It was a gritty show we’ve grown accustomed to seeing at Arkansas under head coach Sam Pittman. They often end in victory. But usually, the Tums bottle also takes some hits.
Of course, it’s exciting football. Big shows from big performers on both sides of football are hardly a given anymore. White knuckle finishes have also become the norm.
So what about No. 19 Arkansas State’s 31-24 victory over No. 23 Cincinnati? It’s natural to overreact to a game, especially the first game of the season. But we all do. It’s part of the sport.
With that in mind, here’s how the Razorbacks are rated:
What else can be said about KJ Jefferson’s efforts? This guy is a gamer’s gamer. That cliché of putting the team on its own back is tired and overused, but in Jefferson’s case it certainly fits. As the game went on, Pittman put the football into Jefferson’s hands and was not disappointed.
He threw for 223 yards, 18 of 26 with 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. It was his sixth career game with three or more TD passes. He also rushed for 87 yards and 18 touchdowns. Perhaps the only surprise is that he did not lead the charge. That honor goes to Raheim Sanders (122 yards on 20 carries).
Arkansas now has 30 or more points in 10 of Jefferson’s 16 career games.
The only question, of course, is whether he’ll be able to pass the punishment on the SEC West schedule. He limped home last season and will be punished as much this season – if not more. He has the size and stature to take a lot of beatings, but you have to wonder how long he can hold out.
Running back: B
As mentioned earlier, Sanders had a big game, his second career 100-yard game. It was Sanders’ best rushing game since his career-high 139 yards at the Ole Miss last season.
The defense was excellent overall, and Sanders took full advantage, averaging 5.8 yards per carry. As a team, the Wild Boars ran for 256 yards, averaging 5 yards per attempt. That’s not surprising when you consider that Arkansas led the SEC sprint last season.
The reception group was very nice. Four catchers caught the pass. Trey Knox played his best game as he played 3 games in the 2019 season before moving to tight end. At that time he caught 6, 6 and 8 passes for 88, 90 and 83 yards, respectively. On Saturday, he completed a team-high six passes for 75 yards. He caught 2 TD passes for the first multiple touchdowns of his career.
Senior transfer Matt Landers from Toledo catches 3 passes for 43 yards, Oklahoma transfer Jason Haselwood catches 3 He threw for 42 yards and a touchdown, his first score since October against the Sooners.
Arkansas veteran Warren Thompson was also involved, with two catches for 22 yards. Not bad for a team known for running games.
Defensive Line: B-
For the most part, the Wild Boars did a good enough job of filling Cincinnati’s running games. LSU transfer Corey Keener had the most success on the ground in Cincinnati, rushing for 60 yards. But overall, the Razorbacks limited the Bearcats to 146 rushing yards, averaging 3.6 yards per rush.
Whenever your linebacker includes Bumper Pool, you’re sure to have a great night. Poole compiled a team-high 13 tackles and was once again the centerpiece of Arkansas’ defense. It was his 18th career double-digit tackle game.
Too much drama. To be fair, they happened after veteran leaders Miles Slusher and Jalen Catalon were injured. The Hogs kept Cincinnati out in the first half.
Cincinnati quarterback Ben Bryant threw for 314 yards and 2 TDs, although LSU transfer Dwight McGlothern did make key interceptions early. It was Arkansas’ 27th overall pick since the 2020 season and tied with Alabama for the most in the SEC during that period.
Still, Bryant was able to connect to eight receivers, keeping the Pandas in a game they might not have been involved in.