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The Razorbacks Bounce Back in Provo Shootout

NCAA Football: Arkansas at Brigham Young Gabriel Mayberry-USA TODAY Sports

Coach Sam Pittman wanted the hogs to start fast against BYU. He even deviated from his usual philosophy of deferring the opening coin flip, if won. But on the 5th play from scrimmage, Raheim “Rocket” Sanders fumbled the ball, draining any momentum coach Pittman’s new strategy would generate.

On the next series, the Hogs started to generate push on the line of scrimmage. It allowed Sanders to gain 24 yards on 3 plays. The passing game, however, needed a little more time. KJ Jefferson went 0/3 forcing Arkansas to punt.

Arkansas and BYU would then start trading touchdowns. Jaren Hall would score a 4 yard passing touchdown to Isaac Rexand 21 yard pass to Kody Epps, respectfully (Justen Smith missed the PAT on BYU’s last touchdown). The Razorbacks would score in between with a 15 yard rush by Rocket Sanders.BYU would lead going into the 2nd quarter 13-7.

The Hogs began to come alive in the second half, scoring 3 passing touchdowns and a field goal to BYU’s one Touchdown (2pt conversion was successful). It would include Matt Landers’first touchdown of the year and an absolutely MAGICAL scramble play by KJ Jefferson. The defense would also come in clutch with a turnover on downs/fumble and an interception by Hudson Clark—his first of the year. The Razorbacks would go into half up by 31-21.

After a decent showing for Arkansas’s beat-up defense in the 2nd quarter, it seems like they forgot to come out of the locker for the second half. Arkansas gave up two consecutive, 10 play, 75 yard touchdown drives.

Luckily, so did BYU’s defense. Arkansas would score on two consecutive drives, both caught by Matt Landers, his second and third of the day.

The defense would finally come back to life going into the 4th quarter. The Hogs force the Cougars to punt at the beginning of the 4th quarter. Rocket Sanders then responded with a 64 yardrushing touchdown to go up 52-35. On the next drive, Dwight McGlothern forced a fumble recovered by Hudson Clark with 10:29 to go in the game.

From there Arkansas controlled the majority of the time left. On a 16 play, 73 yard drive, the Hogs impressively milked 10 minutes and 2 seconds of the remaining clock, finally turning the ball over on downs at the BYU 2 yard line. The Cougars ran the ball one more time to let the time expire.

Final score 52-35.

Coach Pittman might not have gotten the fast start he wanted, but boy did the Razorbacks finish. “Our offense was on fire for most of the game and Kendal Briles needs credit for that, Cody Kennedy, you know, those guys that had a great game plan,” said Coach Pittman.

The Hogs finished the game with 644 yards of total offense, 277 rushing and a whopping 367 threw the air. KJ Jefferson was on fire today, going 29/40, 5 touchdowns, zero interceptions, and 32 yards on the ground. With the 5th passing touchdown, Jefferson has joined a very exclusive club for the Hogs.

Matt Jones with Whole Hog Sports tweeted, “KJ Jefferson joins Ryan Mallett (4), Brandon Allen (2) and Tyler Wilson (1) as the only Arkansas quarterbacks to throw 5 touchdowns in a game.

On a sour note, Jefferson would leave the game with an apparent injury but was able to leave the field on his own power. Coach Pittman said the injury was just a “stinger” and that he’s fine.

Jefferson not only threw the ball well; he was an excellent distributor of the football. In all, 10 receivers caught the ball with 6 gaining over 40 yards! Matt Landers had one of his best games with 99 yards. Landers would also catch his first touchdown of the year and would add two more to his totalbefore the clock hit zero. Trey Knox also had a great game with 66 yards and a touchdown.

Rocket Sanders might have had a bad start with a fumble on the first drive, but he certainly made up for it. Sanders had 175 yards on the ground on 15 carries, averaging 11.7 yards a carry. His longest run of the day was a 64 yard rush that ended up being the final dagger to finish off the Cougars.

Arguably, the most important thing the Arkansas offense did was continue to keep drives moving. Arkansas was also incredible on third down, converting 12 of 15. Arkansas also converted in the red zone going 6-7, with the lone red zone stop being on the 2 yard line at the end of the game.

Arkansas’s defense gave up 471 total yards, allowing 356 passing and 115 rushing. At this point in the season, we know this defense is going to give up yards and some points, but at least this game saw some life.

The Razorbacks had some clutch moments. On 4th down &1 in the 2nd quarter, the defense forced the first turnover of the game for the Hogs. Pittman said, “I think that was a big turning point of the game because let’s face facts, we hadn’t stopped them all night.” The hogs go on to recover another fumble and force a pick, more than doubling BYU’s total turnovers for the year.

Arkansas also turned it around on TFL’s. The defense dropped a BYU player behind the line of scrimmage 3 times. Unfortunately, the Hogs never got to Hall, but they did have 5 quarterback hurries.

Usually, we see and hear a lot about the linebackers Drew Sanders(4 tackles, 1 solo) and Bumper Pool(6 tackles, 3 solo), but the leading tackler of the game was Hudson Clark(11tackles, 4 solo). Clark seemed to be all over the place tonight and is nicely acclimating to safety very well. Clark also had the only interception in the game, his first for the year and his first since picking off Matt Corall in Arkansas’s 2020 win over Ole Miss. “It’s kind of a relief getting one for the first time since 2020. I had my hands on a few, but just coming down with it was huge,” said Clark when asked about the interception.

Next week is the bye week where Arkansas will get their much-needed rest. Pittman thinks that by the time Arkansas heads to Auburn they’ll be healthy and believes that they “can have everybody except for [Catalon] and [Bishop],” which is great news for the Hogs beat-up secondary.