FAYETTEVILLE — No. 25 Arkansas pulled away from Missouri in the second half to take a 34-17 victory and secure the Battle Line Trophy.
Quarterback KJ Jefferson and wide receiver Treylon Burks stepped up for the Hogs on offense Friday afternoon. Burks caught seven passes for 129 yards and a 52-yard touchdown. It’s the sixth time this season that Burks has gone over the 100-yard mark receiving which is a school record. Burks is now over the 1,000-yard mark in receptions this season and Sam Pittman took notice.
“He’s a bad man,” Pittman said. “We’ve got to get him out of there. Bad stuff happens in there. But he came back and said he felt fine. He can do almost anything. He can catch the ball. He is running better routes. He can block. Obviously, he ran the option. Just a really, really talented guy and just a better kid than he is talent. I think everyone knows that. Running that option, wasn’t that beautiful? He held it long enough, pitched it to Rocket. The great thing about Burks is him doing that was just every bit as important to him as if he would’ve been the guy who scored the touchdown. He’s just a special person.”
Jefferson completed 15 of 19 passes for 262 yards and a touchdown while also rushing six times for 58 yards. Pittman loved what he saw from his redshirt sophomore quarterback.
“I think you’re looking at a defensive scheme that, you’ve got to break it,” Pittman said. “If you don’t, you’re going to have more first-half results. Where earlier in the first half, he was sacked on a hot protection. In other words, they’re bringing more than we can protect. Then in the third quarter, he hits Burks for a touchdown with a guy coming basically up the A gap. So, he has matured. He throws the long ball very, very well. Obviously he’s excited when 16 is out there one-on-one. He throws it up to him and he goes and gets it. I just really have been pleased with the progression he’s had, not only as a football player but as a team leader. He really has taken a huge role in that. I’m very proud of him.”
One time Jefferson came off the field and went to the tent to be checked out.
“I think he’s tough,” Pittman said. “I think he didn’t want to let his team down if he could at all get back out there and play. And he certainly did. Leaders usually do that kind of stuff. They do a little bit more than others.”
Jefferson said that Burks also talked to him when he was injured at that time.
“I mean just being tough,” Jefferson said. “I mean being mentally tough. I got banged up on the play and my back tightened up on me, kind of spasmed. Then he (Burks) came up to me saying, ‘we need you. This is where you need to show your leadership here. Put the team on your back and carry us to victory.’ For him in my ear like that I just knew I had to go out here and just make the state proud. We were chasing history with three trophies.”
Burks talked about what he told Jefferson at that point of the game.
“He came out there and played his heart out for us,” Burks said. “When he went down I knew he was hurting. But it’s just like when I’m hurting he will come to me and tell me, ‘I need you right here. We need you right here.’ So you know I’m saying. He put me on his back and I put him on my back. We just go out there and play for each other and this team.”
Jefferson also talked about Burks’ big season and offered up his thoughts on his favorite target and good friend off the field.
“Awesome,” Jefferson said. “I mean, one word, just ‘awesome.’ Being able to get the ball to a guy like him in space, or when he’s double-covered, triple-covered, just knowing that he’ll make a play. As long as the ball is in the air, he’ll make a play. Just how hard he works and how he puts the team first. He’s not a selfish player all. He’s always focusing on how we can get better, how the team can get better. I hold him accountable, he holds me accountable. Knowing I have a player like him on the outside, on the inside, gives me a huge advantage.”
After just scoring 10 points in the first half, Arkansas added 14 in the third quarter and 10 more in the final period.
“I felt like we adjusted, and we came out and played fast, like we’re supposed to do,” Burks said. “We made big plays down the field and made big plays for him and the team and got a big win.”
Arkansas’ final touchdown came in the fourth quarter. Jefferson handed the ball off to Burks who then ran the option and made a perfect pitch to Raheim Sanders for a 7-yard touchdown. Burks was asked was the long touchdown he scored or the option play more satisfying? Burks broke into a smile.
“The option, no doubt,” Burks said. “I had to show my boy how to really do it (grabs KJ and they share a laugh), how to score a touchdown. It felt good to go out there and run that play. We’ve worked it throughout the week really hard. And to have it work, it means a lot.”
As far as the records they will probably mean more to Burks later on because that isn’t what he’s focused on right now.
“I’m not even going to lie to you,” Burks said. “I really didn’t most of them. I just go out there and play for the team. It means a lot just to know I did break some of those records and set those records because I came here just to play football, have fun with my teammates like him (Jefferson) and make the University proud. It’s just an honor.”
Burks is projected to be a first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Being a Razorback fan from Warren before joining the Razorbacks did Burks allow himself to think this might be his final game in Fayetteville as a Razorback?
“No sir, not at all,” Burks said. “I was just going out there, play football, get a big win and make it to a big bowl game.”
Arkansas (8-4, 4-4) will now await to find out which bowl it will play in. Right now a lot of speculation is on the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., and the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla.