Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a member and past president of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year 10 times and has been inducted to the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame and Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Like It Is:
Hogs' chances hurt by lack of early fire
Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson (with ball) awaits the signal after a two-point conversion play during a game against Liberty on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — It couldn’t be overturned.
KJ Jefferson’s run for two points and a tie was ruled short, and after reviewing several camera angles the ruling was upheld. His knee was down before the ball broke the plane.
Liberty got its first ever SEC win, 21-19.
There were a few expected boos, but mostly it was obvious that the Arkansas Razorbacks’ slow start on both sides of the ball dug a hole too deep on a day the vaunted running attack was held in check for the first three quarters.
After giving up 236 yards in the first half, 152 in the air that accounted for all three of the Flames’ touchdowns, the Razorback defense shut out the visitors in the second half and limited them to 89 yards of offense on just 24 plays.
Arkansas trailed 21-3 at intermission and 21-5 after three quarters, but true freshman wide receiver turned defensive back Quincey McAdoo picked off a pass, giving the Razorbacks a ray of sunshine on what was mostly a cloudy day.
The Hogs finally found a rhythm that allowed them to go 84 yards for their first touchdown of the game, a 5-yard pass from Jefferson to Trey Knox.
Raheim Sanders converted the two-point conversion to make it 21-13 with 7:42 to play.
The Razorback defense forced the Flames to punt and with 3:47 to play, several thousand brave-hearted Hog callers were on their feet.
The exits had started to fill at the end of the third quarter. By the time the hopes of getting bowl eligible rested in another touchdown, a two-point conversion and a win in overtime, less than half the crowd was on hand.
Some of the fairy tale came true, but not enough.
In the final drive, Jefferson completed all four of his passes — a fifth was called back for holding — for 56 yards including an 8-yard touchdown to Knox.
As it always does — and it seems to be the trend in football — the Razorbacks ran the quarterback out of the shotgun, meaning he was 7 yards behind the line of scrimmage.
He hit the hole hard, but the Flames were fighting for their life. It was ruled Jefferson’s knee went down at the 1, a split second before the ball broke the plane.
If this was an audition for Liberty Coach Hugh Freeze to get an interview for the Auburn head coaching job, then he’s earned some face time with the Tigers’ brass.
Many believe Freeze’s next job might not be in the SEC, that some will never forget that while he was head coach at Ole Miss the school vacated 27 wins for NCAA infractions.
If those wins were still on his resume, he would be 103-44 as a head coach.
The man knows how to win football games and with an extra week to prepare for the Razorbacks thanks to an open date he did his homework.
Liberty came out and won the battle in the trenches in the first half and got the three touchdowns the way it was expected, through the air.
While the Flames were passing up and down the field, the Hogs struggled, getting only 178 yards of offense in the first two quarters, 73 more in the third before attacking for 177 and two touchdowns in the final quarter.
A bright spot in the afternoon was McAdoo who was redshirting as a wide receiver before moving to defensive back, a spot where injuries have almost depleted the Razorbacks.
Not only did he have an interception, he blocked a punt that gave Arkansas a safety and the only two points scored in the third quarter.
The Razorbacks now must beat LSU or Ole Miss here or Missouri on the road to get bowl eligible.
It should have happened Saturday, but a slow-motion start put them into a hole they couldn’t claw themselves out of.
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