Oct 2, 2021; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA;  Alabama linebacker Drew Sanders (20) wraps up Ole Miss wide receiver Dontario Drummond (11) at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby-USA TODAY Sports

Former Alabama LB Drew Sanders transfers to Arkansas

Former Alabama linebacker Drew Sanders announced Sunday that he is transferring to Southeastern Conference rival Arkansas.

Sanders entered the transfer portal on Tuesday, one day after the Crimson Tide lost to Georgia in the College Football Playoff title game.

“I am excited to announce that I will continue my football career at the University of Arkansas!! Signed and ready to go to work!! #GoHogs,” Sanders said on Twitter.

Sanders had 24 tackles and one sack in 12 games for the Crimson Tide this season. Overall, he had 33 stops in 23 games over two seasons for Alabama.

Due to the 2020 free-eligibility season because of the coronavirus, he has three seasons of eligibility remaining.

Sanders will join an Arkansas linebacker group that includes star Bumper Pool, who was a second-team All-SEC performer in 2021.

–Field Level Media

Sep 25, 2021; Arlington, Texas, USA;  Arkansas Razorbacks defensive lineman Eric Thomas Jr. (37) and defensive lineman John Ridgeway (99) and linebacker Grant Morgan (31) hold up the Southwest Classic trophy as they celebrate the win over the Texas A&M Aggies at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Arkansas DT John Ridgeway declares for NFL draft

Arkansas defensive tackle John Ridgeway announced Thursday that he is declaring for the NFL draft.

Ridgeway had 39 tackles and two sacks this season in his lone campaign at Arkansas. He transferred from Illinois State.

“This football season has been one of the best experiences of my life,” Ridgeway said in his announcement on Twitter. “To be a part of this team has allowed me to grow as a football player and as a man. I will be forever grateful for the memories and relationships I have built through this program. …

“I will forever call Fayetteville my home and will always look back on all the memories I made with my teammates and coaches this year. I will be declaring for the 2022 NFL Draft.”

Ridgeway had 102 tackles, one interception and one sack in three seasons at Illinois State.

–Field Level Media

Jan 1, 2022; Tampa, FL, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions linebacker Jesse Luketa (40) tackles Arkansas Razorbacks wide receiver Bryce Stephens (14) during the first half during the 2022 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

KJ Jefferson, No. 21 Arkansas beat Penn State in Outback Bowl

KJ Jefferson and Raheim Sanders combined for 189 rushing yards and three scores Saturday to lead No. 21 Arkansas past Penn State 24-10 in the Outback Bowl at Tampa, Fla.

Jefferson, who completed 14 of 19 passes for 90 yards, with an interception, did the bulk of his damage on the ground for the Razorbacks (9-4), who posted 17 third-quarter points in overcoming a sluggish first half. Jefferson rushed 20 times for 110 yards and a touchdown.

Sanders carried 13 times for 79 yards and two TDs as Arkansas defeated a Big Ten opponent in a bowl game for the first time in five tries. The Razorbacks, from the Southeastern Conference, concluded their season by winning five of six games.

Sean Clifford was 14 of 32 for 195 yards and a touchdown, with two interceptions, for Penn State (7-6), which ended its season with six losses in eight games. Clifford also had a team-high 47 rushing yards.

Penn State led 10-7 during a sloppy first half that began with a missed field goal by the Nittany Lions, followed by interceptions by each team less than a minute apart. The first half ended with Penn State failing badly on a fake punt before Arkansas’ Warren Thompson threw an interception on a wide receiver pass.

In between the errors, each team scored one first-half touchdown. The Razorbacks got on the board first on Sanders’ 3-yard TD run on the final play of the first quarter. Then, following an exchange of punts, Clifford found a wide-open KeAndre Lambert-Smith in the end zone for a tying 42-yard score.

Jake Pinegar’s 43-yard field goal on the Nittany Lions’ next possession created a 10-7 margin.

Arkansas took the opening drive of the second half and marched 75 yards to the end zone. Jefferson had a 10-yard run, a pair of 14-yard runs and finally an 8-yard burst to put his team ahead 14-10.

After a punt by Penn State, Arkansas tacked on a 37-yard field goal by Cam Little to make it 17-10.

The Nittany Lions punted again, and this time it took the Razorbacks only four plays to reach the end zone. Long runs by Jefferson (34 yards) and Malik Hornsby (32 yards) set up Sanders’ 1-yard TD plunge.

Penn State had only one substantial second-half drive, and it ended with an interception.

–Field Level Media

Georgia inside linebacker Nakobe Dean (17) sacks Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson (1) on Oct. 2.

News Joshua L Jones

Outback Bowl pits No. 21 Arkansas vs. reeling Penn State

No. 21 Arkansas and Penn State took very different paths to the Outback Bowl.

When the teams square off in Tampa on Saturday, the Razorbacks will be looking to conclude a positive second-half surge to their season, while the Nittany Lions will be seeking to salvage a once-promising campaign.

Arkansas (8-4) closed out the regular season by winning four of its final five games, losing only by a touchdown to then-No. 2 Alabama during that stretch. The Razorbacks are looking to garner some attention after a season in which they defeated Texas, Texas A&M and Mississippi State — all Top 25 foes at the time.

“Some teams take (bowl games) lightly,” Razorbacks wide receiver De’Vion Warren said. “We don’t take any game lightly, so for us it’s another game that we have to go out there and earn respect. In college football, people do not respect Arkansas.”

The opposite may be true of the Nittany Lions. Penn State (7-5) received plenty of early-season plaudits, earning a top-five ranking after a 5-0 start, but the team dropped five of its final seven outings to tumble out of the rankings.

That has left the Nittany Lions hoping to squeeze one final win out of their 2021 season, although the team also would like to begin some momentum for its 2022 campaign.

“Guys are hungry and going about it the right way,” Penn State safety Ji’Ayir Brown said. “We want to go into this bowl game and provide an example of what next season is gonna be like.”

Several players on the teams are looking to next season in a different sense, as both squads have a key player skipping the bowl game to prepare for the NFL draft.

Arkansas wide receiver Treylon Burks and Penn State safety Jaquan Brisker and receiver Jahan Dotson, all of whom are possible first-round picks in next year’s draft, decided to focus on their NFL futures.

As for the players who will be suiting up on New Year’s Day, Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson is one of the headliners. He has 2,578 passing yards and 21 touchdowns against only three interceptions, and he also has contributed 554 rushing yards and five scores.

Without Burks (66 catches, 1,104 yards, 11 TDs), the Razorbacks likely will rely on a rushing attack that ranked second in the SEC with an average of 217.3 yards per game.

The Nittany Lions will be without Dotson’s 91 receptions, 1,182 yards and 12 TDs, putting pressure on quarterback Sean Clifford (2,912 yards, 20 TDs, six INTs) to find other targets.

This is the Nittany Lions’ fifth trip to the Outback Bowl — against five different SEC programs — with their most recent appearance being a 37-24 loss to Florida on Jan. 1, 2011.

Arkansas is playing in a New Year’s Day bowl game for the first time since 2008. The team has not played in a bowl of any kind since the 2016 Belk Bowl, as the Razorbacks’ scheduled appearance in the 2020 Texas Bowl was canceled due to COVID-19.

This is the first meeting ever between the schools.

–Field Level Media

Sep 25, 2021; Arlington, Texas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks defensive lineman Tre Williams (55) in action during the game between the Arkansas Razorbacks and the Texas A&M Aggies at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Arkansas DE Tre Williams arrested on DWI charge

Arkansas defensive end Tre Williams was arrested early Sunday morning on a driving while intoxicated charge.

Jail records in Washington County, Ark., show he was booked at 1:50 a.m. and released at 4:46 a.m. on $765 bond after his arrest in Fayetteville, Ark.

The No. 21 Razorbacks (8-4) are set to meet Penn State (7-5) in the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day in Tampa, Fla.

The university did not address Sunday whether Williams would take part in the bowl game.

Williams, a transfer from Missouri, leads the Razorbacks with six sacks on the season. He has 28 tackles (6.5 for loss) in 12 games.

Williams, 24, is a senior. From 2016-19, he was on the roster at Missouri and was arrested in December 2018 on suspicion of second-degree domestic assault. The following July, he pleaded guilty to a reduced misdemeanor charge of first-offense peace disturbance.

–Field Level Media

Nov 26, 2021; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks wide receiver Treylon Burks (16) catches a pass and runs it in for a touchdown in the third quarter against the Missouri Tigers at Donald W. Reynolds Razorbacks Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Arkansas WR Treylon Burks to skip bowl, enters NFL draft

Arkansas star receiver Treylon Burks announced Wednesday that he will skip the Outback Bowl against Penn State and is declaring for the NFL draft.

Burks, a first-team All-SEC pick, caught 66 passes for 1,104 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. He is just the fourth Arkansas player to top 1,000 in a season.

“I have had many restless nights praying and talking with my family regarding this decision,” Burks said in his announcement on Twitter. “With that being said I have decided to opt out of the bowl game and forego my senior season and declare for the NFL draft.”

Nov 20, 2021; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA;  Arkansas running back Raheim Sanders (5) attempts to break a tackle by Alabama defensive back DeMarcco Hellams (2) and Alabama linebacker Christian Harris (8) at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

Bryce Young’s record-setting day helps No. 2 Alabama beat No. 21 Arkansas

Bryce Young passed for a school record 559 yards and also threw five touchdown passes to lead No. 2 Alabama to a 42-35 victory over No. 21 Arkansas in SEC play on Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Young completed 31 of 40 passes and became the first-ever quarterback in Crimson Tide history to throw for over 500 yards in a game.

Alabama (10-1, 6-1 SEC) beat Arkansas (7-4, 3-4) for the 15th consecutive time and secured a berth in the SEC championship game for the second consecutive season and sixth time in the past eight seasons.

The Crimson Tide will play No. 1 Georgia in two weeks in Atlanta following next week’s annual Iron Bowl rivalry clash at Auburn.

K.J. Jefferson also had a strong passing game for the Razorbacks, completing 22 of 30 passes for 326 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. But despite gaining 468 total yards, Arkansas could not slow down Alabama’s offensive onslaught which amassed 671 total yards.

Jefferson’s 17-yard touchdown pass to Raheim Sanders with 1:02 left in the fourth pulled Arkansas within a score. But Arkansas could not recover the ensuing onside kick, ending its comeback hopes.

Treylon Burks led all Arkansas pass catchers with eight catches for 179 yards and two touchdowns.

The Crimson Tide’s wide receiver tandem of John Metchie III (10 catches for 173 yards and one touchdown) and Jameson Williams (eight for 190 yards and three TDs) each had huge performances. Brian Robinson Jr. contributed 122 rushing yards on 27 carries.

Trailing 34-21 in the fourth, Arkansas ran a fake field goal when holder Reid Bauer took the snap and threw a jump pass to tight end Blake Kern for a 32-yard touchdown with 11:24 left.

Alabama drove into the red zone but tight end Cameron Latu was stripped of the ball by Montaric Brown, who then recovered it at the Razorbacks’ 1-yard line with 8:52 to go. But the Razorbacks went three and out on their next series and punted, setting up Alabama on a short field.

Williams’ falling catch in the back of the end zone on a 40-yard pass from Young with 5:39 left in the fourth quarter followed by Young’s two-point conversion run gave Alabama enough of a cushion.

–Field Level Media

Oct 9, 2021; Oxford, Mississippi, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks quarterback KJ Jefferson (1) celebrates with Arkansas Razorbacks running back Dominique Johnson (20) after Jefferson scored a touchdown against Mississippi Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

No. 17 Arkansas looks for better defensive effort against Auburn

Arkansas has found its offense, but the defense has let down the Razorbacks the past two games.

The 17th-ranked Razorbacks will play their second consecutive Southeastern Conference West division foe Saturday when Auburn comes to Fayetteville, Ark.

Coach Sam Pittman’s Razorbacks (4-2, 1-2 SEC) lost on the final play to then-No. 17 Ole Miss on the road Saturday — their second straight loss and one that kept them from starting a season 5-1 for the first time since 2011.

Pittman elected to ride the hot hand of quarterback KJ Jefferson, who tossed a 9-yard touchdown pass to Warren Thompson on the final play of regulation to pull the Razorbacks within 52-51.

With Jefferson rolling and the Rebels reeling, Arkansas went for two and the win, but the Mississippi native’s final pass fell incomplete on the Vaught-Hemingway Stadium turf to leave the visitors with another defeat after being humbled 37-0 at Georgia the previous week.

“Not a very good defensive performance, obviously,” said Pittman after his squad surrendered 611 yards of offense — 324 on the ground — to Ole Miss.

While Arkansas’ offense is ranked ninth in rushing (244.8 yards per game), the rushing defense has slipped to 97th (179.2).

The loss was stinging, but Arkansas regained some offensive form as Jefferson passed for 326 yards and three TDs, ran for three scores and led an offense that produced 676 yards.

“The main thing going in was establishing the run game,” said Jefferson, a sophomore who rushed for 85 yards on 20 carries. “They had a three-down defense and we thought (our) big guys could get to the next level. They just had a light box and we wanted to attack it.”

Freshman Raheim Sanders notched a game-high 139 rushing yards while leading rusher Trelon Smith produced his ninth TD in the past 10 games.

Last year with seven seconds left, Auburn’s Anders Carlson booted a controversial field goal — connecting from 39 yards after quarterback Bo Nix appeared to spike the ball backwards — to lift the Tigers to a 30-28 home win.

In the series, Auburn owns an 18-11-1 mark and a five-game winning streak.

The Tigers (4-2, 1-1) got all they could handle last week from then-No. 2 Georgia, which assumed the nation’s top spot with a methodical 34-10 victory on the Plains at Auburn.

But while much of the credit goes to Georgia’s attacking defense, the home side frittered away a number of scoring chances, including two first-half drives that ended inside the 10 and produced just three points.

“We have to finish drives,” Auburn coach Bryan Harsin said. “That’s the most frustrating thing right now. We can drive the field, (but) that doesn’t matter if you can’t put points on the board. …

“Can we score touchdowns? That gets pretty old when you’re not doing that.”

After engineering some magic in a 24-19 win at LSU two weeks ago, Nix was 21 of 38 for 217 yards and one interception, but Pro Football Focus counted seven drops from the Tigers, giving them an SEC-leading 23 this season.

“The drop issue is frustrating,” Harsin said. “That comes back to the fundamentals of football.”

Auburn ranks 31st in the country in total offense (451.2 yards per game) but is 96th in team passing efficiency (124.15).

–Field Level Media

Oct 31, 2020; College Station, TX, USA; Texas A&M running back Isaiah Spiller (28) rushes for a touchdown against Arkansas linebacker Grant Morgan (31) during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020, in College Station, Texas. Mandatory Credit: Sam Craft/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

No. 7 Texas A&M meets No. 16 Arkansas in clash of unbeatens

Seventh-ranked Texas A&M opens SEC play against upstart No. 16 Arkansas at A&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Saturday.

The two teams square off for the 10th time since Texas A&M (3-0, 0-0 SEC) became a member of the SEC in 2012. The Aggies are 9-0 in those contests, including a 42-31 victory over the Razorbacks (3-0, 0-0) last season.

However, Arkansas is 41-33-3 all-time in 77 games against the Aggies.

Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher expects a competitive Arkansas squad this week.

“They have a very experienced team,” Fisher said. “They don’t have a young team. This group has a lot of fourth-, fifth- and sixth-year guys on their team. And they’re playing probably as well as anybody in the country.”

Arkansas rolled up 633 total yards in a 45-10 victory over Georgia Southern last week, the eighth-best mark in program history. The Razorbacks are one of only five teams in the country to total 240 or more rushing yards in every game this season.

Quarterback K.J. Jefferson finished with 366 passing yards and three touchdowns in the win over Georgia Southern. Dominique Johnson rushed for a team-high 72 yards and a touchdown on five carries as Arkansas totaled 269 yards on the ground.

“We’re just rolling right now,” said Arkansas receiver Treylon Burks, who had a 91-yard TD reception in the win. “We’re not worried about us being ranked. We’re 3-0, and that’s good. But we still want to play like we’ve always played, a blue-collar team with a chip on our shoulder, and just keep playing ball like we know how.”

The Razorbacks will be hard-pressed to put up similar numbers on Saturday against a Texas A&M defense holding opponents to 240 total yards a contest and 4.1 rushing yards per carry.

“They have a smothering defense,” Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman said. “A very, very good defense in all front end, middle and back end. Their offense is loaded with skill players. … They have a lot of talent, and we’re excited to go down to Dallas to play this game. Hopefully, we can get healthy, and be able to go down there and put a good showing on.”

Last week, Texas A&M shut out visiting New Mexico 34-0. The Aggies are riding an 11-game winning streak — their longest win streak since 1992 and the school’s best start since opening 6-0 in 2016.

Quarterback Zach Calzada threw for 275 yards and three touchdowns in the win. Calzada completed 19 of 33 passes with one interception in his first career start for the Aggies.

Running back Isaiah Spiller is Texas A&M’s top playmakers with 250 rushing yards, 80 receiving yards and two total touchdowns in three games.

The 6-foot-1, 215-pound junior has 2,232 career rushing yards and 21 total touchdowns.

Sophomore Devon Achane has joined Spiller to provide a nice 1-2 punch for Texas A&M in the backfield, with 203 rushing yards and three total touchdowns so far this season.

Fisher creating running lanes for playmakers like Spiller and Achane will be one of the keys to the game for Texas A&M.

“You’ve got to create space,” Fisher said. “(Creating) space is an easy thing to say, but a hard thing to do. So we’re going to have to create space. You either do it through creativity or physicality. You can do it also with their ability to make people miss — there are a lot of ways.

“You get Spiller, Achane and all of those guys in space, usually good things happen.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 18, 2021; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks quarterback KJ Jefferson (1) passes in the second quarter as Georgia Southern Eagles linebacker Reid Dedman (39) defends at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

KJ Jefferson tosses 3 TDs as No. 20 Arkansas beats Ga. Southern

KJ Jefferson threw for 366 yards and three touchdowns to lead the No. 20 Arkansas Razorbacks to a 45-10 victory over visiting Georgia Southern in a nonconference game Saturday in Fayetteville, Ark.

Dominique Johnson rushed for a team-high 72 yards and touchdown on five carries as Arkansas (3-0) ran for 269 yards on 48 carries — an average of 5.6 yards per attempt — and rolled up 633 yards of total offense.

Jefferson, who went 13-for-23 passing, highlighted his day by throwing a 91-yard touchdown pass to Treylon Burks in the third quarter. It ranked only behind Matt Jones’ 92-yard scoring strike to Richard Smith against Tennessee in 2002 in the school’s record book.

Arkansas took control on its first possession en route to its first 3-0 start in five years.

After a 47-yard pass from Jefferson to Tyson Morris pushed the pass to the Eagles’ 21 yard-line, Smith capped the drive three plays later by scoring on a 13-yard run for a 7-0 lead less than three minutes into the game.

Arkansas doubled its lead on its next possession, when Dominique Johnson capped a 15-play, 94-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown run with 3:31 left in the opening quarter.

After Morris caught 14-yard touchdown pass from Jefferson for a 21-0 lead with 8:42 left in second quarter, the Eagles (1-2) finally broke through on their next possession behind redshirt junior quarterback Justin Tomlin.

Tomlin kept the ball on a 3rd down play and cut to his right before outrunning the entire defense for a 76-yard touchdown with 7:22 left in the first half.

Tomlin finished 11-of-23 passing for 65 yards and ran for a team-high 65 yards and a score on 10 carries.

Arkansas needed just four plays to find the end zone to open the second half, as Jefferson connected with De’Vion Warren streaking down the sideline for a 60-yard touchdown and a 31-10 lead.

Jefferson threw his third touchdown pass of the game when he hit Burks for a 91-yard touchdown pass with 11:18 left in the third quarter.

Malik Hornsby pushed the lead to 45-10 with a six-yard touchdown run with 8:22 left in the game.

–Field Level Media