Arkansas defeated visiting Kent State 28-6 in Week 2 to improve to 2-0 on the 2023 campaign. However, Arkansas struggled offensively against a Kent State squad that lost by 50 to UCF in its season opener.

The stout Arkansas defense shutout Kent State in the second half. Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman isn’t concerned about the margin of victory and instead believes the Razorbacks will be more sharp in Week 3 vs. BYU.

“I think we’ll fix all this,” Pittman said. “I think we’ll play a much better football game against, no disrespect, a much better football program next week.”

Player of the Week: QB KJ Jefferson

The senior quarterback completed 13 of his 19 passes for 136 yards, 2 touchdowns, and no interceptions. Jefferson also rushed for 48 yards, with a long of 18 yards.

The 6-foot-3, 247-pound Jefferson connected with Andrew Armstrong for both of his touchdown passes. The first touchdown pass was a 5-yarder with 2:20 left in the first half to extend the lead to 14-6. The second touchdown pass was a 9-yarder with 10:16 to go that capped off the scoring.

It was a second solid showing in a row for Jefferson after he went 18-for-23 with 246 yards, 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions in the 56-13 victory against Western Carolina. Jefferson will face stiffer defenses going forward but the fact that he’s playing mistake free football after throwing just 5 interceptions last season is an encouraging sign.

Freshman of the week: TE Luke Hasz

The 6-foot-3, 242-pound tight end finished with 3 receptions for 26 yards.  Hasz 3 receptions were tied for the second most in the game for Arkansas. The Bixby, Oklahoma native now has 5 receptions for 45 yards during his first season with the Razorbacks.

Hasz was one of 37 players selected for the Shaun Alexander Freshman of the Year Award watch list. Hasz, the lone tight end on the watch list, was a consensus 4-star recruit and considered by 247Sports to be the No. 4 prospect from Oklahoma in the Class of 2023.

Biggest surprise: LB Antonio Grier

After Kent State took an early 3-0 lead, the 6-foot-1, 230-pound senior got Arkansas on the board with his 25-yard pick-6 interception with 1:12 left in the 1st quarter. The fact that it happened on Grier’s first defensive snap made it even sweeter. Grier’s takeaway was the lone for Arkansas during the win. Grier also tallied 3 total tackles in the victory.

Biggest concern: Offensive line struggles

During the postgame press conference, Pittman expressed that he believed the offensive line was roughed up by the smaller Kent State defensive line. An example of such would be 348-pound guard Joshua Braun being leveled by the Golden Flash during the 2nd quarter. With preseason second-team Associated Press All-American tailback Rocket Sanders out with a knee injury, Arkansas averaged just 3.8 yards per carry for 172 yards. This comes a week after only producing 2.9 yards per carry vs. Western Carolina.

“There’s a lot of reasons why we’re not dominating the line of scrimmage like we have before and some of it has to do with we’re just not moving the line of scrimmage up front like we have in the past,” Pittman said. “We’re just not moving them. We’re not knocking them off the football right now. We’re not blocking particularly well on the edge. We’re just not blocking particularly well period.”

Developing trend: Stingy defense

For the 2nd consecutive week, Arkansas showed its toughness on defense by not allowing a touchdown. Arkansas held Kent State to 200 total yards, with just 26 rushing yards on 0.7 yards per carry. Kent State finished 4-of-12 on 3rd down efficiency and failed to convert on its lone 4th down try.

In total, Arkansas amassed 7 sacks and 11 tackles for loss. Jaheim Thomas led Arkansas with 12 total tackles and 1.5 sacks. Trajan Jeffcoat also had 1.5 sacks. Jayden Johnson recorded 8 total tackles and 0.5 tackles for loss.

It’s unlikely Arkansas will be as stingy the rest of the season because of the strength of its schedule, but it’s promising to see the Razorbacks flex their defensive potential.

Key stat: No turnovers

Protecting the football is often an enormous indicator of success and the first 2 weeks have been perfect in that regard for Arkansas. For the second consecutive game to start the season, Arkansas didn’t commit any turnovers. Arkansas winning the turnover battle is a key factor for them, especially when the calendar turns to SEC play. Not giving up any takeaways with a time of possession of 32:16 is a recipe that the Razorbacks would love to replicate going forward.

First impression about Week 3

Arkansas will have to bring more consistency against visiting BYU to improve to 3-0. The 2-0 Cougars, in their first season in the Big 12, blanked Sam Houston 14-0 and defeated Southern Utah 41-16 on Saturday.

If Sanders remains out as expected, Arkansas will have to find other offensive firepower against a BYU defense that’s currently ranked tied for No. 10 nationally in points per game. Defensively, Arkansas will need to limit BYU quarterback Kedon Slovis, who passed for 348 yards and 4 touchdowns in Week 2. This won’t be a cakewalk at Razorback Stadium for Arkansas.