PROVO, Utah — KJ Jefferson pulled off an incredible escape from three potential sacks late in the first half to deliver arguably the best play of the season and extend Arkansas’ lead.
After staying up, he found Trey Knox open along the sideline and he made a guy miss to pick up 36 yards and move the chains. That set up a touchdown that gave the Razorbacks a 31-21 lead with less than a minute left in the half.
An interception by Hudson Clark is what set up that drive and enabled Arkansas to open up its first two-possession lead of the game. Its go-ahead touchdown was set up by a fumble recovering on fourth down that gave it a short field.
Jefferson has 243 passing yards and three touchdowns, while BYU quarterback Jaren Hall has 250 yards and two scores through the air. The two teams combined for 652 yards of offense in the first half.
(Scroll below for updates from the Arkansas vs BYU game)
Stoerner Criticizes Hogs’ “Unbelievably Vanilla” Scheme
Both of Arkansas football’s coordinators have come under scrutiny during the Razorbacks’ three-game losing streak.
The fan base has seemingly always had a love-hate relationship with offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, while defensive coordinator Barry Odom has received less criticism because he has the (legitimate) excuse of having numerous critical injuries on his side of the ball.
Following a 40-17 loss at Mississippi State, though, he has come more sharply under fire. The two coordinators, as well as head coach Sam Pittman, enter Saturday’s matchup at BYU in desperate need of a better showing from their units to help the Razorbacks get back in the win column.
One of the most frustrating aspects of last week’s game was the defense’s apparent lack of adjustments against the Bulldogs’ Air Raid attack. Even as it continuously got gashed on the ground and struggled to slow down their passing, Arkansas stuck with its same plan from the previous two years by rushing three and dropping eight.
According to Pro Football Focus, the Razorbacks blitzed on just three of Will Rogers’ 47 drop backs. At just 6.4%, that was well below their season blitz rate of 35.0% entering the game. That gave him plenty of time to pick apart Arkansas’ defense.
After doing a pretty good job of utilizing a variety of defensive looks in their first five games of 2022, schematically the Razorbacks’ defense was much too predictable last week, former Arkansas quarterback Clint Stoerner said in an interview on The Zone this week.
“You give yourself no chance in this league when you go up there and you are just unbelievably vanilla,” Stoerner said. “I’m talking about before the ball is snapped. When you’ve got three down linemen who are rushing, you’re dropping eight into coverage, there’s ways that you can do that.”
“You can crowd the line of scrimmage and then bail them out. You can show them shifted one direction in a certain coverage and then at the snap shift to another coverage. When you line up just stagnant, vanilla, whether they’re running the football or throwing the football, their targets are never moving.”
“Whether we’re talking about the linemen knowing who they’re going to block on a screen or we’re talking about the quarterback knowing who he’s going to read in their progression or who they’re going to target in their pass scheme, it is unbelievably simple and when you’ve got Mike Leach and Will Rogers on the other side of the football field, they are going to absolutely torture you from a production standpoint, they’re going to put up huge numbers.”
Facing another talented veteran quarterback in BYU’s Jaren Hall, the Razorbacks will likely need to get back to mixing up their looks — which have included a steady rotation of three- and four-man fronts — to have a chance at slowing down the Cougars’ offense.
Sam Pittman has already identified getting pressure on Hall as a major key to the game and the numbers seem to back that up. According to PFF, he has completed 74.2% of his passes and has an impressive 90.8 grade when kept clean in the pocket. When under pressure, his completion percentage falls to 39.4% and grade dips to 35.1.
Keys for Arkansas’ Offense vs BYU
Mixing it up could also be considered a key for offensive coordinator Kendal Briles and the Arkansas offense.
Heading into Week 7, the Razorbacks have run the ball on first down more than two-thirds of the time in 2022. In fact, their 67.6% first-down rush rate leads the SEC, just ahead of Missouri (67.2%) and well above the league average of 58.0%, according to research by Best of Arkansas Sports.
It’s worth noting that Arkansas is averaging 5.5 yards per carry on those plays, so they are typically successful, but when they aren’t, it puts the Razorbacks in quite the bind. Any time Sam Pittman or players are asked about times the offense stalls out and can’t get going, they almost always point to first-down efficiency and getting into more manageable second and third downs.
Adding a little bit more variety could keep defenses honest and add to the effectiveness of those first-down runs. Of course, that might not be the key this week because BYU has struggled defending the ground game, ranking 97th nationally in run defense at 172.3 rushing yards allowed per game.
A more pressing issue for the Razorbacks’ offense is likely their red zone issues. They have scored on just 73.1% of their trips inside the 20, which is tied for 117th in the FBS.
That has resulted in a large discrepancy in Arkansas’ total and scoring offense. It ranks 24th in the former at 462.7 yards per game and just 73rd in the latter at 29.5 points per game. That difference of 49 spots is the largest gap in the country.
Getting quarterback KJ Jefferson should help with that, as the Razorbacks failed to convert a pair of fourth-and-1 plays inside the 10 in his absence. If he had been healthy, they presumably would have moved the chains/scored a touchdown with his 6-foot-3, 242-pound frame sneaking it from under center.
Live Updates – Arkansas vs BYU
Arkansas Wins Coin Toss
For the first time this season, Arkansas chose to receive the opening kickoff after winning the coin toss. The Razorbacks had deferred their option to the second half the previous times they won the toss this year.
Rocket Sanders Fumble – 13:40, 1Q
Arkansas moved the sticks with a third-down completion from KJ Jefferson to Jadon Haselwood. However, two plays later, Rocket Sanders fumbled close to the 50 and BYU recovered.
Hogs Force Three-and-Out – 12:10, 1Q
The defense bounced back by forcing a three-and-out, as Latavious Brini had tight coverage on a third-down incompletion. That led to a punt, which was downed at the 1.
Reid Bauer Booms 62-yard Punt – 10:36, 1Q
Arkansas opens up in 12 personnel and Sanders immediately picked up 11 yards to get a first down and some breathing room for the offense. A couple more runs by Sanders got the Razorbacks out to the 25.
That’s where the drive stalled. Three straight incompletions included a play where BYU broke up a pass after it hit Ketron Jackson in the hands for what would have been a first down and a dropped interception.
Reid Bauer boomed a 62-yard punt that was returned 5 yards to the 18. It was a season-long punt for the Razorbacks.
Incredible 4th-Down Catch Sets Up TD
5:39, 1Q – BYU 7, Arkansas 0
BYU went to the air for its first first down of the game. The Cougars went deep and Dwight McGlothern was in good position, but he was flagged for pass interference when the intended receiver fell down on the play, giving them another first down.
Facing a third-and-5 from the 50, Jaren Hall found Keanu Hill for a 12-yard gain with Simeon Blair in coverage. The Razorbacks finally got a third-down stop, but BYU lined up to go for it because it was at the 35. Before snapping it, the Cougars called a timeout with 6:13 left.
Out of the timeout, BYU opted to go for it. Hall threw a deep ball to Puka Nacua down the sideline and he made an incredible grab with McGlothern all over him. It was reviewed and confirmed, giving the Cougars the ball at the 4. On the next play, Isaac Rex caught a screen pass and scored. After the play, McGlothern was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, as he was arguing with an official.
Rocket Sanders Scores Touchdown
2:37, 1Q – Arkansas 7, BYU 7
KJ Jefferson kept it to convert a third-and-short to move the chains and avoid a three-and-out. Later in the drive, AJ Green picked up a nice chunk of yards when Jefferson dumped it off to him. A 24-yard run by Sanders moved the Razorbacks into the red zone.
Two plays later, Sanders made a nice cut and scored from 15 yards out. He stumbled the last few yards, but managed to stay up and get into the end zone. Sanders is up to 66 yards on six carries.
Malik Chavis Injury, Another TD for BYU
1:11, 1Q – BYU 13, Arkansas 7
BYU went back to the air with much benefit. After an 18-yard completion, Chavis and McGlothern were called for pass interference on back-to-back plays. On the fourth straight pass by the Cougars, Hudson Clark had a chance for an interception, but couldn’t reel it in.
A couple plays later, after Malik Chavis left the game with an apparent injury, Jaren Hall hit Kody Epps, who ran it in for a 21-yard score. The Cougars doinked the PAT.
END of 1Q – BYU 13, Arkansas 7
Jefferson dumped it off to Rashod Dubinion, who ran for 17 yards, and then he hit Ketron Jackson Jr. downfield for an 11-yard gain. That was the final play of the quarter.
Trey Knox Touchdown
12:19, 2Q – Arkansas 14, BYU 13
A couple of completions to Matt Landers moved the Razorbacks into the red zone and then, on third down, Jefferson hit Knox for a 6-yard touchdown. The PAT by Cam Little gives Arkansas its first lead since early in the third quarter against Texas A&M.
Penalty Forces BYU to Score Twice
9:48, 2Q – BYU 21, Arkansas 14
Puka Nacua looked like he had a 65-yard touchdown thanks to poor tackling by the Razorbacks, but he was called for an offensive face mask while stiff-arming Simeon Blair.
It didn’t matter. Arkansas still couldn’t stop the pass and then Nacua scored on a 5-yard rush. BYU added a two-point conversion to make it a seven-point game.
Hogs Settle for Little Field Goal
6:46, 2Q – BYU 21, Arkansas 17
Trey Knox reeled in a tough catch for 22 yards to get the Razorbacks out near midfield early in the drive. A couple of completions to Haselwood had them knocking on the door of the red zone.
However, the drive stalled inside the 20 and Arkansas had to settle for a field goal. Little’s 34-yard kick pulls the Razorbacks within four.
BYU Fumbles on Fourth Down – 5:18, 2Q
The Razorbacks were on the verge of forcing a three-and-out, but Jaren Hall scrambled to convert a third-and-12. However, the play was reviewed and he was ruled down just shy of the line to gain. BYU opted to go for it, but botched the snap. Latavious Brini recovered it, giving Arkansas the ball at the 34.
Hogs Turn Stop into Points
3:39, 2Q – Arkansas 24, BYU 21
Rocket Sanders gained about half a yard on first down before AJ Green subbed in and bounced a run outside for a 14-yard run. On the play, Nathan Bax had a huge pancake block.
On the next play, Bax was flagged for a blindside block with targeting. He would have been ejected, but the targeting was taken off after a review.
The penalty put the Razorbacks in a first-and-25 situation, though. They got it all back on a 30-yard completion to Green and the next play, Jefferson found Landers in the end zone.
Hudson Clark Interception
After BYU converted another third-and-long, it tried to go deep and Hudson Clark managed to come down with a pick along the sideline. It was his fourth career interception, with the other three coming against Ole Miss in 2020.
Jefferson Extends Drive that Ends in TD
0:40, 2Q – Arkansas 31, BYU 21
A quick first down run by Rashod Dubinion was followed by a shovel pass that lost a yard and an incomplete deep ball to Trey Knox. It looked like there might have been pass interference on the play, but no flag was thrown.
On third-and-long, KJ Jefferson looked like he was going to be sacked by numerous BYU players, but he somehow escaped the pressure and threw to Trey Knox, who made a guy miss and picked up 36 yards.
Facing a third-and-3, Arkansas called a timeout with 45 seconds left. When play resumed, Jefferson hit Dubinion in the end zone.
HALF – Arkansas 31, BYU 21
The Cougars had some time left and got to midfield, but that was about it. They threw short with 3 seconds left and got the ball down to the 31 with no time left on the clock.
HALFTIME STATS – Arkansas vs BYU
- KJ Jefferson: 19 of 28, 242 yards, 3 TD; 6 carries, 10 yards
- Rocket Sanders: 9 carries, 78 yards, 1 TD
- AJ Green: 3 carries, 26 yards; 2 receptions, 45 yards
- Rashod Dubinion: 3 carries, 14 yards; 3 receptions, 31 yards, 1 TD
- Jadon Haselwood: 4 receptions, 42 yards; 1 carry, 3 yards
- Matt Landers: 5 receptions, 47 yards, 1 TD
- Trey Knox: 3 receptions, 64 yards, 1 TD
- Ketron Jackson Jr.: 1 reception, 11 yards
- Jaedon Wilson: 1 reception, 2 yards
Pass Interference Keeps BYU Drive Alive
9:53, 3Q – Arkansas 31, BYU 28
After struggling in man-to-man coverage, the Razorbacks opened the half in a 3-2-6 defense. The result was BYU going to the ground and picking up 39 total yards on four straight runs. The Cougars averaged just 2.6 yards on the ground in the first half.
Later in the drive, Arkansas got a third-down stop, but BYU went for it on fourth-and-4. It seemed like the Razorbacks had the stop, but Blair was called for pass interference – the fourth on Arkansas this game.
On the next play, Nacua scored on a 3-yard run. That pulls the Cougars within three.
Penalties Help Arkansas Answer
9:20, 3Q – Arkansas 38, BYU 28
A face mask and pass interference by BYU on back-to-back plays got Arkansas into BYU territory. On the next play, Landers got wide open and caught a 39-yard touchdown.
BYU Picks on Simeon Blair Again
5:11, 3Q – Arkansas 38, BYU 35
Still in a three-man front, BYU sliced through Arkansas’ defense once again. The Cougars’ drive was capped by a 33-yard touchdown pass to Nacua with Blair in coverage, but before that, they were picking up chunks of yards.
Matt Landers Catches 3rd TD
1:13, 3Q – Arkansas 45, BYU 35
Facing a third-and-10 after a couple of incompletions, Arkansas used its first timeout of the half. When play resumed, Jefferson found Ketron Jackson running wide open for a 30-yard gain. That puts him over 300 yards passing this game.
A holding penalty on Dalton Wagner put the Razorbacks behind the sticks, but they ended up converting anyways. Jefferson hit Landers right at the line to gain. Later in the drive, Sanders ran for a first down to put him over the century mark for the fifth time this season.
That also gave Arkansas a first-and-goal from the 10. On third down, Jefferson stayed in the pocket and eventually found Landers open in the end zone.
END of 3Q – Arkansas 45, BYU 35
The Cougars went three-and-out on the ensuing drive, gaining just one yard. The punt will come in the fourth quarter.
Rocket Sanders Long TD Run
14:25, 4Q – Arkansas 52, BYU 35
After catching a pass for 4 yards, Sanders found a hole and raced 64 yards for a touchdown. It was the longest run by an Arkansas player this season. He is now at 168 yards for the game.
Hogs Stop Drive with Fumble Recovery – 10:29, 4Q
It seemed like BYU was marching down the field to score, but on a fourth-down play, Dwight McGlothern forced a fumble and Hudson Clark fell on it.
KJ Jefferson Injured
Needing nine yards to avoid a three-and-out, Ketron Jackson Jr. came down with an incredible catch along the sideline. He was initially ruled out of bounds, but replay showed that he got a foot in bounds.
Later in the drive, KJ Jefferson dove down to the 2 on a first-down run and was shaken up. He was able to jog off the field under his own power, though.
Malik Hornsby Enters, Hogs Stuffed at Goal Line
The Razorbacks ran it on four straight plays, but failed to punch it in the end zone. However, only 27 seconds remain.
FINAL – Arkansas 52, BYU 35
The Cougars run one play and time expires.
Pregame Tidbits, Injury Notes
The Razorbacks are without three key contributing defensive backs, as Myles Slusher, Jayden Johnson and Khari Johnson did not make the trip.
Other notable players not on the trip include offensive linemen Ty’Kieast Crawford and Marcus Henderson. Crawford has been the Razorbacks’ sixth offensive linemen who is first off the bench if Arkansas needs a substitute.
Arkansas has a 72-man travel roster, which is two more than the usual 70 allowed for SEC games. Some players who made the trip and haven’t traveled previously include wide receiver Landon Rogers, running back James Jointer, long snapper Francisco Castro, defensive back McKinley Williams and offensive lineman Andrew Chamblee.
It’s also worth noting that freshmen wide receivers Sam Mbake and Quincey McAdoo were warming up with the defensive backs. They have converted to cornerback for the rest of the season.
BYU is thin at running back, as Lopini Katoa and Miles Davis are out, while starter Chris Brooks will play despite being banged up. Star wide receiver Gunner Romney is also out.
How to Watch Arkansas vs BYU
Date: Saturday, Oct. 15
Location: LaVell Edwards Stadium (Provo, Utah)
Kickoff Time and TV Schedule: 2:30 p.m. CT (ESPN)
Announcers: Dave Pasch (play-by-play), Dusty Dvoracek (analyst), Tom Luginbill (sideline reporter)
Arkansas’ Rankings: NR (AP) | NR (Coaches) | No. 39 (SP+) | No. 50 (FPI)
Odds/Betting Line: BYU, -1.5 | O/U 66.5 (FanDuel)
Arkansas vs BYU Predictions
Here are several picks — including from our own managing editor, Andrew Hutchinson — and computer projections for the Arkansas vs BYU matchup…
Andrew Hutchinson, BoAS (preseason): Arkansas, 28-17 (click here to read Hutch’s full preseason predictions)
This seems to be the trendy “upset” pick for outside media. I’d be lying if I said I felt confident about the Razorbacks winning this one — after all, BYU is a really good team — but I just see them righting the ship after back-to-back tough losses and avoiding a three-game losing streak. That said, if Arkansas does manage to beat Mississippi State the week before, I think this turns into a loss. Over the last 16 seasons, the Cougars have won at least seven games 15 times and reached double-digit wins seven times, including each of the last two years. Throw in the altitude (only 400 feet lower in elevation than Colorado State’s stadium) and the fact it’s part of a brutal stretch just before an open date, it’s a very tricky game for the Razorbacks.
Andrew Hutchinson, BoAS (updated): BYU, 38-35
Simply put, I have very little confidence in Arkansas’ ability to stop BYU’s offense. Getting KJ Jefferson back this week should really help the offense, but I just don’t see it being enough to overcome the defense’s struggles.
Vegas (using spread and O/U): BYU, 34-32.5
ESPN FPI: Arkansas has a 36.4% chance to win (down 17.2 percentage points from preseason projection)
Bill Connelly’s SP+: Arkansas has a 52% chance to win, favored by 0.8 (projected score: 31-30)
Sagarin: BYU has a 54% chance to win, favored by 1.49 (projected score: 30.7-29.2)
More coverage of Arkansas vs BYU from BoAS…