Last week, not many Arkansas fans worried about the possibility of Petrino and his Bears pulling the upset. That feeling quickly changed on Saturday when nothing was going right for Sam Pittman’s Razorbacks. The first sign of trouble came when Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson fumbled, and Raheim “Rocket” Sanders lost the ball at the goal line trying to punch it in.
The game was a game of two halves for Arkansas as they trailed 17-0 at one point before Arkansas could get on the board with a touchdown run from Raheim Sanders in the 2nd quarter from 3 yards out. Arkansas would strike again late in the 2nd quarter on a 38-yard touchdown pass from KJ Jefferson to Jadon Haselwood, making it 17-14.
In the second half, Arkansas could not keep what little momentum they had going as they would give it right back to the bears near midfield on a dropped passed by Tight End Trey Knox that deflected into the hands of a Missouri State defender. This would be the third turnover for Arkansas, while Missouri State had zero on the night. Things would not get any better for Arkansas until the 4th quarter with 12:04 left in the game. Arkansas was trailing 27-17 when Raheim Sanders took the shovel pass from KJ Jefferson and took it to the end zone for a 73-yard touchdown they desperately needed.
From then on, Arkansas had all the momentum, and they would not lose it. Trailing 27-24 with 11:03 remaining, after Arkansas forced a Missouri three and out, Arkansas punt returner Bryce Stephens would fire up the Arkansas crowd again with an 82-yard touchdown return giving his team their first lead of the game, 31-27. The Arkansas defensive line brought the pressure late in the game and got after the Bears quarterback Jason Shelley, shutting down any chance of another surge by Missouri state. Arkansas would finish with an impressive eight sacks on the night, and they would hang on to win 38-27. Missouri State quarterback Jason Shelley had his way through the air on the Arkansas defense, completing 24 of his 43 pass attempts and throwing for 357 yards and one touchdown. He also ran for a touchdown.
Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson threw for 385 yards and went 19 of 31 passing with two touchdowns. He also had a running touchdown that sealed the game at the end. Arkansas running back Raheim Sanders would again go over 100 yards rushing for the third straight game, tallying 165 yards on the ground and one running touchdown. His 73-yard touchdown was a shuffle pass from KJ Jefferson, and Sanders reached the end zone twice in the game.
I underestimated Bobby Petrino and his players, and I think the Arkansas players and coaches may also have. After the game, Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman admitted to being outcoached by his counterpart but said his team was the better team since they won the game. This game reminded Arkansas fans of what they had back when Petrino was the head hog, and it was evident even in some of the familiar plays he called during the game. All in all, Arkansas was narrowly able to avoid disaster and save themselves the embarrassment of not only losing to an FCS opponent but their former coach, who had a solid game plan against his old school.
#10 Arkansas (3-0) will now face the #23 Texas A&M Aggies (2-1) at AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas, for the Southwest Classic. The game will air on ESPN at 6 pm on Saturday, September 24th. Arkansas gets a few defensive players back this week from injury, which should improve their secondary. It should be a great game as they usually are when these two teams meet. Arkansas snapped a nine-game losing streak to the Aggies last year with a 20-10 win. Arkansas still leads the all-time series 42-33-3.
My Prediction: Arkansas 38, Texas A&M 31