By Drake Priddy
FAYETTEVILLE — The Arkansas Razorbacks grind out a 28-6 win against an
average Kent State team.
A team that in the previous week lost to the University of Central Florida by a 56-6, a 50-point margin. Arkansas was expected to be a 30-point favorite going into the game today. With that said, a win is a win, and Arkansas is still 2-0 heading into week three versus BYU.
The Arkansas defense started the game out strong by forcing Kent State to punt after five plays that amounted to 13 yards. But unfortunately, the Golden Flashes were just heating up. The final score doesn’t show it, but this Kent State team had the Arkansas defense on their heels for a large part of the game.
Luckily, for Arkansas fans, they have a defense that can keep them in the game, but most importantly they put the Arkansas offense in scoring position. At the end of the day, the defense allowed 174 passing yards, 36 combined rushing yards, and 14 total first downs. The defense also allowed two field goals but kept the Golden
Flashes from breaking the plane.
Kent State proved today that the delayed handoff, even run by a MAC team, can really get the best of an aggressive Arkansas defense. The Golden Flashes proved to be a formidable opponent today, but the Arkansas defense made their adjustments and had a much better second half.
Overall, the defense had a relatively productive day despite some miscues and
mental errors. The Razorbacks forced the Golden Flashes to punt on five of their
nine possessions. The other four possessions ended with two field goals, a 25-yard
pick six from Antonio Grier Jr., and a turnover on downs in the last minutes of the
Grier made his Arkansas debut today and tallied up 3 total tackles, 1 solo, and a
pick six in the first quarter. Head Coach Sam Pittman was pleased with the former
South Florida transfer’s first appearance.
“Pretty good way to start isn’t it,” said Pittman “He’s still not, I don’t think he’s 100% to be honest with you. But we needed him to play with Pooh (Paul) being out, too, in the first half. So, I think Grier will end up being better against the run and things of that nature, but right now we’re still trying to figure out who that other guy besides Jaheim Thomas is. Pooh has been hurt. He didn’t scrimmage in either one of the scrimmages, then he misses a half here, we think that he could be that guy, but we’ll have to look at the tape and figure out between him and Grier.”
Teammate and fellow linebacker, Jaheim Thomas also had a lot to say about Grier’s
first game as Razorback as well as his interception.
“I was happy for him,” said Thomas. “I was definitely excited for him. So when I saw him just jump and make the play I ran over there and started celebrating with him because you know that’s big for the first play as a Razorback having a pick six. That’s great! I was excited.”
Thomas also had a productive day and led the Arkansas defensive unit in the stat section. Thomas accounted for 12 total tackles (three of which were solo), one and a half sacks, and two tackles for a loss.
Safety Jayden Johnson was second on the team with eight total tackles, 3 solo,
and half of a tackle for loss. Pittman was proud of how his mostly transfer defense performed today.
“Well, I think they played well defensively,” said Pittman. “I don’t know, we had a lot of sacks and things of that nature. They haven’t scored many points on us, but I was frustrated at half because we couldn’t get off the field. We weren’t giving up points, but there was very much time — the game plan was going exactly like they wanted it to go, minus scoring a lot of points. But I think every one of those guys are contributing to us. I mean, what would happen if we didn’t have (Kee’yon) Stewart today? Obviously, Jaheim (Singletary) on the other side, you’re talking about all these guys on the inside — Grier picked a pass for a touchdown. So yeah, we were very fortunate we hit pretty good for what we think.”
At the end of the game, Kent State made a 70-yard drive and chipped their way down to the Arkansas five-yard line. But Arkansas made a last-minute goal line stand forced the Golden Flashes to turn it over on downs. The last-minute goal line stand showed the promise the Arkansas defense has moving forward. Defensive end, Trajan Jeffcoat, was proud of how defensive guys held the line at the very end.
“That was great,” said Jeffcoat. “It was great physical defense. It’s who we stand
for for and we came together as a defense. We already knew what the situation
Thomas added, “Going back to what he said, physical defense. They talk to us they
pride us, that’s what we try and pride ourselves on. Being down there knowing they
had the momentum and we had to stop them. So, it was good for us.”
The Arkansas defense gave up some big plays today, but also made some great
plays. As the season continues and coaches figure out the best scheme for the
defense, the sky is the limit for this unit.
Arkansas will host BYU at 6:30 p.m. Saturday on ESPN2. Both teams enter with 2-0 records.