FAYETTEVILLE — KJ Jefferson owns four records at Arkansas and could break two more on Saturday against Auburn.
Jefferson has the most pass completions, total plays, total yards and touchdown responsibility at Arkansas. He’s tied with Tyler Wilson with 64 touchdown passes to top the list Arkansas. He’s 160 yards away from breaking Wilson’s passing yards school record. Jefferson came to Arkansas as a four-star dual-threat quarterback from Sardis (Miss.) North Panola in the Class of 2019.
“It’s a humbling experience, surreal moment,” Jefferson said. “It’s a blessing for one, just to be able to come in and do the things that I did at the quarterback position at a very high level on the big stage in this conference. Surreal moment, I wouldn’t be where I am at without my teammates. Those guys always push me to be the best that I can. Also put me in great situations and also bailing me out sometimes as well. So just having teammates and they’re just being able to be a great teammate and also just make sure that we’re doing the small things right and accomplish some of the goals that I have.”
This season hasn’t gone like he wanted until this past Saturday against Florida. That was also the first game for Kenny Guiton to serve as offensive coordinator. Jefferson has completed 163-of-250 passes for 1,802 yards, 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He also leads the Hogs in rushing with 129 carries for 292 yards and two touchdowns. Jefferson was asked Tuesday if he’s aware of the passing record?
“I actually did it today,” Jefferson said. “I looked at it today. The records and everything. It’s a big deal to me. I want to be able to break the record, the touchdown record and also the passing yards record. I’m not just trying to focus… I’ll go out there and try to do too much to try to make sure I beat the record. I’m going to play within the system and take what the defense gives me and take advantage of it. I still want to play within the system and make sure I’m not forcing the ball in tight areas and just being careless with the ball trying to just because I want to break the record. I’m gonna let the game come to me and just take advantage of it.”
Sam Pittman talked about Jefferson’s legacy as this is the fourth year, third as starter, for Jefferson under Pittman.
“Yeah, and I think he’s played as well as he’s played Saturday,” Pittman said. “I think that’s the key there. Setting records is over longevity obviously, but when you’re playing well and you’re setting records I think it even means more. What a nice game he had Saturday.
“But for the program, obviously I think he was a big key and has been, well I know he is, as the reason for turning the program around and certainly this year has been disappointing with all the close losses but our season is not over. He’s been as valuable as anybody we’ve had in our program and I’m very happy he’s our quarterback.”
Center Beaux Limmer has had a good season and praised Jefferson for his job at quarterback.
“I mean, he definitely changed the program, changed the culture of this place,” Limmer said. “When we came here, we were 2-10 and 2-10 back-to-back our freshman year. So, just to see where we’ve come from and the culture change that has taken place here, he’s spearheaded all of it. So, he’s a great player. I love playing in front of him and blocking for him, and he’s really fun to watch on the field.”
Coming off the 39-36 overtime win over Florida in The Swamp, Jefferson knows Auburn will be another severe test for the Hogs.
“We expect a very competitive game,” Jefferson said. “They’re an SEC team, we’re an SEC team, so it’s going to be a battle out there. They’re a very disciplined team that plays really hard on the defensive side of the ball. Like I said, every week is all about us. It’s about how we prepared this week and how we approach the game on Saturday, being able to come out there and start fast and execute the plan at a high level. It’ll all come down to us and how we approach the game and how we attack preparation this week, and Saturday will take care of itself.”
The Razorbacks have to beat Auburn to keep their bowls hopes alive as well. But maybe even more than that, the Hogs have lost the last two games in Razorback Stadium. Jefferson wants to turn that around with the final three games all played in Razorback Stadium.
“It’s a big deal, being able to come back to the state of Arkansas and play in front of our fans,” Jefferson said. “They’ve been dedicated, they’ve been loyal to us. We just want to go out there and put on a great show for the fans and, just like you said, gain the respect back from them. It kind of got a little bumpy and stuff, so we just want to go out there and play a great game, give the fans a show and make sure that we’re back on top and that our home crowd is still behind us.”
Among the key things for Jefferson and the offense is take care of the football against Auburn.
“Taking advantage of what they give me,” Jefferson said. “Can’t go broke taking a profit. If we’ve got an opening in the flats, take it to the flats. Not forcing anything downfield and not giving those guys a chance to be able make a play on the ball. Making sure I’m putting the ball in a great position that only my guys can get it and go up and make a play on it. Just being able to be smart with the ball. Decision-making is going to be at an all-time high, and like I said, can’t go broke taking a profit.”
A video surfaced after the win over Florida of Jefferson and Guiton hugging outside the Arkansas locker room.
“I was walking into the locker room, and he was like coming around because he was coming from the box,” Jefferson said. “We met face-to-face, and we just had our moment right then and there. We really didn’t even say too many words. It was just excitement and joy just being able to see his face light up from him being able to be given an opportunity like he did to be the offensive coordinator for the rest of the season. For him to come out in his debut, he ended up winning the game and put up a lot of points and the most yards we’ve had all season. It was a big deal for both of us because we work hand-in-hand, so it was a big deal for both of us so we needed that moment to express ourselves and our feelings.”
Arkansas and Auburn will kickoff at 3 p.m. Saturday and televised on the SEC Network.