The Razorbacks are set to take on the Texas Longhorns on Saturday in Fayetteville, and one important matchup to keep an eye on is the battle between the two teams’ quarterbacks.
Arkansas redshirt sophomore quarterback KJ Jefferson had an up-and-down performance in the season-opening victory against Rice. Jefferson finished the contest with 12 completions on 21 attempts for 128 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Jefferson added to that with nine rushes for 89 yards and two touchdowns.
Hudson Card is the freshman signal caller for Texas. He comes to the Longhorns out of Lake Travis high school in Austin, Texas. A state powerhouse, Lake Travis has produced household name quarterbacks, such as Baker Mayfield. Card was a consensus top-10 quarterback recruit, and showed why in last weekend’s matchup with No. 23 Louisiana-Lafayette. He threw for 295 yards and two touchdowns while guiding Texas to a 38-18 victory.
Jefferson, along with the entire Razorback squad, had a rough first half last week. The Razorbacks only managed one score in the first two quarters, and Jefferson was 4-11 with one interception. Jefferson looked much better in the second half, going 8-10 with 107 yards and one touchdown.
Playcalling was distinctly conservative for Arkansas, whose players mainly opted to run or throw quick screens to the outside. When the Razorbacks did decide to open it up and allow Jefferson to throw downfield, the throws mainly resulted in lofty jump balls that mostly went the Razorbacks’ way because of their superior receiver talent over Rice’s secondary.
The rest of Jefferson’s success through the air came from quick-hitting timing routes over the middle, and a nice throw on a designed rollout to hit Tyson Morris in the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown.
The opposite can be said for Texas and Card, who was composed in the pocket and looked to have complete control of the game, even as a freshman. He made the right reads and made routine throws, never looking to be doing too much.
Jefferson and the Razorbacks will look to do most of their damage on the ground. Jefferson has an impressive combination of size and speed, and at 6-feet-3-inches and 245 pounds, does not shy away from contact.
Card is already an exceptional passer and adds to that a running ability that defensive lines have to respect. He throws a great ball and has solid touch. Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium is a tough place to play, and the nerves of a primetime game on the road for the rekindling of a historic rivalry may get to the freshman.
Jefferson has a much tougher road to success than Card does in this matchup. If Arkansas is going to pull off a victory, Jefferson will have to look much more like the quarterback he did in the second half than in the first half of the Rice game.
Both quarterbacks will have the opportunity to prove themselves when the Longhorns and the Hogs square off Saturday in Fayetteville. The game is set to kick off at 6 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN.