This guy did a great job. He was hurt last year. It’s great to see guys who do the right thing every day and then play great.
There were some questions when Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson threw the ball right into the chest of an unmoving Ashanti Cistrunk. It was Cistrunk’s second interception of his career. Are you sure Jefferson didn’t see Cistrunk as one of his wide receivers? Did he not see him at all? What did he want to do? After the game, Cistrunk said in a sneaky way that he had tricked Jefferson into giving him the ball. “I broke on it, and I caught the pick,” Cistrunk said, adding that his teammates hit him with some friendly jabs for not returning it for a touchdown.
It was that interception that turned the first half in the Rebels’ favor. It led to a 1-yard touchdown run by Judkins. In the fourth quarter, John Saunders Jr. picked off Jefferson to end the game and make it a win for Ole Miss.
The first half of the season may not have given Ole Miss enough credit for how well they did at forcing turnovers. In four games, the Rebels have won the turnover battle and have never lost it. There have been six more turnovers than the other team this season. On the other end of that is an offense that has done a good job of keeping the ball, giving it up only three times. Jaxson Dart, the quarterback, threw 11 interceptions last year, but he has only been picked off twice so far this season.
Dart said that the change in approach was what made the difference. When he drops back, he doesn’t try to make a big play every time. “I’m going to be able to make something happen out of nothing at times, but when nothing’s there, just check the ball down or play the next play,” Dart stated. “The other team also has some great players, so they’ll make a good play now and then.” You have to take what the defense gives you, though.