By: Drake Priddy
Arkansas achieves their first win in The Swamp and snap a six-game losing skid. Before today, the Arkansas offense has been underwhelming and has had little success on their side of the ball. With the involuntary departure of Dan Enos and the promotion to offensive coordinator for Kenny Guiton, many were unsure what to expect from the Razorback offense.
But today, they were able to go toe-to-toe with the Gators in The Swamp and get the 39-36 overtime win. It was a hard-fought battle for both squads, but the Razorbacks prevailed in the end.
Head coach Sam Pittman was proud of his newly appointed coordinator and credits the energy he brings to this team.
“We tried to find out what we could do well,” said Pittman. “He brought a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of belief in the kids. A good coach gets his kids to play better than they are. Not as good as they are, better than they are. Kenny is one of those guys that has that ability and kids want to play for him. They respect him, so they want to do well.”
For the first time this season, the offense looked like the completive SEC unit that fans are familiar with seeing. With the return of a healthy Raheim “Rocket” Sanders, the Arkansas offense was able to put up 481 yards of total offense, 255 yds passing, and 226 yds rushing.
Senior quarterback K.J. Jefferson had one of his best outings of the season today. He completed 20-31 passes for 255 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He would also carry the ball 17 times for 92 yards on the ground. Jefferson also completed passes to eight different receivers on the day.
Jefferson believes the bye-week, game planning with Coach Guiton, and some self-reflection contributed to their win today.
“From the bye week and on, just being able to get away from the game and really evaluate, take some time away from it and really dig down into myself and get well acquainted with what I needed to do to make sure that I’m playing my best ball and being KJ out there,” said Jefferson. “Having fun and putting together a great plan with Coach Guiton. Knowing the tempo was going to be able to help us out. It did that.”
The rushing attack also appeared to be restored today. Sanders had his first game of the season with over 100 yards rushing today. He toted the rock 18 times for 103 yards and caught two passes for 14 yards. Before today, Sanders had only 34 carries for 91 yards on the season.
Sanders was happy to get the win today for his team but also in his home state. He was proud to be able to call the hogs after the game and can see the changes in the locker room.
“…It’s different,” said Sanders. “I’m not going to lie. I was just thinking man, before I even came out here, I felt like this was going to happen, man. For us to be back … I know things happen for a reason, but I feel like this is a great time, a great moment. I ain’t seen a lockeroom like this ….. we haven’t called the Hogs but a couple of times, so it was definitely a blessing to call the Hogs.
Pittman was happy to have his star running back in the game today after missing five games due to injury.
“Obviously, he’s been out for a while, but I thought he ran extremely hard and ran over some guys,” said Pittman. “Boy, he had a close one there where a guy made a shoestring tackle on him when I thought he could score there earlier in the game going to our left. I thought he played well. Held on
to the ball well. Ran hard.”
Jefferson also credits today’s victory with the return of Rocket Sanders.
“It’s extremely important,” said Jefferson. “He’s a top SEC back, and he showed that today. Just being able to be out there and come back and hit the ground running. We really needed him to come out and be Rocket. That was the main thing — be Rocket. Be himself. He didn’t have to do nothing major but be himself, and that’s what he did today.”
The Arkansas offense did their part today by scoring their three touchdowns and putting kicking specialist Cam Little in a position to kick four out five field goals with a long of 49-yards. To end the game, Jefferson connected with WR Tyrone Broden on a four-yard touchdown pass in overtime.
In Jefferson’s postgame conference, he says Coach Pittman knew they were going to win the game heading into overtime.
“Coach Pittman basically told us ‘We’re going to win the game.’”, said Jefferson. “It was just like two years ago versus LSU, went into overtime and we wanted to send the defense out their first to send a statement and they came up big time. It was all on the offense. We overcome some adversity, some penalties and like I said we stuck together and we knew we were going to win. It was a team confidence thing.”
With a win in the Swamp, Arkansas is now 3-6 (1-5 in conference) and needs to win out the rest of the season to become bowl-eligible. With a daunting task ahead with Auburn and Mizzou still on the schedule, the Arkansas team we saw today looks like the team to do it.
Arkansas will face Auburn next weekend at DWRRS at 3:30 pm and will be shown on the SEC network.