Arkansas senior wide receiver Matt Landers scores a touchdown during Saturday's game against BYU. The Toledo transfer found the end zone three times in the Hogs' 52-35 win over BYU.

After falling behind in the first quarter, the Arkansas football team scored on eight straight drives Saturday afternoon in Provo, Utah. The Hogs gained 644 yards on offense, the second most of the Sam Pittman era, winning a 52-35 shootout over the BYU Cougars in front of 63,470 spectators inside LeVell Edwards Stadium. 

Arkansas’ struggles with third down defense have been well documented this season, and it seemed as though those troubles were showing their ugly face once again when BYU quarterback Jaren Hall scrambled for what was initially called a first down on third-and-12.

A review determined he was just short, setting up an important fourth-and-1 at the BYU 34-yard line. Hall then fumbled the snap, senior defensive back Latavious Brini dove on the ball and gave Arkansas a chance to take the lead.

“That was a big turning point in the game, because let's face the facts, we hadn't been able to stop them,” Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman said after the game. “We get it, we go right down and score and I believe we come back and score again right before half.”

After a promising start to Arkansas’ opening drive, sophomore running back Raheim “Rocket” Sanders fumbled while fighting for extra yards on the Arkansas 48-yard line. 

BYU opened in plus territory but failed to get anything going on its first drive, going three-and-out and pinning the Hogs at their own 1-yard line after an excellent punt from Ryan Rekhow.

After an Arkansas punt, BYU struck first. Hall hit tight end Isaac Rex for a 4-yard touchdown, handing the home team an early 7-0 lead.

Leaning on their run game, the Razorbacks fought their way down field, with Sanders finding paydirt from 15 yards out to tie the game at 7-7 with 2:37 to play in the first quarter.

With the help of several pass interference penalties, BYU quickly drove down field, taking a 13-7 lead on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Hall to wideout Kody Epps with just over a minute to play in the first quarter.

Arkansas had the ball to start the second quarter and marched its way downfield on the back of a pair of grabs for senior wide receiver Matt Landers to set the Razorbacks up with a first down inside the BYU 15-yard line. Redshirt junior quarterback KJ Jefferson then found senior tight end Trey Knox for a 6-yard touchdown pass, and the Hogs took a 14-13 lead early in the second quarter.

Arkansas’ struggles in the secondary were on full display throughout the first half as BYU quarterback Jaren Hall continually found chunk plays via the pass game.

Following the Arkansas touchdown, Epps took a Jaren Hall pass 37 yards, setting the Cougars up inside the Arkansas 5-yard line. Two plays later, BYU wideout Puka Nacua rushed for a 5-yard touchdown, putting BYU on top for the second time in the ballgame. 

After a successful two-point conversion, the Cougars held a 21-14 lead with 9:48 to play in the half.

From there, The Razorbacks dominated the rest of the half, scoring 17 straight to close out the half. The highlight was a Houdini-esque play by Jefferson with time winding down in the half.

Facing third-and-11 at the Arkansas 42-yard line, Jefferson broke multiple tackles in the backfield, and with the presence of mind to look downfield, hit Knox along the sideline for a 36-yard pass setting the Hogs up at the BYU 22.

“I was just watching it just then and I was like, ‘I didn't know I broke that many tackles,’” Jefferson said. “But I mean, we knew it was third down. I knew it was third down, so I knew I had to make a play.”

Two plays later, Jefferson would throw a dime to wide-open freshman running back Rashod Dubinion from 15 yards out to give the Razorbacks a 31-21 lead with 40 seconds to play in the first half.

After some questionable clock management, BYU failed to get anything going, and Arkansas hit the locker room with a 31-21 halftime lead after amassing 373 yards of offense in the opening half.

“To come in at half with a 10-point lead was huge, because they had the ball in the first possession of the second half,” Pittman said.

BYU leaned heavily on its running game to open the second half, gashing the Razorback defense before sputtering inside the Arkansas 25-yard line. On fourth-and-4 from the Arkansas 16-yard line, Razorback senior defensive back Simeon Blair committed Arkansas’ fourth pass interference penalty of the game, giving the Cougars new life inside the 3-yard line.

The following play, Nacua found the end zone for the second time, cutting the Arkansas lead to 31-28 with 9:53 to play in the third quarter.

Thirty-three seconds later, Jefferson threw a 39-yard bomb to Landers running free down the sideline, to put the Razorbacks back on top with a 38-28 lead.

The next BYU drive saw the Cougars again leaning heavily on their run game, continually finding holes in Arkansas’ three-man defensive front.

Hall responded with a 33-yard touchdown pass to Nacua, cutting the Razorback lead to 38-35 with 5:11 to play in the quarter.

Jefferson threw his fifth touchdown pass on the following possession — his third to Landers — to put Arkansas up 45-35 with 1:13 to play in the third quarter.

“I told (Arkansas offensive coordinator Kendall Briles) all this week, I said, ‘Let’s just open it up. Open it up and throw the ball on first down and throw the ball to the middle of the field,’” Pittman said. “That’s where we thought we could complete some passes.”

Heading to the fourth quarter, the Razorbacks led 45-35.

Two plays into the fourth, Rocket Sanders lived up to his nickname on a 64-yard scamper — on his way to a career-high 175 yards on the ground — up the middle to give the Razorbacks a 52-35 lead.

“Rocket, I mean, the character that he has and the mentality he has I mean, just to be able to respond to adversity how he did, it's truly amazing for him to be as young as he is as well,” Jefferson said.

After scoring on eight straight drives, the Razorbacks were stuffed on three straight plays — after sustaining their final drive for more than 10 minutes — at the goal line with under a minute to play, keeping the score 52-35.

Arkansas will get a much-needed bye week before traveling to Auburn, Alabama, to take on the Tigers on Oct. 29.

“They say a win heals all wounds,” redshirt senior right tackle Dalton Wagner said. “You feel a lot better going into the bye week. Mentally and physically now, you’re going to go into it a little happier, more elated to be there. I think it pushes guys to have that fire in them to finish out this five-game stretch we have coming back from the bye week.”

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.