OXFORD, Miss. -- Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino came to the postgame news conference sporting a rare grin. His Razorbacks had just taken a huge haymaker from underdog Mississippi but survived to laugh about it.
It was a much more stressful afternoon than just about everyone anticipated.
"I'm on about the 10th deep breath I've taken," Petrino said.
The Razorbacks (No. 9 BCS, No. 10 AP) fought back from an early 17-point deficit to beat Mississippi 29-24 on Saturday afternoon at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, needing Eric Bennett's late interception to stop the final Ole Miss drive and seal the victory.
Tyler Wilson threw for 232 yards and rushed for two short touchdowns as Arkansas (6-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) continues its best start in four years under Petrino, staying in the mix in the loaded Western Division that includes LSU and Alabama.
Ole Miss (2-5, 0-4) took a surprising 17-0 lead with 6:20 remaining in the second quarter after Randall Mackey's 3-yard touchdown run, but the Razorbacks responded with 29 unanswered points.
The Rebels have now set a program record for SEC futility, losing 10 straight league games dating back to last season. Ole Miss has been in the SEC since 1933.
The 11:21 a.m. kickoff had the Razorbacks looking a little groggy, but the afternoon brought much better things.
"Certainly we didn't want to start that way, but we kept competing," Petrino said. "We found a way to win and I'm happy with how we responded."
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt fell to 2-2 against the program he coached for 10 seasons before coming to Oxford. Nutt said he was proud of how his players fought, but the Razorbacks' 19-0 edge in the third quarter proved too much to overcome.
"I'd like to have that third quarter back," Nutt said. "There were two series on offense and two series on defense where we just didn't do anything."
The Razorbacks' league-leading passing offense was never at its best, but Wilson was effective when it mattered. He completed 13 of 28 passes and didn't throw an interception. Arkansas had 310 total yards in the second half.
The Rebels had been crushed the previous week in a 52-7 loss to No. 2 Alabama and had lost three conference games by a combined score of 109-27. Program morale appeared in the tank.
But Nutt emerged with a different game plan against the Razorbacks, using a heavy dose of freshman receiver Nickolas Brassell and a suddenly stingy defense. Brassell led the Rebels with eight catches for 70 yards.
Ole Miss took a 3-0 lead on Bryson Rose's 43-yard field goal late in the first quarter and then stretched it to 10-0 on Mackey's 31-yard touchdown pass to Donte Moncrief on the first play of the second quarter.
The Rebels added to their lead on Mackey's 3-yard touchdown run to go up 17-0 before the Razorbacks finally showed some life with Johnson's 52-yard touchdown run that pulled the halftime score to 17-7.
"We knew when (Brassell) went in motion it gave them an extra speed guy on the perimeter," Arkansas linebacker Jerico Nelson said. "We just made the adjustment to funnel everything back inside."
The Razorbacks kept the momentum in the second half, buoyed by a stadium that had a neutral-field atmosphere because of the thousands of Arkansas fans who travelled across the Mississippi River for the game. The Razorbacks scored on two field goals by Zach Hocker, Wilson's two TDs and a safety by linebacker Jerry Franklin to go up 29-17 early in the fourth quarter.
The Ole Miss offense, which was so impressive in the first half, was equally as anemic after halftime until a late surge.
Mackey found Moncrief in the corner of the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown -- his second of the game -- and the Rebels pulled within 29-24. The onside kick was recovered by Ole Miss tight end Jamal Mosley with 1:21 remaining and the Rebels briefly had life.
But Bennett intercepted an errant Mackey pass on the second play of the drive and the Razorbacks were able to run out the clock.
Mackey completed 18 of 30 passes for 219 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in this third career start. Brandon Bolden rushed for 68 yards on 14 carries but was hobbled after a second-quarter ankle injury and never looked the same.
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