Outback Bowl 2022

Arkansas redshirt sophomore quarterback KJ Jefferson evades a tackler during the 2022 Outback Bowl victory against Penn State. Jefferson rushed 20 times for 110 yards and a touchdown to earn MVP honors.

No. 21 Arkansas overcame a tough second quarter Saturday thanks to redshirt sophomore quarterback KJ Jefferson and the Razorback backfield, on its way to a 24-10 Outback Bowl victory over Penn State at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.

“(Offensive coordinator Kendal) Briles pulled me to the side and said, ‘At some point you’ve got to take over the game and put the game in your hands,’” Jefferson said in the postgame press conference. “‘To put our best foot forward, score some points and win the game.’”

Freshman running back Raheim “Rocket” Sanders punched it in from 3 yards out as time expired in the first quarter to give Arkansas a 7-0 lead.

The second quarter could not have gone worse for the Razorbacks, as penalties, blown coverages and a struggling offense had Arkansas facing a 10-7 deficit going into halftime. 

“I thought our kids didn’t play quite as hard, strain quite as hard in the first half as we did in the second,” Pittman said. “But that’s not their fault, that’s us. I should have had them ready.”

As bad as the second quarter was for the Razorbacks, the third quarter was the exact opposite. The Hogs’ running game was firing on all cylinders, with both Jefferson and Sanders scoring touchdowns.

The Hogs’ defense stifled the Nittany Lions, holding them to 49 total yards and zero points in the quarter. Heading to the final quarter of the game, Arkansas held a 14-point advantage.

Jefferson — named the Outback Bowl MVP — was masterful in the second half, on his way to 200 total yards of offense and a rushing touchdown.

“I mean, it’s a dream come true,” Jefferson said following the game. “Just having a coach like (Pittman) who believes in me and instills that confidence in me.”

The Razorbacks imposed their will in the final quarter, using their ground game — which tied Arkansas’ bowl record of 361 rushing yards — to run out the clock on the Nittany Lions and win their fourth trophy of the season.

The victory was the Razorbacks’ first over a Big Ten opponent in history, and their first bowl victory since 2014 when they took down Texas 31-7. Arkansas’ nine victories in 2021-22 are the most since 2011.

“Our state loves football,” Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman said during his postgame press conference. “There’s always going to be people who want more and one of them is me. But we’re Outback Bowl champs and I’m proud.”

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