Razorback Report: QB Jefferson gets kudos from a few

By: Bob Holt , Tom Murphy
Published: Thursday, October 14, 2021
Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson (1) carries the ball for a score, Saturday, October 9, 2021 during the first quarter of a football game at Vaught Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Miss. Check out nwaonline.com/211010Daily/ for today's photo gallery. .(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Charlie Kaijo)
Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson (1) carries the ball for a score, Saturday, October 9, 2021 during the first quarter of a football game at Vaught Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Miss. Check out nwaonline.com/211010Daily/ for today's photo gallery. .(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Charlie Kaijo)

FAYETTEVILLE — University of Arkansas linebacker Grant Morgan does not have a Heisman Trophy vote, but if he did, well, it’d go to teammate and fellow team captain KJ Jefferson.

“I don’t care what anyone else [thinks], when you’re neck and neck with one of the favorites in the Heisman voting and you’re not ever mentioned in the top even 20 of Heisman voting, then I don’t understand what it is,” Morgan said.

“I think if we were a top 5 team right now and KJ had the exact same stats, he’d be a Heisman candidate.”

Jefferson accounted for six touchdowns, three each via the run and pass, and 411 yards in last week’s 52-51 loss to Ole Miss and Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Matt Corral.

Jefferson has completed 79 of 126 passes (62.7%) for 1,235 yards, with 9 touchdowns and 3 interceptions, and he’s rushed for 320 yards and 5 touchdowns with an average of 5.3 yards per carry. His pass-efficiency rating of 163.85 is 15th in the FBS and behind only Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker (185.87), Corral (182.43) and Alabama’s Bryce Young (174.31) in the SEC.

“Man, KJ was fun to watch,” senior lineman Ty Clary said. “I think if we win that game, people on a national level take more notice of that performance. I mean, he played one heck of a game.”

Each of Jefferson’s scoring runs came with a twist. His fake pitch cleared a path to his 5-yard score over the left side in the first quarter. He pinwheeled over two defenders and landed on his helmet and back on a 6-yard score in the third quarter, and he juked two defenders on a 10-yard keeper up the middle with 1:22 remaining to make it 45-45.

Coach Sam Pittman had some fun on Monday talking about the second of those scores.

“I didn’t think he’d ever use it, but I taught him that where he launched from the 5 and scored,” Pittman said. “I didn’t think he’d ever use it, but he came over and thanked me for teaching him that.”

Said Morgan, “And I think if you jump over two people to score a touchdown from the 4-yard line you should be a Heisman candidate if you ask me.”

That same touchdown also inspired Arkansas men’s cross country coach Chris Bucknam, who showed a picture of the score to his team while preparing for Friday’s pre-National Invitational.

“That’s the kind of effort we’re going to need to be a great team,” Bucknam said. “We’re going to have to go airborne. We’re going to have to be able to take a hit and get into the end zone. That picture was a perfect example of competing.”

Bucknam said he was inspired when he saw the photo on Twitter.

“To me it was just an incredible photo. It just showed that will to win,” Bucknam said. “It struck me immediately — there’s somebody that smells the finish line. I showed the team and said, ‘Hey, this is the way I want you to attack that last kilometer. This is what it’s about.’ It was pretty awesome. You’re always trying to find something that will click with your team.”

Sellout

Coach Sam Pittman said to open his radio show on Wednesday night that he had been told Saturday’s game had been declared a sellout of 76,000-seat Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

The No. 17 Razorbacks (4-2) are hosting Auburn at 11 a.m. on campus, the first home game at Razorback Stadium for the Hogs since dispatching Georgia Southern 45-10 on Sept. 18.

Health check

Sam Pittman and Auburn Coach Bryan Harsin were both pretty vague when it came to injury discussions on Wednesday.

Pittman said tight end Trey Knox would be on the practice field Wednesday in some capacity, but he didn’t elaborate on other injuries to safety Jalen Catalon, defensive end Tre Williams, tailback Trelon Smith or anyone else.

“Yeah, he’s beat up a little bit,” Pittman said of Knox. “We’re going to get him out there and run around and see a little bit more today than we have in the past two days.

“Otherwise, health wise, I don’t know. I don’t know exactly where we’re at with a couple of kids right now, but for the most part we’re pretty healthy. We’ve got some guys that are going to be in green jerseys today, but not many. It’s kind of expected … when you’re headed into the seventh week in the season.

“Of course Auburn is, too, but you’re going to have a little bit of bumps and nicks and things of that nature. We’ve got our fair share of them right now.”

Harsin, speaking of linebacker Owen Pappoe, who has missed the last couple of games, said, “Owen we want to get back and hopefully we do get him back on the field because he’s a difference maker.”

Shots to Malik?

Sam Pittman was asked Wednesday if he had considered packages that might include reserve quarterback Malik Hornsby as a receiver just as a way of getting his elite speed on the field more often.

“I certainly have thought about that as well,” Pittman said. “And actually even talked to Coach [Kendal] Briles about it. We just think that in his development, at least for now, we need him to continue to develop at quarterback and not put maybe too much on him.

“I understand what you’re saying, you’re not saying to move him to wideout, but are there packages where we could use his speed? Certainly, yes, I’ve discussed that. But at this point we’ve just said, no, let’s just continue with where we’re at. It may change.”

Pittman said he’s written several things down in his notes to look at during the Razorbacks’ open date in two weeks.

Weather report

The projected high for Saturday is 66 degrees following an overnight low of 39 as Northwest Arkansas begins to transition into deep fall.

The weather forecast calls for a sunny day with a 4% chance of rain after a rainy day on Wednesday and expected rains today and Friday.

Roster news

The Razorbacks can dress 80 players for Saturday’s home game, 10 more than they’ve had the last two weeks at Georgia and Ole Miss.

Among the difficult roster decisions last week was leaving slot receiver Jaquaylyn Crawford off the 70-man list and bringing freshman receiver Bryce Stephens.

“We’re going to travel both of them this week,” Coach Sam Pittman said. “We get to 80, so we’ll travel both this week. It was just the fact that Bryce had a good week, and we wanted to reward him. Not a punishment. We were looking more at rewarding Bryce.”

Two-point diagnosis

Coach Sam Pittman was asked what the video revealed on the Razorbacks’ failed two-point conversion with no time left in last Saturday’s 52-51 loss at Ole Miss. KJ Jefferson had three options on the play: A shovel pass to Dominique Johnson, a keeper at the right edge, or a pass and he threw high for Treylon Burks in the end zone.

“The end came inside, so KJ thought he could get outside on it,” Pittman said. “Then the secondary contain came up on him. We didn’t have the little dart in the flat. In all honesty, I don’t know, he came off of that pretty fast.

“I don’t know what all he saw that fast, but I think then at one point, ‘You know, I’m going to run it,’ then came the secondary contain and then I think, to be honest with you, he looked for Treylon. He figured Treylon might go get it and it was just a little hot. Everybody was covered.

“The play, in practice the shovel was there, and then we came around and the dart was there, the flat was there those two different times that we ran it in practice. It just wasn’t there that day.”

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