FAYETTEVILLE — It hasn’t been a great couple of weeks for Jaedon Wilson after a breakout performance in the Arkansas football opener.
He’s caught a few passes since taking a screen to the house on the second play of the season, but the redshirt sophomore also has a drop in each of the last two games, including a critical one in Saturday’s 38-31 loss to BYU at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
A failed fourth-down conversion at midfield quickly overshadowed Wilson’s drop against the Cougars, but it was just as consequential because it made that play necessary in the first place.
On first-and-10, he broke open over the middle and briefly appeared to haul in the pass from KJ Jefferson, only to lose it when he fell to the ground. ESPN color commentator Rod Gilmore immediately identified the significance of the play, which would have gone for about 26 yards.
“Arkansas is really frustrated they missed that because it is rare for BYU to take their safety out of the middle of the field,” Gilmore said. “The middle was open. This was a ball that should have been caught, but you have to survive the ground. … You don’t get those chances often and Arkansas couldn’t convert.”
Not only would it have put the Razorbacks on the cusp of field goal range, but they’d maintain momentum with a 31-21 lead, minimizing BYU’s chances of flipping the script.
Wilson’s drop against Kent State wasn’t as costly, as the defense responded with a pick-six by Antonio Grier, but it was just as bad. It would have been a third-down conversion and gone for about 21 yards.
“It just looks like, from a concentration standpoint, Jaedon Wilson just lost track of the ball,” ESPN color commentator Derek Mason, also a former Vanderbilt head coach, said on the broadcast. “It hit his hands, but it went straight through them.”
Despite all of that, Wilson has seven receptions for 130 yards through the first three games, which rank fourth and third on the team, respectively. However, it’s hard to ignore the drops — especially given the situations in which they occurred.
A Potential Replacement?
One of the top highlights from Arkansas’ loss was an 88-yard punt return for a touchdown by Isaiah Sategna.
Considering what he had flashed in the first two games, it was only a matter of time before the redshirt freshman took one the distance and Ryan Rehkow’s booming 54-yard punt gave him the perfect opportunity.
“He out-kicked his coverage,” Sategna said. “We knew all week that he was going to do that. My guys blocked it up perfectly. Mani Powell, he had a great block, and all I had to do was run.”
It’s the third straight year the Razorbacks have scored on a punt return, but it was their first against an FBS team since the Cotton Bowl against Kansas State following the 2011 season, when Joe Adams did it. The other punt return touchdowns since then were against UAPB in 2021 (Nathan Parodi) and Missouri State last year (Bryce Stephens).
At 88 yards, it’s the fourth-longest punt return touchdown in school history, behind only Adams (97 yards vs. Ole Miss in 2010), Ken Hatfield (95 vs. Tulsa in 1963) and Terry Stewart (90 vs. Wichita State in 1969).
Such an electric play also begs the question: Why hasn’t Sategna been more involved on offense?
Listed as the backup slot receiver, he has played less than half the offensive snaps as Wilson. According to Pro Football Focus, he’s been on the field for only 40 plays through three games, compared to Wilson’s 91.
Sategna has caught three passes for 19 yards, but has six punt returns for 154 yards — the second-most nationally behind only USC’s Zachariah Branch. He has another 112 yards on six kickoff returns, with a pair of shoestring tackles preventing him from even more.
Wilson’s drops should at least give Sam Pittman and offensive coordinator Dan Enos some second thoughts regarding snap distribution at LSU.
KJ Jefferson Record Watch
It wasn’t the best performance of KJ Jefferson’s career, as he threw a rare interception and fumbled twice, but he still completed 24 of 35 passes for 247 yards and one touchdown, plus added 21 yards on the ground.
Here’s a rundown of where he ranks in the UA record book after Saturday:
- 491 completions — Tied for 4th with Ryan Mallett (passed Casey Dick and Barry Lunney Jr.)
- 6,433 passing yards — 5th
- 54 touchdown passes — 4th (broke tie with Matt Jones)
- 7,942 total yards — 2nd (passed Tyler Wilson)
- 74 total touchdowns — 2nd
Jefferson is coming up on two major school records, as he needs 451 total yards and four total touchdowns to break Matt Jones’ marks set from 2001-04.
Attendance for Arkansas vs BYU
The announced attendance for the Arkansas vs BYU game was 74,824, making it the eighth-largest crowd in Razorback Stadium history.
It’s also the third-largest attendance for a non-conference game at the venue, behind only the USC game in 2006 (76,564) and Texas game in 2004 (75,671).
A healthy contingent of BYU fans contributed to that large number, as the visitor’s section was packed and there were patches of blue throughout the stadium.
Unfortunately, the loss continued what has been a trend of Arkansas losing when playing in front of huge home crowds. In fact, it has now won just one of its top eight attended games in school history.
Arkansas Football Roster Check
The Razorbacks dressed 112 players for Saturday’s matchup with BYU. They were without 10 scholarship players with various injuries, most of which were known coming into the game.
The only development on that front was reserve offensive lineman Eli Henderson, who had a brace on his left knee. However, he was not featured in Arkansas’ two-deep depth chart.
Three players are known to be out for the season — wide receiver Sam Mbake (knee), cornerback Quincey McAdoo (neck) and offensive lineman Terry Wells (torn pec) — while the others have been out since at least last week.
Most notably, preseason All-SEC running back Rocket Sanders missed his second straight game with a knee injury suffered in the opener. Unlike last week, though, he was in attendance and on the sideline with the team.
The others in that group are safety Malik Chavis, defensive back Dallas Young, offensive lineman Luke Brown, defensive tackle Marcus Miller and defensive end Quincy Rhodes Jr.
Next week, Arkansas will be limited to a 70-man roster because it’s an SEC game.
Other Tidbits from Arkansas vs BYU
The honorary captain for Saturday’s game was former Arkansas player and coach Louis Campbell. A three-year letterman for the Razorbacks from 1970-72, he was a team captain as a senior and returned to Fayetteville as a defensive backs coach from 1990-97 and again in 2006.
As a tribute to Arkansas legends Ryan Mallett and Alex Collins, both of whom tragically passed away this offseason, BYU ran out of the tunnel with a Razorback flag signed by its entire team.
Legendary women’s basketball coach Gary Blair, who was recently inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, was recognized during a timeout early in the second quarter.
Up Next for Arkansas Football
After three straight games inside its borders, Arkansas will begin a four-game stretch away from the Natural State with a trip to LSU next week. The Tigers are 2-1 and are up to No. 12 in the AP Poll.
Brian Kelly’s squad will come into that matchup riding high after blasting Mississippi State 41-14 in Starkville on Saturday. LSU has won two straight, as it also blew out FCS Grambling 72-10 a week ago, following an ugly 45-24 loss to Florida State in the opener.
Last season, Arkansas lost to the Tigers in a low-scoring affair without quarterback KJ Jefferson, falling 13-10. The Razorbacks managed just 249 yards of offense in that game.
Arkansas vs BYU Highlights
Check out what Arkansas football’s Isaiah Sategna and AJ Green had to say after the BYU loss:
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