Arkansas snapped its three-game losing streak in an impressive fashion on Saturday with a 52-35 win over BYU in Provo, Utah.
Arkansas used a big second quarter to take control of the game. BYU led 13-7 after the first quarter, but the Hogs outscored them 24-8 in the second quarter to take a 31-21 lead into intermission. Sam Pittman was pleased after the game to see his team get a victory.
“I want to first talk about BYU and the hospitality we’ve received since we’ve been out here. Incredible people, and it starts with the head football coach,” Pittman said. “Incredible man. It’s a hard place to play. They have a trooper at quarterback. He’s a fighter. He was hurt coming into the game. He got hit in the second quarter and just got back up. But I think that’s what the BYU program is about. Toughness and things of that nature. I want to give them a lot of credit because they played extremely hard.
“We just got fortunate and got a few stops. Of course, our offense was on fire for most of the game, and Kendal Briles needs credit for that. Cody Kennedy. Those guys had a great game plan, a lot of it trying to get the receivers to the middle of the field and they did. Really, really pleased with the win. We’re exactly where we were last year at this point, 4-3. We’ve got a big stretch, but we need the time off to get healthy, and we’re going to use it that way.”
Redshirt junior quarterback KJ Jefferson returned to action after missing the Mississippi State game with a head injury. Jefferson completed 29 of 40 passes for 367 yards and five touchdowns. He also gained 32 yards on 10 carries. Pittman was asked by a reporter how Jefferson rebounded from a shaky start against BYU?
“I didn’t see it,” Pittman said. “I thought he played fantastic. You might be talking about his runs weren’t going very good early. But I think BYU said ‘we’re not going to let him run the football.’ They were holding back their linebackers on the weak side. But our running backs had a good day running the football. To answer your question, I thought he was really good. When you don’t play for a week. We were fortunate he practiced all week. He practiced on Monday and all those things. I was real proud of him.”
Jefferson left the game in the final seconds after landing on his head at the BYU 2-yard line. Pittman provided an update afterward.
“He’s fine by the way,” Pittman said. “He had a stinger. He’s fine. He could’ve went back in the game at that point, but there was really no need to go back in the game. BYU had a nice goal line stand there at the end. Really proud of KJ. The third-down play before half, I have no idea how he got out of that and how he made that play. That was another, probably the second biggest play of the game. Of course, us going 12-of-15 on third down was … 75 percent on third down is incredible. I think that’s what it is, or is that 80, 12-of-15? That’s really good.”
The third-down play Pittman referred to was when it appeared on at least three occasions Jefferson was sacked on a third-and-11 play. However, Jefferson managed to break all the tackles and then find tight end Trey Knox for a 36-yard completion to the BYU 22. Three plays later running back Rashod Dubinion scored on a 15-yard run to set the halftime score.
Sophomore running back Rocket Sanders also was impressive. He carried 15 times for 175 yards and two touchdowns. He scored Arkansas’ first touchdown on a 15-yard run in the first quarter. He then scored the final Hogs touchdown on a 64-yard run in the fourth quarter.
“Well, the counter down the sideline was nice, wasn’t it?,” Pittman said. “I don’t think anybody touched him late in the game to go up 17. Obviously … what was the turnover ratio today, one to one? Two to one. We won it didn’t we? Who was it, Hud (Clark) and who? And the fumble… So, I was really pleased. BYU had only turned the ball over three times all year, and we had matched ours. Certainly don’t want to turn it over once, but I thought Rocket really rebounded after that and had a great game.”
Sanders didn’t play for a long stretch after a big first quarter. Pittman explained why.
“I didn’t feel like he was hitting the holes the way he should have, and he put the ball on the ground,” Pittman said. “We’ve got to let guys think about it for a minute. We’ve got other backs that can go in there, but he’s a great kid and he rebounded.”
Clark was outstanding on defense. He finished with 11 tackles to lead the team. He also added an interception and fumble recovery. Clark was part of the defense when Jaren Hall fumbled a snap on a fourth-and-one play thus giving Arkansas the ball at the BYU 34. The Razorbacks trailed 21-17 at that point in the second quarter. Pittman felt it was a game changer.
“I think so,” Pittman said. “I think that was a big turning point in the game, because let’s face the facts, we hadn’t been able to stop them. We get it, we go right down and score and I believe we come back and score again right before half. I believe we scored twice around four minutes to go in the half. I think we ended up having that fumbled snap. We went and scored, and then I think we scored with maybe 30, 40, 50 seconds left in the half. To come in at half with a 10-point lead was huge because they had the ball in the first possession of the second half.”
Matt Landers entered the game without a touchdown reception and had no catches against Mississippi State. He caught eight passes for 99 yards and three touchdowns in Saturday’s win. His scoring receptions were for 4-, 39- and 5-yard touchdowns,
The Razorbacks had 644 yards of total offense including 367 in the air and 277 on the ground. BYU finished with 471 yards of total offense passing for 356 and then 115 rushing. The Arkansas defense held BYU to only 7 of 13 conversions on third down and 1 of 3 on fourth down.
Arkansas (4-3, 1-3) now has a bye week before heading to Auburn in two weeks. Auburn (3-4, 1-3) fell to Ole Miss 48-34 today.