The start of the 2021 football season is upon us, and after a comeback win in Week One against Rice, the Arkansas fanbase seems ready to blow up the KJ Jefferson experiment before it gets started.
The third-year signal caller struggled heavily in the first half, much to the dismay of Razorback fans who had been clamoring for a blowout win over the up-and-coming Rice Owls. The crowd was visibly frustrated after they entered the second half of the game down 10-7, and things seemed to be getting out of hand after a touchdown pass from Wiley Green put the Owls up 17-7.
“I told the team we were going to face adversity,” Head Coach Sam Pittman said. “I didn’t know it was going to be the entire first half.”
It was a 31-yard pass to Tyson Morris that really started to get Jefferson going, and from there the Hogs scored 31 unanswered points to run away with the win.
“To me, (that pass to Tyson Morris) was probably it, that he knew he could throw to our receivers,” Pittman said. “Lets face the facts, earlier in the game they weren’t helping him either.”
After the game, it was really easy for fans to look exclusively at the first half and deem that Jefferson was not the answer at QB. The totality of the game tells a different story, though.
There is reason to stay optimistic, though. Most of the problems that occurred in the first half were self-inflicted. A blocked punt, a bad snap on third down, and consistent penalty problems paved the way for a rough start. It is hard to get into a rhythm when the offense is starting inside their own twenty-yard-line, which Arkansas did the first eight drives of the game.
After the offense settled in, they looked just as, if not more, dangerous than the 2020 offense. 31 unanswered points is still noteworthy, no matter how you spin it. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but if one takes a look through the rest of college football, Arkansas wasn’t the only team to struggle in it’s opening game.
To put the rough start solely on the quarterback is lazy and uninformed. The entire team will need to improve upon the second half of the Rice game to remain competitive throughout the course of the 2021 season.
Make no mistake about it, Jefferson will need to throw the ball better for the Hogs to win against Texas this Saturday. The receivers will need to catch the ball better, too. Special teams will need to shore up their side of things as well. The defense will need to keep Grant Morgan in the game for more than the first five minutes of the first quarter.
KJ Jefferson still has flaws, no doubt about it. He also has the tools to improve and be an incredible quarterback. Give him time to grow, and he might surprise a lot of people in the SEC this season.
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