FAYETTEVILLE — Aside from the final score, it’s hard to imagine a better coming out party than what Quincey McAdoo experienced Saturday afternoon.
With a large contingent from his hometown in attendance, the freshman wide receiver-turned-cornerback got his first significant playing time and made a pair of critical plays that gave Arkansas a chance in a game it eventually lost 21-19 to No. 23 Liberty inside Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
First, it was McAdoo who came flying in to block the Flames’ punt with 5:33 left in the third quarter. The ball went out of the back of the end zone for a safety, pulling the Razorbacks within two possessions.
“(Special teams coordinator Scott) Fountain was telling me all week, like, ‘If you want to be famous, you’ll block a punt. If you want to be famous, you’ll block a punt,’” McAdoo said. “I guess I wanted to be famous.”
Arkansas had gone seven years without a safety before South Carolina was called for intentional grounding in the end zone back in Week 2. It now has two in the same season for the first time since notching three in 2010.
In the fourth quarter, still trailing by 16, KJ Jefferson threw his second interception of the game on the first play after the defense forced a three-and-out. Liberty had great field position with a chance to put the game away, but McAdoo made an incredible interception along the sideline to get the ball right back.
“Throwing that pick, our backs were against the wall there and he came out and made a play the first time they had the ball,” linebacker Drew Sanders said. “It was a big momentum shift back to our side after throwing that pick.”
Sure enough, the Razorbacks ended up scoring touchdowns on their next two drives — converting the two-point conversion after the first and coming up just short on the second, which would have tied the game and possibly forced overtime.
Prior to the Liberty game, McAdoo — who also broke up a pass in the end zone — had only played on special teams and was just a couple of weeks removed from asking the coaches to change positions ahead of the trip to BYU.
“At that time, the game didn’t look salvageable, then he picked the pass and we got on a little bit of a run,” Pittman said. “Also, he blocked the punt. He’s a gamer… I think he’ll have a great career here. I was proud of him.”
Making the performance even more special is that about 150 kids, plus numerous family and friends, made the trip from Clarendon – a small east Arkansas town about four hours away – and were at Reynolds Razorback Stadium to see it.
Until the aforementioned final two drives of the game, Arkansas’ offense appeared out of sync and the play of quarterback KJ Jefferson was a major reason why.
The redshirt junior didn’t seem to be as sharp as usual, not seeing open receivers, holding on to the ball too long and throwing into danger. Seven of his passes were broken up by the Flames and two others were actually picked off.
It was very uncharacteristic for the least-interception prone quarterback in school history. Jefferson came into the game averaging one interception every 91.8 attempts in his career, well ahead of anyone else who’s thrown at least 100 passes in an Arkansas uniform. (Ben Hicks, believe it or not, is second on that list with one interception every 68.5 attempts.)
Of course, the first interception Saturday — much like the only other one he’d thrown this season — didn’t seem to be his fault. The Razorbacks took a shot into the end zone in the second quarter and Jefferson looked like he had Trey Knox open, but the tight end bobbled it, allowing Daijahn Anthony to come down with it.
That snapped a streak of 108 consecutive passes thrown by Jefferson without an interception. It took just another 10 attempts before he threw another one and this time it was all on him, as his deep ball went right to Robert Rahimi.
Defense Dials Up Pressure
After a three-game stretch in which it really struggled to get pressure on the quarterback, Arkansas’ defense seems to have gotten back to its pass rushing ways.
A week following a three-sack outing against Auburn, the Razorbacks racked up four sacks against Liberty, their third-highest total this season.
Defensive end Jordan Domineck, linebackers Bumper Pool and Drew Sanders, and defensive back Myles Slusher each had one sack apiece, bringing the Hogs’ season total to 28. It’s already the most sacks that the Arkansas football program has had since also notching 28 in 2013.
Reaching the single-season school record of 40 sacks, which was set back in 1998, is probably a long shot, but the Razorbacks need only four more to crack the school’s top-10 list in that category.
Individually, Sanders and Domineck are up to 7.5 and 6.5 sacks, respectively. The cut off for that top-10 list at the UA is eight. That total by Sanders leads the SEC and is tied for 12th nationally.
Landers Hits Century Mark Again
For the third time this season, Matt Landers eclipsed 100 receiving yards for the Razorbacks on Saturday. He reeled in six passes for 119 yards.
The Georgia/Toledo transfer first hit that mark with a season-high 123 yards against Missouri State and also had 115 yards last week at Auburn.
Had he managed to have just one more yard against BYU, when he caught three touchdowns and finished with 99 yards, Landers would be part of an exclusive club of Razorbacks with three straight 100-yard games through the air.
That has been accomplished only three times in UA history, first by Mike Reppond in 1971 and then by Anthony Eubanks in 1996 and Jared Cornelius in 2016. Landers still has a shot to do that when Arkansas hosts LSU next week.
With 333 receiving yards in the past three games, Landers has more than doubled his season total from the first six games and now has a team-high 594 yards.
Arkansas Football Injury Report
Here’s the latest on various Arkansas football players dealing with injuries…
- DB Malik Chavis (head): Started at cornerback… Missed the Auburn game because of a concussion suffered against BYU
- OL Marcus Henderson (pectoral): Dressed out and went through pregame warmups despite not being spotted during the media viewing periods at practice this week
- DT Taurean Carter (knee): Been out since getting hurt in the Spring Showcase… Pittman is hopeful he might be able to return for the final two games of the regular season, or for the bowl game at the latest
- RB Dominique Johnson (ACL): Out for the year
- QB Kade Renfro (ACL): Out for the year
- CB LaDarrius Bishop (knee): Out for the year
- S Jalen Catalon (shoulder): Out for the year
More coverage of Arkansas football from BoAS…