The Missouri State Bears took on the Arkansas Razorback at Arkansas on Saturday, September 17, 2022.

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No. 10 Arkansas goes for rare 4-0 at No. 23 Texas A&M

No. 10 Arkansas seeks a second straight 4-0 start for the first time since the late 1980s when it battles No. 23 Texas A&M in Southeastern Conference play on Saturday night at Arlington, Texas.

The Razorbacks (3-0, 1-0 SEC) haven’t won their first four contests in successive years since 1988-89 when Ken Hatfield was head coach. They will look to accomplish it against Texas A&M, a squad they lost to nine straight times prior to last year’s 20-10 win at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

The Aggies (2-1, 0-0) beat Miami (Fla.) 17-9 last week but are still smarting from a 17-14 home loss to Appalachian State the previous week.

Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher promoted LSU transfer Max Johnson to starting quarterback for the Miami contest and was happy to notch a victory.

“Well, yeah, you had to win this game,” Fisher told reporters. “It was a tough game coming off a tough loss. It doesn’t get any easier. It’s a shot we needed. We didn’t need another shot the other way. We’ve got to keep getting better and just go saw wood and see what Arkansas is like. We play a great Arkansas team and play them very well.”

Texas A&M is averaging just 20.7 points per game but is tied for ninth nationally in scoring defense (8.7).

Arkansas is much more potent at 37.7 points per game but it allows an average of 27 points. The Razorbacks rank last in the nation among 131 FBS teams in passing defense (353 yards allowed per game).

But Arkansas leads the nation in sacks (17) and ranks seventh in rushing defense (68.3 yards allowed per game).

Razorbacks linebacker Drew Sanders, a transfer from Alabama, has been superb and is tied for second nationally with five sacks.

“It’s fun playing in this defense,” Sanders said. “We have a lot of ways to get after a team and especially affect the quarterback. Just how (defensive coordinator Barry) Odom is scheming up everything, it’s fun to play in and provides a lot of opportunities.”

The Razorbacks will look to confuse Johnson, who was 10-of-20 passing for 140 yards and one touchdown against Miami.

Haynes King was the starter for the Aggies’ first two games but the loss to Appalachian State prompted the switch to Johnson.

“I think just being ready at all times was kind of my mindset,” said Johnson, who passed for 27 touchdowns as a sophomore at LSU last season. “I’ve been through the situation multiple times at LSU, whether it was starting or not playing at first and then getting my chance. I came ready to work every day, and being around those guys makes it fun.”

The Arkansas offense is led by quarterback K.J. Jefferson (770 passing yards, six touchdowns, one interception) and running back Raheim “Rocket” Sanders (440 rushing yards).

Raheim Sanders ranks third nationally in rushing yards per game (146.7) and is the first Razorbacks runner to open the season with three straight 100-yard rushing performances since Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams both did so in 2013.

Though Sanders rushed for 167 yards and Jefferson passed for a career-high 385 last Saturday, Arkansas had to overcome a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit to post a 38-27 victory over FCS program Missouri State.

“There were several different times in the game where it didn’t look like we were going to win,” Razorbacks coach Sam Pittman said. “Our kids just kept fighting and clawing and to come out with an 11-point win, that says a lot about the culture of our program and of our kids.”

Fisher said that the four players who were suspended for the Miami game due to a team rules violation have been reinstated. Receiver Evan Stewart (10 receptions for 105 yards) is the best of the bunch. The others are receiver Chris Marshall and defensive backs Denver Harris and Smoke Bouie.

–Field Level Media

Sep 3, 2022; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks quarterback KJ Jefferson (1) celebrates with offensive lineman Ricky Stromberg (51) and Luke Jones (70) after rushing for a touchdown in the first quarter against the Cincinnati Bearcats at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

No. 16 Arkansas moving into SEC play vs. South Carolina

Fresh off an impressive season-opening win, No. 16 Arkansas now opens Southeastern Conference play against a familiar and potentially dangerous opponent when it hosts South Carolina on Saturday at Fayetteville, Ark.

The Razorbacks (1-0) lead the all-time series 13-10 against South Carolina (1-0), but the Gamecocks have won the past three meetings, including a 48-22 win at Columbia, S.C., in 2017.

“South Carolina has a really good team,” Arkansas coach Sam Pittman said. “A hard-playing team, really good in all three phases. Coach (Shane) Beamer’s done an excellent job there and they’re playing with a lot of passion. So we’re excited that it’s home. I think our crowd has proven that we have a good home-field advantage.”

Pittman opened his third season as Arkansas’ coach with a 31-24 victory over Cincinnati last week in a matchup of Top 25 teams. Razorbacks quarterback KJ Jefferson threw for 223 yards and three touchdowns, while also running for another score.

Arkansas has gone from a perpetual underdog in Pittman’s first season to a team that was ranked for eight weeks last season. They were ranked No. 19 last week before moving up three spots.

“You see your name in the top 25 and all that kind of stuff; we’ve been there for a while now,” Pittman said. “But we have a smart group of kids, and they believe in their coaches. Their belief in what we’ve done, in what we do at practice and how we play is the only reason why we’re winning.”

Beamer, the son of former legendary Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, is trying to follow a similar path at South Carolina. And last week, at least, his squad took a page out of his father’s book during a 35-14 win over Georgia State powered largely by the Gamecocks’ special teams.

South Carolina blocked two punts and returned them for touchdowns. Gamecocks kicker Mitch Jeter nailed field goals from 53 and 51 yards, and even their long snapper Hunter Rogers converted a first down on a fake field goal that led to a first-half touchdown.

While Beamer’s team mirrored the special teams-driven “Beamer Ball” style of his father, Shane Beamer credited his defense for setting up such big plays like the blocked punts.

“We were able to block those punts because we kept getting stops on defense and coming into this game, we knew we needed to stop the run, we knew we needed to hit the quarterback, and for the most part, we did that,” Beamer said.

Beamer led South Carolina to a 7-6 record and a victory over North Carolina in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl last season – just one year after the Gamecocks went 2-8.

But Beamer stressed the need for offensive improvement. South Carolina went 3 of 14 on third downs and was limited to only 2.5 yards per rushing attempt. Transfer quarterback Spencer Rattler was sacked three times and completed 23 of 37 passes for 227 yards with two interceptions and one touchdown.

“We certainly have to be better offensively, and we will be,” Beamer said.

–Field Level Media

Nov 26, 2021; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks ruling back Raheim Sanders (5) runs the ball during the second quarter against the Missouri Tigers at Donald W. Reynolds Razorbacks Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

No. 25 Arkansas beats Missouri for eighth victory

Raheim Sanders rushed for two touchdowns as No. 25 Arkansas closed out its regular season and Southeastern Conference play with a 34-17 win over Missouri on Friday in Fayetteville, Ark.

The West Division Razorbacks (8-4, 4-4 SEC) broke a five-game losing streak against their cross-division rival from the East and finished with their fourth win in five games.

Arkansas notched its first eight-win season since 2015 when it went 8-5.

KJ Jefferson was 15-for-19 passing for 262 yards and a TD to Treylon Burks, who caught seven passes for 129 yards and a score.

Burks’ six 100-yard receiving games this season set a school record. Trelon Smith rushed for a TD.

Montaric Brown notched his fifth interception for Arkansas, which beat Missouri for the second time in eight conference meetings.

The Tigers (6-6, 3-5) got 219 rushing yards and a score on 41 carries from Tyler Badie — the SEC’s leading rusher. It marks the fifth time Badie topped 200 yards this season.

Badie has 1,604 yards on 268 attempts with 14 TDs.

Connor Bazelak was just 10-of-26 passing for 65 yards and an interception.

Jefferson helped put the Razorbacks up 3-0 on their first series — sprinting 49 yards up the middle — to set up Cam Little’s 36-yard field goal with 10:01 left in the opening quarter.

Late in the first quarter, Missouri’s defense forced a fumble by Smith, but seven plays by the Tigers produced just 11 yards.

Kicker Harrison Mevis then connected from 46 yards with13:27 left in the half.

On the best drive of the first half, the Razorbacks traveled 76 yards on eight plays, with Jefferson’s 43-yard pass to Burks putting the home side in business at the Missouri 7-yard line. Sanders bulled in from a yard out for a 10-3 lead with 5:53 left.

One of the top kickers in the country, Mevis nailed a 49-yarder with 3:02 left that rounded out the half’s scoring at 10-6.

Badie was strong with 117 yards on 22 first-half carries, but the Razorbacks did an impressive job keeping the Tigers out of the end zone.

Early in the third, De’Vion Warren took a bubble screen from Jefferson and went 55 yards, and Smith rumbled 4 yards for a 17-6 lead.

On their next series, the Razorbacks went up 24-6 when Jefferson found Burks for 52 yards.

Mevis added a 41-yard kick — raising him to 20-of-22 in an excellent season — but Little matched it from 23 yards with 11:44 left.

Sanders’ 7-yard scoring run and Badie’s late TD rush rounded out the scoring.

–Field Level Media

Nov 20, 2021; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA;  Arkansas Razorbacks defensive back Simeon Blair (15) and defensive back LaDarrius Bishop (24) tackle Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver Slade Bolden (18) at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Alabama won 42-35. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

No. 25 Arkansas looks to refocus vs. Missouri after tough loss

With a chance to complete a breakthrough season, Arkansas coach Sam Pittman does not want to see his team let up after a tough loss last weekend.

The No. 25 Razorbacks conclude the 2021 campaign against cross-divisional rival Missouri in a Friday afternoon Southeastern Conference contest in Fayetteville, Ark.

A victory Saturday would mark the first time the Razorbacks have won eight regular-season games since Bobby Petrino’s 2011 squad went 10-2.

While Pittman’s business at hand is getting ready for the Tigers (6-5, 3-4 SEC), thoughts of last week’s tight 42-35 road loss to No. 2 Alabama still linger.

“I thought we were pretty good in the game making adjustments,” Pittman said. “I thought it was two really good football teams with two really good game plans. We just ended up seven (points) short.”

The offense got hefty production from quarterback KJ Jefferson (326 passing yards, three touchdowns) and receiver Treylon Burks (eight catches for 179 yards, two scores).

Arkansas (7-4, 3-4) has a chance to put together a strong season in Pittman’s second year after the former University of Georgia offensive line coach’s squad went 3-7 in an all-SEC schedule in 2020.

After starting 4-0 and being ranked as high as No. 8 following a 20-10 win over Texas A&M on Sept. 25, the Razorbacks have a chance to win eight games and appear in a New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day bowl game.

Their 222.3 rushing yards per game ranks 14th in the country, and they are second in runs of 10-or-more yards.

Trelon Smith tops Arkansas with 555 yards rushing on 111 carries.

The Tigers have been much better against the run after being thrashed earlier this season and have used their own running game as a strength.

The Tigers rank ninth in the SEC in rushing — 172.4 yards per game — and Tyler Badie leads the conference with 1,393 yards on 227 attempts (6.1 per carry) and has 13 rushing TDs.

Badie also tops the team with 53 catches and four touchdown receptions.

“They’re a hot team right now, having won their last two games, and have a really good offensive line,” Pittman said. “Badie is not only their leading rusher but leading receiver by a long ways.”

Missouri holds a 9-3 overall edge in the series, including a 6-1 mark since joining the SEC, and have been victorious in the last five meetings.

Coach Eli Drinkwitz made a bold call in overtime, and the Tigers became bowl-eligible Saturday in their thrilling 24-23 home win over Florida, getting Connor Bazelak’s two-point floater to Daniel Parker Jr. for the walk-off victory.

After sitting at 3-4 following a 35-14 loss to Texas A&M on Oct. 16, the Tigers’ staff decided to change the team’s approach.

“We weren’t improving at the rate we needed to. We had to rededicate ourselves to how are we were going to focus on improvement of individual player development and commitment to the team,” Drinkwitz said.

The Tigers will have to prepare for a tough combo in Jefferson and Burks.

“Jefferson is really having a remarkable season,” said the second-year Tigers coach. “He’s really difficult to tackle and does a good job of creating time and space in the pocket and delivers the ball downfield.

“Burks is one of the top two wide receivers in the league. That would be a great contest between him and (Bama’s) Jameson Williams. Treylon is very special.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 6, 2021; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young (9) talks with players along the sidelines during the first half against the LSU Tigers at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

No. 2 Alabama tries to keep pace in CFP race vs. No. 21 Arkansas

Second-ranked Alabama looks to maintain its dominance of No. 21 Arkansas when the Southeastern Conference foes battle on Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

The Crimson Tide (9-1, 5-1 SEC) are in a must-win situation if they want to be part of the College Football Playoff. A loss this week to the Razorbacks likely would knock them out of the top four heading into the regular-season finale at Auburn.

However, a victory would keep Alabama rolling as it would clinch the SEC West and earn a spot in the conference title game against top-ranked Georgia.

Alabama crushed Arkansas 52-3 last season, but the Razorbacks (7-3, 3-3) aren’t the same pushovers who lost the past four matchups by an average of 39 points. The Crimson Tide have won their past 14 meetings with the Razorbacks, though one of those victories was subsequently vacated.

Sam Pittman’s Arkansas team has won its last three games, including a 16-13 overtime victory at LSU last weekend.

“Sam Pittman has done a fantastic job, I think, with his team in the two years that he’s been there,” Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said. “They’re probably improved as much from last year to this year as anybody in the country. They’ve had some great wins over some very good SEC teams.

“And they’ve got really good players. They play well together. They play winning football. … They really do a good job all the way around, so we’re going to have to be at our best and certainly prepare that way this week for this game.”

Alabama has won its past four games, including an easy 59-3 win over visiting New Mexico State last week.

Quarterback Bryce Young completed 21 of 23 passes for 270 yards and five touchdowns. He completed 91.3 percent of his passes, marking the second time this season he has set the school mark. He hit on 90.9 percent against Southern Miss on Sept. 25.

Young has passed for 3,025 yards and 33 touchdowns with just three interceptions. He is the sixth Alabama quarterback to throw for more than 3,000 yards in a season.

Receiver Jameson Williams caught three touchdown passes and had six receptions for 158 yards against New Mexico State. He has 51 receptions for 1,028 yards and 10 touchdowns.

The Alabama defense has allowed 14 or fewer points on six occasions with star linebacker Will Anderson Jr. leading the way.

Anderson leads the nation with 12.5 sacks, an amount that ranks third in school history behind College Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas, who had 18 in 1987 and a stunning 27 in 1988.

“I think Will’s done an outstanding job,” Saban said. “He’s a good player. He plays hard.”

Dealing with Anderson will be part of the deal for the Razorbacks as they look to reach the eight-win mark for the first time since 2015.

Arkansas also would remain in the mix for the SEC West with a victory.

“To be alive in Week 11, it’s hard to do and I’m happy we have that opportunity,” Pittman said.

One thing Pittman has preached is to not worry about the record with the program playing in arguably the toughest division in the nation.

“It’s not necessarily about the number of wins over what’s the expectations,” Pittman said. “To me it’s about how you’re playing. Is the team playing hard? Do you have a chance to win? Sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce your direction and you played a good football game.”

Razorbacks quarterback KJ Jefferson has passed for 1,990 yards, 17 touchdowns and three interceptions. He also has 474 yards and five scores on the ground.

Arkansas linebacker Bumper Pool has been superb with 100 tackles, his second straight season of reaching that figure. He has posted 10 or more stops six times this season and 15 times in his career.

–Field Level Media

Nov 13, 2021; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA; LSU Tigers running back Tyrion Davis-Price (3) runs the ball against Arkansas Razorbacks defensive back Joe Foucha (7) in the first half at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

No. 25 Arkansas takes down LSU in OT

Cam Little kicked three field goals, including a 37-yard game-winner in overtime, as No. 25 Arkansas defeated LSU 16-13 in an SEC game Saturday night in Baton Rouge, La.

LSU had the first possession of overtime, but Garrett Nussmeier threw an interception in the end zone.

The Razorbacks (7-3, 3-3 SEC) ran three plays for six yards before Little’s game-winner.

Nussmeier, a freshman seeing his first significant time in pre-determined relief of Max Johnson, completed 18 of 31 for 179 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions for the Tigers (4-6, 2-5)

Arkansas reached the LSU 38 on the first possession of the third quarter, but Jefferson was sacked by Damone Clark on fourth-and-4.

On the ensuing possession, the Tigers reached the Razorbacks 37 before stalling and Cade York missed a 55-yard field goal.

KJ Jefferson scrambled away from the pass rush and threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to Dominique Johnson to tie the score at 10 midway through the quarter.

Little’s 27-yard field goal gave Arkansas a 13-10 lead at the end of the period, but York’s 45-yard field goal tied the score early in the fourth.

The Tigers reached the Razorbacks’ 38, but Nussmeier threw an incompletion on fourth-and-3.

LSU went three-and-out on the game’s first possession, and Arkansas needed to drive just 23 yards on the ensuing possession before Little kicked a 48-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.

Nussmeier entered the game on LSU’s third possession and both of his passes went incomplete, but the Tigers drove 28 yards and running plays and one Arkansas penalty. That led to York’s 34-yard field goal that tied the score at the end of the period.

On Nussmeier’s second possession, he threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Jack Bech to give LSU a 10-3 halftime lead.

The Tigers’ last four possessions of the half ended with three punts and one lost fumble.

After getting the field goal on their first possession, the Razorbacks punted on six straight possessions before their final possession ended when time expired at the LSU 30.

–Field Level Media

Nov 6, 2021; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks running back Dominique Johnson (20) celebrates with offensive lineman Dalton Wagner (78) and wide receiver Tyson Morris (19) after scoring a two point conversion in the fourth quarter against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Arkansas won 31-28. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Arkansas rides momentum into SEC matchup vs. injury-plagued LSU

Arkansas is bowl eligible for the first time since 2016.

And the Razorbacks (6-3, 2-3 SEC) hope to accomplish much more beginning with their conference matchup at LSU (4-5, 2-4) on Saturday night.

Second-year coach Sam Pittman said Arkansas’ 31-28 victory against ranked Mississippi State last Saturday felt like winning the Super Bowl.

“We’re both eligible and very, very, very excited to know that we’re going to play in December or January,” Pittman said.

The Razorbacks were highly rated after a 4-0 start that included wins against then-No. 15 Texas and then-No. 7 Texas A&M.

But a 37-0 loss at then-No. 2 Georgia started a three-game losing streak that pushed Arkansas off pollsters’ radar. But two straight wins, including last week’s victory against the Bulldogs, who were No. 17 in the first College Football Playoff rankings, have them just outside of the rankings.

“There’s no question in my mind we deserve to be in the Top 25,” Pittman said. “Now it’s hard to stay there and all those things, but we’ve beaten (Nos.) 7, 15 and 17 at the time.”

Running back Dominique Johnson, making his first start of the season last week, rushed 17 times for 107 yards and two touchdowns, including a game-winning, 4-yard touchdown with 21 seconds left.

Pittman said Arkansas “probably” will give Johnson “a few more” carries than 17 in games going forward.

The Razorbacks were balanced as KJ Jefferson completed 19-of-23 passes for 191 yards and a touchdown.

“KJ, he really has gotten better,” Pittman said. “He’s poised. He’s a heck of a quarterback.”

One area where Pittman would like to see his team improve is penalties. The Razorbacks were penalized 11 times for 84 yards against the Bulldogs, and they rank in the bottom three in the SEC in penalties per game (8.6) and penalty yards per game (71.3).

LSU, on the other hand, averages the fewest penalty yards per game (31.4) in the country.

But the injury-plagued Tigers are struggling in a lot of areas, though their defense showed drastic improvement in a 20-14 loss at No. 2 Alabama last Saturday.

“Well, it was LSU-Alabama,” Tigers coach Ed Orgeron said. “We knew we had to play lights-out just to stick with ’em, and we were prepared to do that.”

LSU and Orgeron reached agreement last month on a buyout that will take place at the end of the season. The Tigers need two wins in their last three games to become bowl eligible and extend Orgeron’s tenure by one game.

“I told (the team) if they play like (they did against Alabama), we could win the rest of our games and get into a bowl,” Orgeron said. “They want to keep on playing. I think it would be good for the team.”

Orgeron said Max Johnson remains the team’s starting quarterback, but against Arkansas he’ll give freshman Garrett Nussmeier “significant snaps at the beginning of the game, and we’ll see how it goes.”

“If Max plays better than Garrett, he’s going to be the starter,” Orgeron said. “If Garrett plays better than Max, then he’s going to be the starter. We’re going to let them battle it out.”

–Field Level Media