Arkansas postgame breakdown
Saturday night will be one to remember for Razorback fans as they knocked off the first top ten team in the Sam Pittman era, and the first win against an AP top ten team in nearly 6 years. The Hogs and Aggies dueled down in AT&T stadium with Arkansas prevailing 20-10, however the game felt much closer at times.
Arkansas jumped out to an early 3-0 lead courtesy of true freshman kicker Cam Little. Later in the first quarter, KJ Jefferson found star WR Treylon Burks for a one play, 85 yard touchdown to put Arkansas up 10-0.
Early in the second Jefferson found AJ Green who made multiple defenders miss en-route to a 48 yard touchdown to extend the Hog lead 17-0. The Aggies came roaring back with a huge fourth and short stop deep in Arkansas territory. A&M proceeded to add three from the leg of Seth Small to head into the half down 17-3.
Midway through the third quarter Isaiah Spiller sprung some life into the Aggie offense with a 67 yard touchdown run right up the gut. Shortly afterwards, Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson went down with what appeared to be a knee injury, stalling the one dimensional Malik Horsnby for multiple drives.
Arkansas seemed to gain momentum back after Aggie quarterback Zach Calzada skimmed a pass off of a helmet at the line, sending the ball into the hands of Arkansas cornerback Montaric “Busta” Brown who made one hell of a grab early in the fourth quarter. Hornsby and the Hogs offense came alive! Offensive coordinator Kendal Briles got Hornsby some confidence-building passes as he marched the Hogs all the way down to the A&M one yard line, but only came away with a field goal to make the game 20-10. The Razorbacks would then force a quick three and out, as leader KJ Jefferson returned to the game pushing the knife deeper and deeper into A & M’s heart.
The Hogs held on to win 20-10, snapping the 9 game losing streak to Texas A&M and propelling them to 4-0 for the first time since 2004.
Coming into the year many had KJ Jefferson as the fourteenth ranked quarterback in the SEC. You read that right…. DEAD LAST. KJ has embraced the leadership role and is the clear cut leader for the Arkansas offense, Jefferson racked up an insane 212 yards on only 7 completions, that’s “a whole lotta YAC!”
The bread and butter for the Hogs today was the run game, as it set up the big chunk plays and ultimately won them the game. Seven Hogs totaled 49 carries for 197 yards, with Trelon Smith leading the way with 82 yards. Unsurprisingly, only four Hogs had receptions.(Burks, Green, Morris, Thompson) Future first round draft pick Treylon Burks had the biggest day, hauling in 167 of Jefferson’s 212 yards.
Blake Kern was targeted multiple times and had several drops, however blocked fairly well most of the game. The most crucial drop came halfway through the fourth quarter on a broken play that Malik Hornsby somehow managed to find him in the endzone, but it fell by the wayside with the drop. The offensive line played their hearts out today, coach Pittman has them as an elite cohesive unit capable of dealing with the toughest assignments. There were few miscommunications and errant snaps but Jerry World was ELECTRIC so hats off to the big guys.
Overall I would give the offense an A grade today, inability to throw without KJ in the game and some goofy penalties set us back and made the game feel on edge most of the second half.
I cannot emphasize enough how good this Arkansas defense is from the edge rushers, all the way to the defensive coordinator Barry Odom. Senior defensive end Tre Williams had a “career” game tallying two sacks and three hurries. Williams was the culprit of many false start & holding penalties on A&M as well! The Hogs rushed three for most of the game, sitting in their umbrella coverage making the A&M offense feel like they were playing eleven on twenty two.
The “War Dogs” of the game had to be the trio of senior linebackers Grant Morgan, Bumper Pool, and Hayden Henry! The trio tallied twenty total tackles, four for a loss, one sack, and four hurries. Anytime A&M would hand the ball off or roll out of the pocket, you bet one of those vicious linebackers were right there waiting to wrap them up.
The secondary played particularly well, limiting touches for Ainias Smith and Jalen Wydermyer, while not allowing chunk plays! Busta Brown was responsible for recording the only turnover in the game. Joe Foucha led the secondary in tackles while, also pitching in a sack.
There is no doubt in my mind that the defense was the biggest part in the win, A+ all the way around. Early on the Hogs missed many tackles, but after the nerves wore off they were out to take names.
As we all know special teams have been dicey to say the least but they played damn good today. Cam Little stayed perfect on the year and is now 8/8 with a new long of 46 yards. Reid Bauer and Vito Calvaruso continued their dominance today, Bauer had an average of 40 yards per punt; Calvaruso was a touchback machine as usual. I’m going to give them an A+ all things considered; TJ Hammonds had a “iffy” kick-catch interference and Devon Achane had a solid return for A&M but great effort out there today!
PLAYERS OF THE GAME:
It’s no surprise that KJ Jefferson was the x-factor for this offense, Arkansas is a different team without him on the field and today only hammered that home! He showed so much grit and character returning to the game after the knee injury, continuing to find A&M defenders to run over.
Big play Tre (Williams) as I will call him for the rest of his Arkansas career is a guy I expect to see suiting up on Sundays here soon. The amount of penalty yardage caused by Williams was game changing, not to mention his two sacks. Tre absolutely manhandled Jahmir Johnson, while holding his own against future top ten draft pick Kenyon Green.
Overall Arkansas played their most complete game in ages. I cannot praise Sam Pittman and the staff he has assembled enough. If I could change one thing it would be the amount of motion handoffs offensively. The busted play potential on them is very high, while the outcome is very seldom a chunk play. I would also love to see Hudson Henry getting some more snaps, but who am I to judge if we keep rolling.
Anytime I hear coach Pittman talk he makes me feel like home, he is the down to earth, blue collar, hard working guy we needed. He only makes me love this wild band of Razorbacks more.
As a wise fellow one said “Turn that damn jukebox on…”
Written by Devon Sexton (@pigsooienation)