Razorbacks Pass First Test Against Bearcats

Razorbacks Pass First Test Against Bearcats

Arkansas was tested in their home opener. Cincinnati came to Fayetteville ready to play. Though the Bearcats lost nine players to the NFL draft, they showed up reloaded with a talented squad. The strength of their offense is their run game and they used it against the Razorbacks to attempt to set up a passing attack. The Razorbacks were able to stifle the Bearcats passing attack at times, however they struggled with the Bearcat run game in the first half. In the second half, the Bearcat’s speedy wide receivers started to burn up the Razorback secondary, though their quarterback couldn’t hit them. Overall, the Razorbacks hung tough on defense, and executed when they needed to on offense. This win is significant as it is their first victory against a ranked team in a home opener in over 20 years. This game is sure to build their confidence.

Coach Sam Pittman emphasized the run game in Saturday afternoon’s game. Building off last year’s success, Coach Pittman is leaning on his offensive lineman to lead the Arkansas Razorbacks to victory. The Razorbacks run game picked up where it left off last season. They ran for 146 yards in the first half, averaging 7.3 yards a carry. KJ Jefferson accounted for 54 of those yards and took a couple of hard hits. They finished the game with 224 in total rushing yards.

KJ Jefferson’s passing game still needs work. In the first half, his deep ball throws are excellent. However, he struggled with the short to intermediate throws. He almost always fails to hit his receivers in stride, and the throws were usually short of the receiver. He only connected 9 of his 15 passes for 78 yards in the first half. However, he is an effective runner of the ball. His dual threat capabilities allowed him to fool a sound Cincinnati defense when he threw a jump pass for a touchdown. Despite Jefferson’s first half struggles, he came out firing in the 2nd half. He completed three passes in a row, including a beautiful back shoulder throw for a touchdown. Consistency matters. He lacked it in the first half. He found it in the second half as he connected on 9 of his 11 pass attempts. He finished the game with 18 completions out of 26 throws for 223 yards and three touchdowns.

The transfer portal depleted the Razorback roster of 19 players including Trelon Smith on offense and Joe Foucha and Greg Brooks Jr. on defense. Foucha and Brooks will likely start for LSU while Smith will share the load with a crowed backfield at UTSA. Despite the losses, the Razorbacks collected a several players who were immediate contributors in Saturday’s game. Defensive back Dwight McGlothern and defensive lineman Landon Jackson transferred from LSU. Wide receiver Jadon Haselwood transferred from Oklahoma and defensive lineman Terry Hampton transferred from Arkansas State. McGlothern forced an interception in the first quarter of the game, running the ball back 51 yards and triggered the Razorback’s first scoring drive. He continued his excellent play as he blanketed Cincy receivers all game long. Landon Jackson also provided consistent pressure on the quarterback as he rotated into the lineup. Terry Hampton made his presence known early, consistently crashing into the backfield for multiple tackles for loss. Finally, Jadon Haselwood collected three passes for 42 yards and a touchdown. It appears the transfer portal has worked out well for the Razorbacks.

It was not all about the transfer portal players though. Mainstays Trey Knox, Rocket Sanders, Bumper Pool and KJ Jefferson all played significant roles in Saturday’s victory. Knox collected six passes for 75 yards and two touchdowns. Sanders rushed 20 times for 117 yards while Bumper Pool was all over the field making plays on defense. It is also worth noting that freshman running back rushed twice for 16 yards and collected one 29-yard reception. Arkansas still recruits and develops players well.

The Arkansas Razorback victory is a mighty accomplishment against a tough Bearcat squad. Cincinnati had multiple opportunities to seize control of the game. They have a capable passing and rushing attack. Their defense plays fundamentally sound. In this game, they committed too many mistakes. Conversely, Arkansas played good, fundamental football and took advantage of situations presented to them. KJ Jefferson warmed up in the second half. His throws were on target. He made good decisions. He took advantage of the defense by running for first downs at opportune times. Finally, the defense gave Arkansas an opportunity to win by forcing two turnovers and giving Arkansas two opportunities to score touchdowns. The Razorbacks played complimentary football leading to an important win at home against a ranked team. Next week they welcome South Carolina.

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