Did Arkansas' win put KJ Jefferson on the Heisman map?
The jukebox may still be blaring. Who could question it?
The Razorbacks claimed their biggest victory in recent memory on Saturday. For the first time in 10 years, they beat Southwest, Big 12 and now SEC nemesis Texas A&M. And the game wasn’t even as close as the 20-10 score might indicate.
No, it was a thorough Arkansas victory from beginning to end. Even when sensational quarterback KJ Jefferson went down with a leg injury and missed more than a quarter, the Razorbacks remained in control.
Even when Texas A&M got within 17-10 in the fourth quarter, there was no panic, no change in philosophy, no shift in momentum. That’s what has been the difference between this season and those in the recent past. That’s why the Razorbacks are now in position to step on the national stage as a legitimate contender.
But we’ll try to contain our enthusiasm about that until after the Georgia game next Saturday between the hedges. Still, starting the season 4-0 for the first time since 2003 is nothing to overlook.
Jefferson is certainly the catalyst. Let the comparisons flow with former Auburn 2010 Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton. It’s not a stretch. They have similar builds. Newton was 6-6, 250 back in 2010 when he took home the trophy. Jefferson is 6-3, 245.
Now, I know the odds of a sophomore winning the Heisman Trophy are about as good as winning the lottery. But since Tim Tebow did it in 2007 at Florida, there have been 5 freshmen or sophomores to win the coveted award. That’s 5 in the last 14 years when there were zero prior to that.
So you’re saying there’s a chance?
Well, why not? Jefferson’s performance on Saturday was certainly Heisman-like. In just more than a half of play, he threw for 212 yards and 2 touchdowns against the No. 1 pass defense in the country. Against a defense that was allowing just 77.3 yards passing per game. Against a defense that had not given up a passing touchdown all season.
What was it that allowed Jefferson to have such an incredible performance? Well, for one, it’s his dual-threat abilities. Jefferson is big, and he is fast, quick and elusive. Isn’t that how we used to describe Newton when he was leading Auburn to the title?
Jefferson rushed for 50 yards against Texas A&M, and for the season he is the Razorbacks’ second-leading rusher (230 yards, 32 carries) behind Trelon Smith. Jefferson averaged 6.3 yards per carry against the Aggies, which is actually below his season’s average of 7.2.
Texas A&M didn’t know if Jefferson was coming or going. His running skills must be accounted for. That’s what makes him so dangerous. Well, that, and his cannon for an arm.
Yes, the odds are against the sophomore winning the Heisman. But if the Razorbacks continue their roll, who knows?
What if the Hogs take down Georgia next Saturday? Does Jefferson then soar up the list of hopefuls? Surely that would increase his chances and shine a spotlight on his extraordinary talents. Stranger things have certainly happened. And this season has already been as strange as any.
I’m not taking anything off the table, not the way this season has gone. And Arkansas will go head-to-head with the current Heisman favorites in Matt Corral of Ole Miss and Bryce Young of Alabama.
Saturday’s victory raised the bar for the chances of both Arkansas and Jefferson to have special seasons. Of course, Jefferson must stay healthy. His injury on Saturday looked to a certain degree serious, and we’ll have to wait and see on the official word. He didn’t look the same even when returning to the game, although his 10-yard run for a first down in the waning minutes was quite impressive.
So while the odds are definitely stacked against him — he isn’t even on anyone’s radar just yet — let’s keep our fingers crossed that he’s healthy and see what happens next Saturday in Athens.