Arkansas Seals Top-25 Win over Cincinnati with Turnovers, Ground Game

Trey Knox, Arkansas vs Cincinnati
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics

FAYETTEVILLE — A strip sack by Jordan Domineck ended Cincinnati’s best chance to tie it up in the fourth quarter and the ground game took care of the rest Saturday afternoon.

The No. 19 Razorbacks needed just two plays to convert that turnover into points and the Bearcats never got the ball back because Arkansas burned the final 5:49 to preserve a 31-24 win over No. 23 Cincinnati at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

Two plays after Domineck, the Georgia Tech transfer, recovered the fumble he forced on Ben Bryant, Trey Knox caught a short pass and bolted down the sideline for a 32-yard touchdown that gave Arkansas a two-score lead.

Although Cincinnati managed to answer with a touchdown, the Razorbacks converted a couple of third downs on their way to running out the clock, despite the Bearcats having two timeouts remaining. Both came on runs by KJ Jefferson, with the first being an impressive scramble to convert a third-and-9.

Jefferson finished the game with 285 total yards and four touchdowns, as he was 18 of 26 passing for 223 yards and three scores and had 62 yards and another score on 18 carries. Rocket Sanders went for 117 yards on 20 carries.

Here are Best of Arkansas Sports’ live updates from Arkansas vs Cincinnati:

15:00, 1Q – Arkansas 0, Cincinnati 0

Cincinnati won the coin toss and deferred. Arkansas will receive the opening kickoff to start the 2022 season.

AJ Green is the starting kickoff returner for the Razorbacks. He’s back deep alongside Harper Cole.

13:12, 1Q – Arkansas 0, Cincinnati 0

The first play of the season is a pass from KJ Jefferson to Matt Landers for a gain of 17 yards and a first down. However, Arkansas failed to move the chains on the next set of downs, coming up two yards shy of the line to gain at the 50. Max Fletcher – not Reid Bauer – punts it away and it’s fair caught at the 15.

7:13, 1Q – Arkansas 0, Cincinnati 0

The Razorbacks opened the game in a 4-2-5. They had a chance to force a three-and-out, but Cincinnati converted a third down with a 3-yard run by Ryan Montgomery. On the next third-down play, Arkansas brought pressure out of a three-man front, but Ben Bryant found an open receiver in the flat to once again move the chains.

Before the next third-down play, Hudson Clark was shaken up and Malik Chavis subbed in for him. Ben Bryant had to scramble and was met shy of the 50, but was pushed over the first down line. Cincinnati is now 3 for 3 on third downs.

Using their 3-3-5 defensive alignment for the first time, the Razorbacks gave up a long pass play after a false start had put Cincinnati in a first-and-15. On the very next play, though, Dwight McGlothern stepped in front of a pass and intercepted it. He returned it all the way to the Cincinnati 29-yard line.

6:18, 1Q – Arkansas 7, Cincinnati 0

The Razorbacks were called for holding on their first play, but it didn’t matter. After a 20-yard pass to Landers, Jefferson took care of the rest with a 15-yard touchdown run for the first score of 2022. Jefferson is 3 of 4 passing for 43 yards and has 17 yards on two carries, giving him a total of 60 yards on the first two possessions.

4:27, 1Q – Arkansas 7, Cincinnati 0

Jake Bates gets the nod as the kickoff specialist and boots it through the end zone for a touchback.

After gaining one yard on their first play, the Bearcats’ running back was met immediately in the backfield by Terry Hampton, setting up a third-and-long. A false start puts them in a third-and-15 and Bryant’s pass was incomplete, giving Arkansas its first three-and-out of 2022. Drew Sanders hasn’t gotten home quite yet, but he’s been very close to several sacks or tackles for loss so far.

Bryce Stephens was the punt returner and managed a 3-yard return to set the Razorbacks up at their own 29.

2:51, 1Q – Arkansas 7, Cincinnati 0

On the Razorbacks’ ensuing possession, they went three-and-out after not gaining anything. The series included a backward pass that Jadon Haselwood dropped and had to pick back up. He lost yards on the play, setting up the third-and-long. Jefferson was pressured and had to dump it off to Sanders, who wasn’t able to get much. The Razorbacks were called for a false start and then Fletcher shanked a 26-yard punt to give the Bearcats the ball at midfield.

0:13, 1Q – Arkansas 7, Cincinnati 0

The Bearcats started their drive with a screen that had a modest gain, but Jalen Catalon was called for an illegal block below the waste, a 15-yard penalty. Cincinnati left tackle James Tunstall had to be helped off the field thanks to the hit from Catalon.

Two plays later, the Bearcats were in the red zone. A great play by Simeon Blair in the back field put them in a third down situation and then Bryant’s pass sailed over his intended receiver, so Cincinnati had to settle for a field goal. Ryan Coe’s 29-yard attempt was just wide right, though.

END of 1Q – Arkansas 7, Cincinnati 0

On the final play of the first quarter, KJ Jefferson rumbled for 16 yards to give Arkansas the ball at its own 36. He’s up to 75 total yards – 42 through the air and 33 on the ground. The Razorbacks have only 80 yards as a team.

13:17, 2Q – Arkansas 7, Cincinnati 0

A long run (27 yards) by Sanders is negated by a holding penalty on Luke Jones. On first-and-20, Jefferson completed a pass to Sanders, but he was pushed out of bounds before he could get a foot down, so it was incomplete. After he was stopped for a loss, Sanders finally caught a pass on third down and gained 10 yards, but Arkansas needed 21. Fletcher’s 40-yard punt gives Cincinnati the ball at its own 25.

Even though Arkansas leads, it feels like Cincinnati has been the better play so far. It was knocking on the door of the red zone when McGlothern intercepted a pass and the Bearcats had another drive end inside the 10 with a short field goal miss. The only points the Razorbacks have came when they got great field position from the long interception return.

11:23, 2Q – Arkansas 7, Cincinnati 0

The Bearcats get a nice gain on a completion to Tre Tucker, who made Jayden Johnson miss an open-field tackle. They took a deep shot on the next play and McGlothern was beat, but Bryant’s pass was too far in front of his receiver. On third down, Jadon Thompson had a step on Hudson Clark, but once again, Bryant overthrew him. That forces a punt – and it was a beauty from Mason Fletcher, downed at the 3. Bryce Stephens was hit on the play, but he never waved his hand for a fair catch, so it was legal.

9:55, 2Q – Arkansas 7, Cincinnati 0

In the shadow of their own end zone, the Razorbacks get some breathing room thanks to a 24-yard run by Sanders. Malik Hornsby is in the game at wide receiver and has done some presnap movement and even lined up under center at one point, but hasn’t touched the ball yet. He’s the fifth wide receiver to see the field today, after starters Haselwood, Landers, Warren Thompson and Ketron Jackson Jr.

AJ Green checks into the game for the first time and promptly converts a third down with a 6-yard run. That was Arkansas’ first third-down conversion of the game. A Cincinnati player – linebacker Wilson Huber – was shaken up on the play, leading to an injury timeout.

7:52, 2Q – Arkansas 7, Cincinnati 0

Hornsby motioned into the backfield and Jefferson split out wide for one play, but Hornsby handed it off to Green. The Razorbacks ended up needing to punt it away. Fletcher is still the punter and he booted a low, line drive for 37 yards and Cincinnati got a 7-yard return out of it. The Aussie has not been impressive in his collegiate debut.

6:24, 2Q – Arkansas 7, Cincinnati 0

After just missing out on a few others, Drew Sanders blew threw a block by Cincinnati’s running back and sacked Bryant on third down. That forced another three-and-out. The elder Fletcher’s punt is another beauty – 51 yards and excellent hang time, leading to a fair catch by Stepens at the Arkansas 32.

4:12, 2Q – Arkansas 7, Cincinnati 0

KJ Jefferson stepped up in the pocket and found Warren Thompson streaking across the field. He got just enough to convert the third down play. However, they couldn’t move the chains on the next set of downs. Max Fletcher’s next punt is another low line drive that landed inside the 5 and bounced into the end zone for a touchback. It goes down as a 50-yard, but the next was only 30.

3:21, 2Q – Arkansas 7, Cincinnati 0

Cincinnati starts its drive with a 35-yard run down the sideline by Charles McClelland to get into Arkansas territory. A couple of plays later, Myles Slusher made a nice stop behind the line of scrimmage, but got hurt on the play. He was on the field for a while before finally being able to walk off the field with some help. He went straight to the locker room.

1:24, 2Q – Arkansas 7, Cincinnati 0

On the first play after the injury timeout, Cincinnati was stopped short on third down. The Bearcats opted to go for it on fourth-and-2 and Bryant completed a pass in the flats to move the chains. At one point during the drive, defensive tackle Isaiah Nichols went into the injury tent. Facing a third-and-9 from the 30, the Bearcats called a timeout.

1:14, 2Q – Arkansas 7, Cincinnati 0

On the third-down play, there appeared to be miscommunication between Bryant and his receiver. His pass was nowhere near anyone. That led to a 48-yard field goal attempt and this time Ryan Coe clanked it off the right upright.

0:17, 2Q – Arkansas 14, Cincinnati 0

Arkansas opens its drive with a deep shot to Landers, but Ja’quan Sheppard made a really nice play to break it up. After that play, the Razorbacks started nickel and diming the Bearcats, picking up 7, 12 and 9 yards with an incompletion mixed in. The Razorbacks used their first timeout with 31 seconds left and at the Cincinnati 42-yard line.

Out of the timeout, Sanders bounced a run outside and picked up 37 yards. That got Arkansas down to the 5 with 22 seconds on the clock, which stopped due to a Cincinnati injury. On the next play, Jefferson did his best Tim Tebow impression by throwin a jump pass to Trey Knox for a 5-yard touchdown.

END of 2Q – Arkansas 14, Cincinnati 0

Bates’ second kickoff of the game lands in the back of the end zone for a touchback. Cincinnati gets a 12-yard run and then lets the clock run out to send the game to halftime.

10:59, 3Q – Arkansas 14, Cincinnati 7

After another touchback by Bates, which went out of the back of the end zone, Bryant completed a couple of passes to quickly get Cincinnati into Arkansas territory. Another completion and a holding penalty on Malik Chavis has the Bearcats in the red zone.

On the very next play, Tyler Scott was open in the end zone, but Bryant’s pass was a little high and it went off his finger tips. Cincinnati ended up needing another third-down conversion and got it to set up first-and-goal from the 10. The Bearcats are now 5 of 11 on third downs.

Jalen Catalon had to leave the game with an injury on the first-down play and goes to the injury tent. On the next play, Corey Kiner – the LSU transfer – runs it in from 5 yards out to end the shutout.

8:00, 3Q – Arkansas 21, Cincinnati 7

Ketron Jackson Jr. will start the second half in Warren Thompson’s spot at wide receiver. After back-to-back runs by Sanders, Trey Knox makes a really tough catch sandwiched between two defenders for a first down.

On freshman Rashod Dubinion’s first career snap, he ends up catching a pass and picking up 29 yards on a play that featured some misdirection. Kendal Briles went to his bag of tricks on the next play with an attempted double play to Hornsby, but he tucked it and ran for 13 yards instead.

A couple of short runs by Dubinion and Jefferson set up a third-and-7. Jefferson not only converted, but hit Jadon Haselwood on a back-shoulder throw for a 19-yard touchdown. It was a heck of a catch by the Oklahoma transfer.

Attendance was announced at 74,751, making it the seventh-largest crowd in Reynolds Razorback Stadium history. It’s the second-largest for a season opener and the third-largest for a non-conference game.

6:50, 3Q – Arkansas 21, Cincinnati 14

After three touchbacks, Bates’ kick is fielded at the goal line and returned to the 29. LaDarrius Bishop checks into the game for the first time and promptly gives up 30-yard completion. A play later, Jayden Johnson has to be helped off the field, forcing Trent Gordon into action at nickel. On the next play, Bishop gave up a 35-yard touchdown to Nick Mardner.

6:38, 3Q – Arkansas 21, Cincinnati 14

AJ Green opted to return the kickoff a couple yards deep in the end zone. He only got to the 16, plus the Razorbacks were called for holding, so they’ll start at the 8. On the first play, KJ Jefferson bobbled the snap and Cincinnati recovered on the 3-yard line. Full-on implosion by the Razorbacks at the moment.

4:44, 3Q – Arkansas 21, Cincinnati 17

Back-to-back penalties backed Cincinnati up to the 13 before running a play. After a dropped pass, Cincinnati was called for a delay of game to back it up to the 18. The stadium is LOUD.

A short completion set up a third-and-goal from the 14. The Bearcats completed a pass down to the 4 and decided to go for it. Before the snap, though, they were called for another delay of game that backed them up to the 9 and led to them attempting a field goal. Coe’s 26-yard attempt splits the uprights, his first make of the day.

2:18, 3Q – Arkansas 21, Cincinnati 17

The Razorbacks get off to a much better start this drive, with Jefferson dumping it off to Trey Knox in the flats for an 11-yard gain. On third down, Arkansas dialed up a wheel route to Sanders. He couldn’t quite make a tough grab, but Cincinnati was called for pass interference to keep the chains moving.

Jefferson keeps it for a 9-yard gain and another first down, giving him 60 rushing yards on the day. A couple plays later, Sanders broke free for a 15-yard run that got Arkansas into the red zone. That prompts a timeout by Cincinnati.

1:28, 3Q – Arkansas 24, Cincinnati 17

After Jefferson threw behind Warren Thompson on a slant route, he threw out of bounds on third down, too. That brings on Cam Little for his first field goal attempt of the season. His 32-yard kick is good to push the lead back to seven.

END of 3Q – Arkansas 24, Cincinnati 17

Eric Gregory got a big hit on Bryant just as he released the ball on a pass that sailed out of bounds. On third down a couple of plays later, Arkansas was called for being off sides. That made it a much more manageable third-and-3 and Bryant hit running back Charles McClelland for a 30-yard completion.

On the final play of the third quarter, Landon Jackson and Zach Williams combined to sack Bryant for a loss of 12.

13:30, 4Q – Arkansas 24, Cincinnati 17

Evan Prater starts the fourth quarter for Cincinnati because Bryant’s helmet came off on the sack and runs for 8 yards on his lone play. On third-and-long, the Bearcats dial up a screen that works to perfection – but the 24-yard gain is wiped out by a holding penalty. On third-and-24, Bryant’s pass sailed on him.

That leads to Cincinnati attempting a 53-yard field goal. However, the play clock expired – possibly intentionally – and Cincinnati opted to punt instead. It was a gorgeous punt downed at the 2, but the Bearcats were called for an illegal formation. This time, Fletcher’s punt was fair caught at the 9. So the penalty gives Arkansas an extra seven yards of cushion.

10:31, 4Q – Arkansas 24, Cincinnati 17

The Razorbacks got some breathing room on a first-down completion to Landers, but Jefferson took back-to-back sacks for losses of 6 and 13 yards to back them up to the 2. Jefferson managed to avoid presser in the end zone and find Knox for a gain of 24, but it was well short of a first down.

Fletcher booted a 43-yard punt, but Tre Tucker returned it 30 yards to the Arkansas 37 before long snapper Eli Stein made the tackle.

9:52, 4Q – Arkansas 24, Cincinnati 17

Cincinnati’s drive lasted two plays because Jordan Domineck sacked Bryant, forced a fumble and recovered it. The play was reviewed, but it stood. Arkansas ball.

9:26, 4Q – Arkansas 31, Cincinnati 17

The Razorbacks need just 26 seconds and two plays to cover 49 yards. Haselwood picked up 17 on a pop-pass from Jefferson and then Trey Knox caught a short pass and ran 32 yards down the sideline for a touchdown.

5:49, 4Q – Arkansas 31, Cincinnati 24

With a chance to get off the field on a third-and-8, the Razorbacks gave up an 18-yard completion. That makes the Bearcats 7 of 15 on third down. On another third down, Bryant hit Leonard Taylor for a 15-yard touchdown. That capped a nine-play, 75-yard drive. Cincinnati has now converted half of its third downs (8 of 16).

2:22, 4Q – Arkansas 31, Cincinnati 24

Arkansas starts at the 25 after a touchback. Back-to-back runs by Sanders result in one total yard, setting up a third-and-long. Jefferson scrambles for a first down, though, picking up 14 yards.

Another back-to-back runs by Sanders gain 8 yards this time and then Jefferson keeps it to move the chains on third down. That forces Cincinnati to burn its second time out with 2:22 remaining.

1:33, 4Q – Arkansas 31, Cincinnati 24

Rashod Dubinion runs for 13 yards and another first down right out of the timeout. Jefferson keeps it on the next play for 2 yards and Cincinnati uses its final timeout.

0:45, 4Q – Arkansas 31, Cincinnati 24

Jefferson keeps it for no gain and Arkansas lets the play clock run down before calling a timeout.

FINAL – Arkansas 31, Cincinnati 24

Jefferson keeps it and manages to run enough time off the clock that the ball doesn’t need to be snapped again. For good measure, 10 seconds came off the clock because a Cincinnati player lost his helmet.

Postgame Presser – Arkansas vs. Cincinnati

Pregame Tidbits – Arkansas vs Cincinnati

Cincinnati will start Ben Bryant at quarterback, according to multiple reports Saturday morning. He is the transfer from Eastern Michigan who actually began his career as Desmond Ridder’s backup with the Bearcats. Last season, Bryant completed 68.4% of his passes for 3,121 yards, 14 touchdowns and 7 touchdowns for the Eagles.

Another bit of pregame news for Cincinnati: The Bearcats will be without preseason first-team All-AAC center Jake Renfro because of a knee injury suffered in practice this week, according to multiple reports. He was a first-team All-AAC selection as a sophomore last year and was one of five returning starters on Cincinnati’s offensive line. Gavin Gerhardt and Jeremy Cooper – who were listed with an “or” at left guard – will both likely start, with Gerhardt sliding over to center and Cooper at left guard, according to Justin Williams of The Athletic.

A cool moment during the pregame: After the Arkansas specialists ran out on the field to begin warmups, freshman punter Max Fletcher met Cincinnati sophomore punter Mason Fletcher at midfield and the brothers from Australia shared a quick hug. Their parents made the long trip to Fayetteville from Australia for today’s game. Mason is the Bearcats’ starter, while Max is competing with Reid Bauer for the Razorbacks’ starting job.

Based on pregame warmups, the punt returner options for Arkansas are Bryce Stephens, Isaiah Sategna, Harper Cole and Jadon Haselwood. Sategna is also getting reps at kickoff returner, in addition to AJ Green, Rashod Dubinion, Quincey McAdoo, Matt Landers and Javion Hunt.

The pecking order at center appears to be Ricky Stromberg, Beaux Limmer, Luke Jones, Patrick Kutas and Eli Henderson, based on how they went through warmups with the quarterbacks.

Even though he hasn’t been fully cleared, walk-on transfer Kade Renfro – who tore his ACL during bowl practices last December – is dressed out and going through warmups. He would be unlikely to play anyways, as he’s fourth on the depth chart: KJ Jefferson, Malik Hornsby and Cade Fortin are ahead of him at the moment.

Dwight McGlothern, the LSU transfer, is lined up at cornerback with the first-team defense, so it appears he’ll start opposite of Hudson Clark. Malik Chavis and LaDarrius Bishop got reps with the second team.

Wide receiver Jadon Haselwood and left guard Brady Latham have gone through warmups and don’t appear to be limited. Running back Dominique Johnson is even going through warmups, but he was expected to miss this game.

During pregame warmups, the Razorbacks’ defense lined up in a 3-2-6 formation that featured Eric Gregory, Isaiah Nichols and Zach Williams. The second group featured Jashaud Stewart, Terry Hampton and Landon Jackson.

As expected, offensive lineman Marcus Henderson and defensive tackle Taurean Carter are not dressed out. A couple of walk-ons – wide receiver Chris Harris and defensive lineman Logan Horst – are also not dressed.

Today’s honorary captain is legendary Arkansas cornerback Ahmad “Batman” Carroll.

With the North Carolina State-East Carolina game running long, kickoff has been pushed back to 2:40 p.m. CT. If that game still hasn’t concluded, the Arkansas vs Cincinnati game will start on ESPNews and the ESPN app.

Starting Lineup – Arkansas Football

OffenseNameDefenseName
QBKJ JeffersonDEZach Williams
RBRocket SandersDTEric Gregory
TETrey KnoxDTIsaiah Nichols
WRMatt LandersDEJashaud Stewart
WRJadon HaselwoodLBDrew Sanders
WRWarren ThompsonLBBumper Pool
LTLuke JonesNBMyles Slusher
LGBrady LathamCBDwight McGlothern
CRicky StrombergSJalen Catalon
RGBeaux LimmerSSimeon Blair
RTDalton WagnerCBHudson Clark

One of three games between ranked teams on the opening weekend of the 2022 season, this is the first time the Razorbacks have been in the preseason AP Poll and played another ranked opponent in an opener in 42 years. In that 1980 matchup, No. 6 Arkansas went on the road and lost to No. 10 Texas 23-17.

The Razorbacks are just 1-3 all-time in those matchups, with the lone win coming in 1974. That year, No. 20 Arkansas knocked off No. 5 USC 22-7 at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

How to Watch Arkansas vs Cincinnati

Date: Saturday, Sept. 3

Location: Reynolds Razorback Stadium (Fayetteville, Ark.)

Kickoff Time and TV Schedule: 2:30 p.m. CT (ESPN)

TV Announcers: Dave Flemming (play-by-play), Rod Gilmore (analyst), Tiffany Blackmon (sideline reporter)

Cincinnati’s Preseason Rankings: No. 23 (AP) | No. 22 (Coaches) | No. 16 (SP+) | No. 26 (FPI)

Arkansas’ Preseason Rankings: No. 19 (AP) | No. 23 (Coaches) | No. 14 (SP+) | No. 25 (FPI)

Odds/Betting Line: Arkansas, -6.5 | O/U 53.5 (FanDuel)

Know the Foe: Cincinnati Football

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