Buried on the Arkansas football depth chart, Ty Washington turned to the G.O.A.T. for motivation.
The redshirt sophomore watched a video in which Tom Brady recounted the early days of his career, when he was the Patriots’ fourth-string quarterback and getting only a couple of snaps in practice.
“He just kept going and making those two plays perfect,” Washington said. “At that time, I was probably getting, like, five and I just kept making those five perfect. Kept going and kept training and doing what I had to do to stay mentally ready.”
That preparation paid off Saturday when he caught seven passes for 90 yards and two touchdowns in the first significant action of his career, which came in a 27-20 loss to No. 16 Ole Miss in Oxford, Miss.
It was a much-needed breakout performance for the Razorbacks, who lost star freshman tight end Luke Hasz to a season-ending broken clavicle a week earlier. That injury actually happened three plays into the Texas A&M game and North Texas transfer Var’keyes Gumms filled in for the rest of the game.
In fact, Washington had played only four offensive snaps this season — and 18 last season — before his big performance against the Rebels.
“He never griped, never complained,” Pittman said. “He was playing behind Luke and he came in and had that type of game. I believe he blocked well, too. That’s certainly going to do something well for his confidence and our confidence in him.”
Earlier in the week, Pittman said he was opening up the tight end competition after Gumms and super senior Nathan Bax got all of the tight end reps against the Aggies.
Washington beat out Gumms as the top pass-catching tight end by being the most consistent player at the position at practice, while Louisville transfer Francis Sherman beat out Bax as the top blocking tight end.
Prior to Saturday, Washington’s only collegiate reception was a 17-yard touchdown against Kansas in the Liberty Bowl. With Hasz out and an offense still trying to find its way, he could be a key piece of the unit over the second half of the season.
“The opportunity presented itself and he took full advantage of it,” quarterback KJ Jefferson said. “He came through in clutch situations. We needed that, and he showed up to the plate and showed that he was prepared for that moment and took full advantage of it.”
Arkansas Football Injury Report
As expected, the Razorbacks were without preseason All-SEC cornerback Dwight McGlothern, who suffered a concussion against Texas A&M and did not travel to Oxford.
Sam Pittman had told reporters earlier in the week that he wasn’t making the progress he had hoped, so it wasn’t a big surprise, but it was a big loss, nonetheless. He had been the highest graded cornerback in the Power Five, according to Pro Football Focus.
With him out, the Razorbacks shuffled their secondary some. Lorando Johnson slid out from nickel to cornerback, where he started opposite of Jaylon Braxton. That led to Hudson Clark moving down to nickel from safety, opening up a spot for Alfahiym Walcott to return to the starting lineup alongside Jayden Johnson.
Two of those players — Walcott and Braxton — got hurt during the game, though, as did starting linebacker Chris Paul Jr. and starting defensive tackle Cam Ball.
Pittman gave a broad update on those injuries after the game, hinting that several of them could result in missing next week’s game at Alabama.
“I don’t think any of them that are in there are season-ending or anything, but there are three or four of them that are concerning whether we’re going to have them next week or not,” Pittman said.
Left tackle Devon Manuel was on the travel roster, but did not play as he continues to battle various injuries. He had started against Texas A&M. Andrew Chamblee was back in the starting lineup after starting the first four games of the year.
Offensive Line Shuffle
The switch from Devon Manuel to Andrew Chamblee was far from the only move on Arkansas’ offensive line.
After teasing it on Monday and then practicing it throughout the week, Sam Pittman shuffled things up front. The other four linemen remained in the starting lineup, but only one – right guard Joshua Braun – didn’t change positions.
Beaux Limmer moved from center to left guard, Brady Latham moved from left guard to right tackle and Patrick Kutas moved from right tackle to center. Despite opening the game with a touchdown, the changes didn’t really help.
“The first drive we go down to score, but we really didn’t block a whole lot of guys,” Pittman said. “We had a lot of guys coming through untouched with movement. It was bothering us, especially at center.”
Limmer moved back to center in the second quarter, which bumped Kutas over to left guard for a handful of plays before the Razorbacks just reverted to their former lineup in the second half.
“I’ll have to watch the tape to see if we got any better with that combination of guys, but that’s what went into the decision,” Pittman said. “We could not handle the run-throughs and the movement. They were too quick for us, so I thought maybe if we moved Beaux back in the middle, maybe that would calm some things down.”
Cam Little’s Leg
One major bright spot for the Arkansas football program the last few weeks has been kicker Cam Little.
A week after becoming the Razorbacks’ first kicker since the legendary Steve Little with multiple field goals from 50-plus yards against Texas A&M, the junior boomed a 56-yarder in the third quarter against Ole Miss.
It’s the seventh-longest field goal in UA history and the longest since Kendall Trainor made a 58-yarder against Miami (Fla.) in 1988. The NCAA banned the use of kicking tees the following year, making Little’s kick on Saturday the longest without a tee in school history – surpassing the 55-yarder Connor Limpert made against Vanderbilt in 2018.
The kick almost didn’t happen, though, because the Razorbacks originally lined up to go for it, but ultimately had to burn a timeout.
“When we were fourth-and-6, I was going for it and then we couldn’t get lined up, so we had to use a timeout,” Pittman said. “ddIn the timeout, Cam said, ‘Coach, I got enough wind here, I can make it.’ We were down 10, I believe, and I said, ‘Okay.’ I mean, if he tells me he can make it, he can make it.”
Interestingly, Arkansas passed up on an opportunity for a 56-yard attempt early in the second quarter, choosing to instead punt from the Ole Miss 38. Pittman said that decision was made because it was the opposite direction in the stadium and five yards behind Little’s predetermined range going that way.
Including a 26-yard chip shot later in the game, Little is now 9 of 10 on field goals this season. That makes him 42 of 50 in his career, which is a school-record 84.0% – ahead of Limpert’s 78.8%. He’s also an incredible 5 of 6 on attempts of at least 50 yards in his career.
KJ Jefferson Record Watch
Having already broken the UA career records for total touchdowns and total yards, KJ Jefferson continued inching toward another few all-time marks on Saturday.
Against Ole Miss, he completed 25 of 39 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns.
That didn’t help him break any records, but Jefferson did join a couple of exclusive clubs. He’s now one of three Arkansas quarterbacks with at least 60 touchdown passes, joining Brandon Allen and Ryan Mallett. He also joined Allen, Mallett, Tyler Wilson and Clint Stoerner in the 7,000-yard club for passing.
Jefferson needs another five touchdown passes to break Allen’s mark of 64 and 662 passing yards to break Wilson’s mark of 7,765.
Unfortunately, his performance on Saturday was also marred by two interceptions – the first of which led to a touchdown and the second of which sealed the loss.
“It was more of my eyes in the wrong spot. At the last minute they disguised their coverage pretty well to where I didn’t see the guy at all,” Jefferson said. “Shout out to them, they game-planned well. I’ve got to protect the ball better. Take better care of the ball.”
He already has six interceptions this season, which is more than he had in all of 2021 (4) or 2022 (5).
To further drive home how uncharacteristic that is for Jefferson, he entered this season with a career touchdown-to-interception ratio of 4.80. He was also averaging 66.7 attempts per interception. Both of those marks were the best among 39 Arkansas quarterbacks with at least 100 career attempts since 1956.
Up Next for Arkansas Football
Things don’t get any easier for Arkansas football, which completes its four-game road swing with a trip to Tuscaloosa, Ala., next Saturday.
Alabama is 5-1 and ranked No. 11 in the latest AP Poll after hanging on for a tight 26-20 win at Texas A&M. The Razorbacks haven’t beaten the Crimson Tide since 2006, with their current 16-game losing streak in the series being their longest against a single opponent in school history.
If it doesn’t pull off the upset, not only will that streak be extended, but Arkansas will also be riding a five-game losing streak this season. It hasn’t had a losing streak that long since a 10-game streak that included the final nine games of 2019 and the 2020 season opener.
Arkansas vs Ole Miss Highlights
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