BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
Early in his team’s preseason camp, Arkansas head football coach Sam Pittman basically issued a challenge to Georgia Tech transfer defensive end Jordan Domineck.
It was basically give me a little more than I am seeing in practice and Pittman insinuated that the amount of effort expected in Fayetteville might be a little more than it was in Atlanta.
Domineck not only heeded that message in the following practices, but turned in perhaps the biggest play in No. 19 Arkansas’ 31-24 win over defending College Football playoff semifinalist and No. 23 Cincinnati Saturday before 74,751 fans at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
The game was certainly in doubt with Arkansas ahead 24-17 with just over 10 minutes when Dominick sacked Cincinnati quarterback Ben Bryant, forced a fumble and recovered it at Cincy’s 49.
Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson hit Oklahoma wideout transfer Jadon Hasselwood with a 17-yard pass and then dropped one off to tight end Trey Knox, who ran in from 32 yards out.
Cam Little’s ensuing PAT pushed Arkansas ahead 31-17 with 9:26 left in the game.
“Well, you know how it is,” Pittman said. “Anytime you go up two scores, there’s about – at least until you kick off – there’s about *this* much ‘whew’. And that’s what it gave us. It was huge.
“I mean, they were on the 50, I believe. Man, what a nice spin move he had, spinning back inside. Of course, they reviewed it. But I didn’t feel like they were going to change it. Of course, I was for the Hogs and didn’t want them to.
“It was a big, big play in the game. Lot of big plays in the game.”
Razorback senior linebacker Bumper Pool, who led Arkansas with 13 tackles, had a great view of Domineck, who was not one of the players made available to the media at the end of the game.
“Starting out, he goes upfield, hit them with a spin move back inside, strips the ball out, picks it up,” Pool said. “It was a textbook defensive end play. Just stuff like that is going to be a part of our DNA. I was excited to see that flash the first game.
Arkansas safety Simeon Blair was not surprised.
“I definitely expect that from him because sometimes he’ll dip and (get under the) offensive lineman, get to the quarterback, he’ll throw the ball and he’s running all the way to the sideline trying to make the tackle.
“I just feel like that’s something that’s a part of him. He goes until the play is over and if the play is not over he’s going to keep going, keep going, keep going.”
Another big play came from LSU transfer cornerback Dwight McGlothern, who set up the game’s first score with an interception and 51-yard return to the Cincinnati 29 on the game’s first possession.
Arkansas quickly scored when Jefferson ran it in from 15 yards out.
“Dwight made a great play on the ball and put us in great field position,” Jefferson said. “So as an offense that was a momentum play. Defense had our back and we had their back and we wanted to score points as quickly as possible.”
Pittman agreed with the importance of McGlothern’s big play.
“That was a huge play because on that drive, I think it was third and… it might have been eight plus on every one of them, and they converted them, Pittman said. “And then they came back, and Nudie (McGlothern) picked it off and got us headed in the right direction.
“I think we went down and scored, I think, right after that. So, that was big because they were converting third downs on us. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but that was a big play.”
“That was a game changer,” Blair said. “I was ready to get off the field. They were driving. That’s a play that we watched in film. We do a lot of film study together, whether that’s on our own, with the coaches or after just in the hotel room.
“We watched that play 100 times and he saw the play, broke on it and set us up in a big position.
The two takeaways and not having any turnovers of their own helped Arkansas pull out the win.
Pool was pumped about the offense converting quickly on the two turnovers and also taking the last 5:49 off the clock without giving it back to the Bearcats.
“I mean, it’s huge whenever we (the defense) can turn the ball over and then they can capitalize on it, it’s big for momentum,” Pool said. “
“I also have to give credit to our offense. With five minute…left in the game, they go down and bleed the clock, they had two timeouts, just extremely … we work our two-minute situation a ton, every single day.
“To know our four-minute offense was clicking on all cylinders, it’s huge going into the season like we have with the opponents that we have.
Blair echoed that sentiment.
“Just like Bump said, we had a few of the transfer kids like Nudie McGlothern, Jordan Domineck, they both came in and made big plays and got turnovers, which is our goal, to get two turnovers at least every game.”
Alabama linebacker transfer Drew Sanders and LSU defensive line Landon Jackson both had a sack and joined LSU transfer defensive back Latavious Brini in all having five tackles.
“Just being able to have those guys come in and make an impact like they did for it being their first game as a Hog,” Jefferson said .”Just being able to have guys like that to come in and we welcome those guys. They work just like we work. Also, just having those transfer guys believe in the process. Just come in with a mindset that we’re going to work and grind it out and play our style of football.”