FAYETTEVILLE — Quarterback KJ Jefferson threw a screen pass to wide receiver Treylon Burks who then raced 91 yards for a touchdown with 11:18 remaining in the third quarter as No. 20 Arkansas defeated Georgia Southern 45-10 in Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Burks was quick to credit wide receiver Tyson Morris and tight end Blake Kern for an outstanding block that allowed him to race to the Georgia Southern end zone and a 38-10 lead. Burks finished the game with three receptions for 127 yards and a touchdown.
“Honestly, I was just waiting patiently for my turn to come,” Burks said. “I just so happened to get the ball and I really want to thank Tyson Morris, KJ and Kern for the blocks and they throw. Without them, it wouldn’t have even been a play. So I just thank them.”
Jefferson finished the game 13 of 23 for 366 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed five times for 18 yards. Jefferson talked about getting the passing game going on Saturday.
“The main thing (was) preparation earlier in the week,” Jefferson said. “We knew we were going to take shots down the field. Come out, starting the game fast and wanted to mix it up because the last two games we came out kind of slow with a couple of runs. Trying to keep the defense on their toes, we came out passing the ball down the field.”
Sam Pittman talked about Jefferson’s performance through the air.
“Every time he misses a throw, it’s like ‘oh my gosh’ in my mind,” Pittman said. “But when he throws one that goes 91, he throws a nice drop pass to Warren Thompson, 60 for a touchdown, I’m like ‘well, that’s what he’s supposed to do.’ I mean, I think Dan Marino missed a pass or two, so my mind has to work a little bit different. He’s our quarterback, he’s doing a really nice job. He missed a couple of open ones, but that’s going to happen. But he’s a competitor and I was really proud of him. He still has that option to run and he’s got some pretty good wideouts there to throw the ball to.”
Pittman also was elated to see Burks finally get a chance to have a breakout game. He praised Burks and others for the long touchdown.
“The ball was behind him on one where he was wide-open on a stop-and-go, but he made the play,” Pittman said. “That would have been a touchdown, as well. I was really excited about Kern and Tyson Morris on that screen. We worked the heck out of it this week, throwing it out there to Burks and then he went I think 91 yards maybe. He’s a big ol’ guy that can run. I went over to congratulate him and he said ‘I was just waiting my turn.’ Because Thompson had already went for one. We tried to get the ball to him several different ways; tried to hand it to him, tried to pitch it to him, tried to throw it to him. He’s a good player and we’ve got to get the ball in his hands.”
It wasn’t just the passing game that was clicking on Saturday. Redshirt freshman running back Dominique Johnson scored Arkansas’ second touchdown to make it 14-0. He also was big on the drive that Jefferson found Morris for a 14-yard touchdown. On that drive, Johnson had runs of seven, zero, six and then 48 to take the ball to the Eagles 14. The touchdown pass came on the next play. Johnson finished the game leading the team in rushing with five carries for 72 yards and the touchdown.
Following the game Jefferson had praise for Johnson who started out so far down the depth chart a move to tight end was a possibility. But that changed when AJ Green got hurt and Johnson came back to running back with renewed confidence and determination it seems.
“That’s the main thing, just knowing his confidence level is steadily each game,” Jefferson said. “He’s producing positive yards each game, so just knowing that going into practice and knowing that he knows what he’s looking at and knowing his assignment, playing fast and executing at a high level so when he gets to a game it’s all easy. It’s like practice basically. We know what he’s capable of in practice, so it’s all good by Dominique.”
Burks also talked about Johnson and how impressive he has been.
“He showed up,” Burks said. “We’ve all seen what he can do in practice, but he was just never able to get out there on the field in certain plays or whatever. I’m tremendously proud of the kid because he went out there not being nervous, knowing his assignment and he went out there and just played ball.”
The Razorbacks had nine players rush the football including six running backs. All six of the running backs got 17 or more yards. Josh Oglesby (3-17), Javion Hunt (4-19), Green (7-37), Trelon Smith (8-39, a touchdown) and Rocket Sanders (10-43) to go with Johnson’s totals.
“Dominique just had the wind knocked out of him so he’s fine,” Pittman said and even joked about his O-line coach. “I don’t know if he came back in the game. I guess he didn’t. They all ran well. Smitty’s beat up a little bit. We decided not to put him back in the game. 0 and 5, was that Oglesby at the end. He looked fast. And Javion Hunt came in at the end. I was proud to see him run. The first run, Coach (Cody) Kennedy was on the headset going, ‘He missed the read’ and he ran for 11 yards. I was like, ‘Be cool man. He rushed for 11 yards.’ Cody’s getting the big head, you know. If we don’t get 20 yards a carry he’s like, nah. But I thought he hit it well and he went up there and ran for 11 yards.”
In addition to his blocking, Morris had two receptions for 61 yards including the 14-yard touchdown. The super senior draws praise from Pittman each week and this was no exception.
“It seems like he makes at least one big play all the time, and then he’s down there blocking for a touchdown,” Pittman said. “Rocket Sanders’ touchdown last week, Tyson Morris was the main blocker once he got past the line of scrimmage on that touchdown. So, he’s making critical, at the point of attack blocks, and he’s making critical catches. It just goes to show, in my opinion, that transferring is not always the answer if you’re not playing. Maybe play better. Maybe work harder. Maybe get your shoulder right. Whatever it is. He’s a great example of that, and he’s helping us win ballgames. I’m really, really happy for him and happy he decided to come back.”
Jefferson also talked about what Morris means to the offense.
“The main thing for Tyson is him just being physical outside and playing fast, knowing what his assignment is, knowing his alignment and executing at a high level,” Jefferson said. “That’s the main thing. Going to Tyson, his confidence is through the roof now, so I can trust him and he can trust me to put the ball in the right spot and he’ll go up and make a play for me.”
Center Ricky Stromberg and right tackle Dalton Wagner both are injured, but Pittman had no update on them after the game. He did have praise for Ty Clary who played three different positions on Saturday.
“Ricky, I don’t know anything about Ricky right now,” Pittman said. “I do know this, Ty, he’s valuable. We do this on how you’re going to play the players. I knew that he was going to be the next man over here, next man at center, next man at right tackle. I mean, we know that on Saturday morning. I don’t want to be surprised, but more importantly, I want Cody to know where he’s going. I know it’s silly, but we go all the way to the fifth-team left tackle on who’s going to play. We go four to five guys deep at center just to make sure we’re ready. If this thing happens, we’re ready, we’re not going to panic. I want to know this is what we’re going to do. We stayed by the book with Ty because we knew he’d be successful. He’s smart and has played a lot of ball.”
Pittman also praised Luke Jones who saw extensive action at left guard.
“That was awesome,” Pittman said. “I wanted to see Luke in there. I did. He was sweating and stuff. He was so happy. I hope he played well. It looked like he did. The D-line right now is playing eight or nine guys. We need to get the O-line to where we can get to eight and play them on a regular basis. I was really, really happy to see him in there. I love the kid. Great kid and works hard. I hope he played well. I believe that he did.”
While some fans have expressed concern over Burks not getting as many touches as they would like the talented junior has no concerns at all. He was described as happiest guy in the locker room last week with the win over Texas.
“Honestly, I really don’t care if I get the ball at all,” Burks said. “I just want to win. I know the team wants to win, so as long as we get a dub, we get a win, I’m perfectly fine. I feel like I had 1,000 yards that game without even touching the ball. I’m a team player. I don’t really care about getting the ball. As long as KJ is scoring, Tyson Morris is scoring and everyone is having a good time, I’m having a good time. That’s just how I treat it.”
But count Burks as one who knew what was going to happen on that 91-yard touchdown play before it even started.
“Honestly, before (the play) I had already told Kern, I was just like if he makes his block, it’s a touchdown,” Burks said laughing. “Before we ever went out there. It was a touchdown.”
Jefferson backed up Burks’ story.
“That was the main thing,” Jefferson said. “Going out there, we were on the sideline first and Coach (Kendal) Briles was telling me about it. He was like, ‘If we get this look, we’re going to run it right here and just get the ball to him in space.’ The main thing was I went out there, looked at the defense, saw we were getting nickel pressure, so flipped it out to him and it was two-on-two blocking. He had to make the safety miss and that’s what he did.”
Jefferson and Arkansas will now hit the road for the first time this season. They will face No. 7 Texas A&M in Arlington’s AT&T Stadium on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. on CBS. Jefferson says the team will be ready.
” Like I said last week, the main thing with us is back to the basics,” Jefferson said. “We’re doing what got us here now, so we’ll go back to the basics, square one, just keep working, practice, preparation, the little details, film and all that matters, getting healthy, getting in the training room and making sure everybody is healthy and 100% ready to go.”
Both teams enter with a 3-0 record. Texas A&M beat New Mexico 34-0 on Saturday.