BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
Arkansas went on the road last season to BYU, rolled up 623 yards of total offense and humbled the Cougars 52-35 in Provo.
Just over four minutes into Saturday’s rematch in Fayetteville, it looked headed for that again as Razorbacks jumped out to a 14-0 lead.
Arkansas scored on A.J. Green’s 55-yard touchdown dash and on Isaiah Sategna’s electrifying 88-yard punt return.
But BYU steadied itself, scored the next 21 points and – after falling down 31-21 in the second half – scored the games final 17 points to grab a 38-31 win before 74,826 fans at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
“I’m glad we got the win,” BYU head coach Kalani Sitake said. “What a cool environment and there were just so many positive things about being on the road and being here in Fayetteville. I was just really impressed with the crowd here, with Arkansas – their team, the coaches and definitely the crowd.
“It was a really cool experience and a hard-fought battle and – I don’t know – things just went our way a little bit more than they did for Arkansas.”
Arkansas had 424-281 total offense advantage, but had a whopping 14 penalties for 125 yards while BYU had 7 penalties for 45 yards.
“I am really proud of our team fighting back,” Sitake said. “I feel like we have a little bit of familiarity from playing them last year and seeing them on film, I think the guys were ready for a challenge this year of being out here on the road. It was a lot of fun.”
Sitake, whose team move to 3-0 ahead of its Big 12 season opener next week at Kansas, praised Arkansas (2-1), who was without star tailback Rocket Sanders for a second straight week.
Sanders rushed for 175 yards and two touchdowns in the win at BYU last season.
“I want to give a lot of credit to Sam Pittman and his team,” Sitake said. “I think they are definitely a really good team. You see all the things they are doing and they are playing without their main back that has been hobbled up a little bit. I hope he gets back and I wish him well in the SEC and conference play. I think they will do some really good things.
“But again, cool environment, cool experience for our guys and I am glad they got to end it with a win.”
Sitake didn’t think his team would fold after the early deficit.
“You just roll with it because there is way more time to play,” Sitake said. “…Those scores came at 13:21 and 11:25 so there was a lot more football to play.
“…I have to credit our guys for their resilience, the belief in each other and not giving up. I think we made some really good steps for our program. They believe in each other, but there is a lot of improvement to make still. We still made a lot of mistakes.”
Former Pulaski Academy center and current BYU defensive tackle Caden Haws carried out a flag honoring late Razorback players Ryan Mallett and Alex Collins .
BYU quarterback Kedon Slovis, a former signal caller at USC and Pittsburgh, was 13 of 25 passing for 167 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the win.
“It was pretty emotional, lots of ups and downs, but proud of the guys and the way they battled and came back and won,” Slovis said.
“We got down 14-0 early, but there was so, so much time left and I think regardless of that, it’s a long game. There was still like 12 minutes left on the clock in the first quarter. We knew we just needed to get something going in our favor.”
BYU got on the scoreboard with a double pass when Slovis hit receiver Parker Kingston in the backfield and he then connected to a wide open Deion Smith for a 37-yard score.
“We kind of put it in this week and it looked really good in practice,” Slovis said. “Parker used to play quarterback in high school so every time we ran it in practice, it was really clean.
“We always try to put a trick play in every game, always have them in the bag and I think we knew it was going to get called because of how well it went in practice.”
Slovis could sense momentum after his team’s first score.
“We got the first touchdown and things kept rolling and then wehn we got the second and then we of got kind of a body shot in the second half,’ Slovis said. “At that point we were down 11, but we came back from more than that earlier so I think guys just stayed positive.
“I’m just really proud of the guys. That’s a tough team to battle back from being down two times in game.”
Arkansas would take a 24-21 into the half on Cam Little’s field goal as time ran out.
The Razorbacks pushed their lead to 31-21 on Green’s 7-yard TD run easy in third quarter.
It appeared Arkansas, who failed on a 4th and 1 play later in the third quarter stopped BYU on a 4th and short later in the period.
But a delay of game penalty on BYU allowed them the opportunity to kick a field goal instead and cut it to 31-24.
“That was huge,” Slovis said. “Getting that field goal really made a huge difference.”
Slovis then threw a 20-yard TD pass to Kingston, who become eighth player in BYU his to throw and catch a TD in a game, to tie it up with 1:32 left in the third quarter.
He connected with Chase Roberts on a 7-yard scoring toss with 8 minutes left in the game for the eventual game-winner.
The Cougars’ held the Razorbacks to just seven points in the second half much to the delight of some 5,000 plus BYU fans in attendance.
“That was awesome,” Slovis said. “It was pretty loud at the end. There was a lot of blue in the stands.”
Photo by John D. James