Business-like Hogs down Lions with running game

Ken Cross

January 03, 2022 at 4:14 pm.

TAMPA, Fla. – Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson looked the part of a boss in Saturday’s 24-10 victory over Penn State in the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium.

Arkansas could have had a comfortable lead at halftime if Jefferson hadn’t thrown only his fourth interception of the season in the end zone. Then, wide receiver Warren Thompson was also picked off late in the first by Penn State defensive back Ji’Ayir Brown on a flea-flicker pass at the Nittany Lions 18-yard line.

Jefferson went into his office behind the center and went to work mapping out the project. The CEO wanted his team to pick up its intensity first and that’s what they did.

The 6-3, 245-pound sophomore from Sardis, Miss., orchestrated a pair of touchdown drives and a field goal on the first three possessions after halftime. By then, he had his feet up on his desk and was running the Razorbacks offense – his metaphorical company – with precision.

“The adjustment that we wanted to make was either run-gap schemes back over this way, lead the tight end front-side, or run some type of inside zone where we’re not crossing the quarterback,” said Razorbacks head coach Sam Pittman.

Jefferson carried out the plan and as the afternoon transpired, the Razorbacks steamrolled Penn State with 351 yards on the ground. Jefferson, who paced four Hogs with 67 or more rushing yards, had 110 yards on 20 carries with a touchdown.

Jefferson gave the Hogs the lead for good on an 8-yard run on a  drive took seven plays and went for 75 yards. He had four carries for 46 yards as the Razorbacks took the lead at 14-10.

“Our leaders, captains, seniors – everybody being more vocal – we knew we had to play our brand of football,” Jefferson said. “The first half, it wasn’t our brand of football. Coming out we took it as a challenge, put our best foot forward and played Arkansas brand football.”

Pittman just wanted his team to pick up the pace and play faster and harder. It’s amazing how much command he has with so much positive player response.

Jefferson was like Steph Curry on the basketball court when he picks the Golden State Warriors up and put them on his back. His master plan as a boss was to make sure the Razorbacks continued their momentum.

He then drove them 46 yards in 10 plays where they converted a pair of fourth downs before Cam Little posted a field goal for a 17-10 lead.

Pittman explained, “At some point, you got to take over the game, put the game in your hands. We got to put our best foot forward, score points, win the game. That’s what it was.”

When the boss decided the game needed finishing as he was still executing the plan.

Jefferson took the first play of the next drive 34 yards off the left side to the Nittany Lions’ 45-yard line. Then, he mixed in a 12-yard run from Raheim Sanders before Malik Hornsby’s 32-yard end-around. This set up Sanders’ 1-yard run which pushed the lead to 24-10 with 2:08 remaining in the third quarter.

As the Razorbacks’ defense wrapped this game up with a handshake between the CEO and the boss signifying the deal was done and it was sealed with a Gatorade bath for a job well-done by the CEO of Razorbacks Football, Sam Pittman … and an Outback Bowl MVP for the Boss, KJ Jefferson, who led the Razorbacks to their first nine-win season in 10 years.