FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Houston Nutt exchanged hugs with the Arkansas players, surrounded by them again after an emotional game.
This time he had come over from the opposing sideline.
"I love my team right now," the Mississippi coach said. "But it is hard not to love players that you recruited and coached. You are close to them and you have been in their living rooms, so it was harder than I thought."
Jevan Snead threw two touchdown passes, and Mississippi held off an Arkansas rally to give Nutt a 23-21 win over his former team Saturday night. The Rebels allowed a late touchdown, then let the Razorbacks recover an onside kick before finally holding defensively.
Afterward, Nutt stayed at midfield for a while, greeting the team he used to coach. Nutt left the Razorbacks late last season to take over at Ole Miss.
"I just shook his hand and said, 'Congratulations, good luck the rest of the season,'" Arkansas center Jonathan Luigs said. "It's common courtesy with a guy you spent a lot of time with the last four years. It was a tough one to swallow, but they did a good job."
The Rebels (4-4, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) 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 coached the Hogs for 10 seasons before leaving after last regular season to take over for Ole Miss. He and the Rebels were booed as they took the field.
"I think everybody on the team wanted to give 100 percent so we'd win it for him," Snead said.
Snead went 14-of-27 for 209 yards with an interception.
Arkansas trailed 20-14 after Dick's 8-yard touchdown pass to Lucas Miller with 4:28 remaining, but Snead found Mike Wallace for a 42-yard pass on the next Ole Miss possession, and Joshua Shene kicked a 28-yard field goal with 1:45 to play.
After that kick appeared to put the game out of reach, the Ole Miss fans in one corner of the stadium began chanting "Houston Nutt! Houston Nutt!"
The Arkansas fans booed, and a few of them began chanting "Bobby" in reference to Nutt's replacement, Bobby Petrino.
Petrino's Razorbacks then rallied to make it interesting.
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.
The Rebels took the field Saturday at exactly the same moment Arkansas did -- which might have spared Nutt a truly hostile greeting. Still, there were plenty of audible boos for the former coach and his team.
Nutt said he expected that.
"I've been booed when I was on that sideline," he said, pointing toward the Arkansas side of field.
Petrino made a key call in the second quarter. The Razorbacks had already missed one field goal, so he decided to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the Ole Miss 13. Michael Smith took a pitch to the left and went untouched to the end zone for a 7-3 lead.
The Rebels answered, scoring twice in the final two minutes of the half. Snead threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Shay Hodge to give Ole Miss the lead with 1:58 remaining, then Fon Ingram intercepted a pass and returned it 38 yards to the 17. The Rebels had time for one more play, a 34-yard field goal by Shene that made it 13-7 at halftime.
Ole Miss went ahead 20-7 with 13:21 left in the game when Snead found Wallace wide open in the back of the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown. Arkansas' offense came back to life after that with a 97-yard scoring drive.
Smith rushed for 129 yards for the Razorbacks, and D.J. Williams added 10 catches for 129 yards. Wallace caught five passes for 120 yards for Ole Miss.
The win was a major boost to the Rebels' bowl hopes and their first over Arkansas since 2003.
"We have some goals in sight," Nutt said. "It's going to be a happy plane ride and a happy practice tomorrow."
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