Arkansas football: Razorbacks' rout didn't answer all questions
It took 77 years, but the timing couldn’t have been more perfect for Arkansas-Pine Bluff to wind up on Arkansas’ schedule when it did.
The Hogs (5-3) were reeling from a 3-game skid after starting the season 4-0 and rising to the top 10 in the national polls. Favored by about nearly 50 points, the Razorbacks easily handled the Golden Lions 45-3 on Saturday at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock and began to put the losing streak behind them. It was 45-0 at halftime, and the game was so lopsided that both coaches agreed to 12-minute 3rd and 4th quarters.
With a bye week ahead, the Hogs can concentrate on healing the bumps and bruises and get ready for a final push. Of the 4 games left on the schedule, Arkansas would need at least 1 victory to become bowl-eligible for the 1st time since 2016.
It was the 1st time ever that Arkansas and UAPB met on the gridiron, and the 1st time the Hogs faced an in-state opponent since defeating Arkansas A&M — now known as Arkansas-Monticello — 41-0 in 1944 in Fayetteville. It was also the 18th consecutive victory for Arkansas over an FCS opponent.
The teams are scheduled to meet again in 2024, and the Razorbacks will take on Arkansas State for the 1st time ever in the 2025 season. Both of those games will be played in Little Rock, which has been good to the Hogs, especially in non-conference games.
Arkansas is 24-4 there since 1992 against non-league opposition. The Hogs have won 4 of the last 5 games played there, 9 of 11 and 24 of 26 against non-conference foes at War Memorial Stadium.
The Razorbacks, however, lost their previous game in Little Rock, a 24-14 decision to Missouri in the 2019 season finale. They are 152-61-4 all-time at War Memorial Stadium.
So the game accomplished what it was supposed to. The Razorbacks rolled to a huge halftime lead, piling up 426 total yards after just 2 quarters. For the 7th time in 8 games this season, the Razorbacks outgained their opposition.
They ran the ball well, eclipsing the 200-yard mark for the 6th time in 2021. They did it before halftime, nearly meeting their season average of 243 yards per game. The Hogs ran for 232 yards after just 2 quarters.
But it was Dominique Johnson making most of the big gainers in helping the Hogs to their insurmountable halftime advantage. Normally, it would be Trelon Smith and Raheim Sanders leading the way. But Johnson, who made his 1st career start last week against Auburn, ripped off chunk yardage in the 1st half, looking like one of the freshest players on the field, averaging 20 yards on 4 carries including a 34-yard dash. He finished 9 yards shy of his first 100-yard game.
Wide receiver Treylon Burks made a mockery of the Golden Lions’ man coverage. The Razorbacks’ leading receiver moved past the 2,000-yard mark in career receiving yards. In 1 half of football, he caught 2 touchdown passes and rushed for another. His 49-yard touchdown run was a forward handoff from quarterback KJ Jefferson and could have been ruled a forward pass.
Jefferson was not sharp early. His passes were off the mark, and he did have some drops as well, adding fuel to the discussion of whether he has hit the wall. Statistically, it appeared as though he had a big game. He played only 1 half and completed 10 of 17 passes for 194 yards and 4 touchdowns. His receivers, for the most part, took advantage of the man coverage and were pretty much wide open.
So while much was accomplished on Saturday and head coach Sam Pittman was able to rest some starters, as he’d hoped he could, it wasn’t the most impressive performance from Jefferson. He was just 6-for-12 at one point in the game and was generally not crisp, though he did come away with a QB rating of 232.3.
The redshirt sophomore came into the game leading the SEC with a 14.6-yard average per completion. In 1 half of play Saturday, he improved on that, averaging 19.4 yards per completion.
Defensively, the Razorbacks were their normal solid self. They already led the SEC in 3rd-down efficiency, holding opponents to just 31 percent. They allowed UAPB to convert just 1 time in 13 opportunities.
Pass defense was very good, as usual. The Razorbacks allowed only 112 yards through the air after coming into the game 2nd in the SEC and 16th in the nation giving up an average of 175.4 passing yards per game.
So while it was a rout, and though many things went well in terms of outcome, health and resting of starters, the biggest question mark was the play of Jefferson. He’ll have to lift his game over the final stretch if the Hogs want to finish strong.