Rocket blast: Sanders has another first since McFadden

By: Bob Holt Bob Holt's Twitter account
Published: Sunday, November 20, 2022
Arkansas running back Raheim Sanders (5) celebrates a touchdown during a game against Ole Miss on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, in Fayetteville.
( Charlie Kaijo)
Arkansas running back Raheim Sanders (5) celebrates a touchdown during a game against Ole Miss on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — Ole Miss freshman Quinshon Judkins gained 214 yards at Reynolds Razorback Stadium and became the Rebels’ all-the leading rusher, but he had to take a backseat to Raheim “Rocket” Sanders on Saturday night.

Sanders joined Darren McFadden — the two-time Doak Walker Award winner and Heisman Trophy runner-up in 2006 and 2007 — as the only Razorbacks to rush for more than 200 yards and three touchdowns against a ranked opponent.

After being held to a combined 106 rushing yards the previous two games in losses to Liberty and LSU, Sanders looked like his old self in breaking free for a career-high 232 yards on 24 carries to help Arkansas beat No. 14 Ole Miss 42-27.

McFadden rushed 32 times for 206 yards and 3 touchdowns when the Razorbacks beat No. 1 LSU 50-48 in triple overtime in the 2007 regular-season finale.

“It definitely feels like a blessing,” Sanders said. “I pray for times like this, of course. I was really mainly focused on the win. That’s the main thing.”

Sanders raced 50 yards in the second quarter for what would have been his first touchdown, but the play was negated by a holding call on receiver Jadon Haselwood.

The penalty only delayed the inevitable as Sanders scored two plays later on a 20-yard run to push the Razorbacks’ lead to 28-6 with 2:20 left in the first half.

“That was really big because a lot of times you get a run like that, and it gets called back for holding, then you miss a field goal, sacked, you’re not in field goal range,” Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman said. “And our kids in two plays blocked it up and came back and scored.”

Arkansas offensive tackle Dalton Wagner said he wasn’t surprised Sanders came back to score so quickly.

“I don’t think anyone was going to stop him at that point,” Wagner said. “He wasn’t going to be denied.

“Even a 50-yard run getting negated by holding, he still was going to scratch and claw and find his way into the end zone.”

Sanders capped the scoring in the first half with an 8-yard touchdown run with five seconds left.

On the second offensive snap of the third quarter, Sanders ran 68 yards for a touchdown to put the Razorbacks ahead 42-6.

“Yeah, that was good,” Pittman said. “One thing about it is, he was running down the middle and he saw the [defender] on the right and he kind of dipped on him, then ran away from him, ran to the outside.

“I thought that was really good. [Running backs coach] Jimmy [Smith] must’ve really taught him how to do that, you know?

“I’m teasing. That’s all natural right there.”

Sanders’ total rushing yards Saturday night rank No. 5 all-time for a single game for the Razorbacks. McFadden holds the record with 321 rushing yards against South Carolina in 2007.

“I was proud of him,” Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson said of Sanders. “Early on, I just told him, ‘Just trust yourself. It’s going to happen.’

“He trusted himself, and the O-line created lanes for him. He hit the hole and just played ball from that point.

“Extremely proud of his patience, just running the ball and also just believing in himself and keeping his confidence throughout the game.”

Wagner said it was a pleasant sight to see Sanders run the way that he did.

“I was elated for him tonight,” Wagner said. “It was so awesome to see him back doing what he needs to be doing.

“I think that the key decider in it was he trusted us to go get the job done and you could see it in a lot of his cuts, too.

“He knew that we were pressing, pressing, pressing, and he baited, baited, baited, and then cut it at the last second and there would be a hole just as big because he set up the blocks for us.”

Judkins’ 1,383 yards on the season is an Ole Miss record and is 4 yards ahead of Sanders — who has 1,379 — for the SEC lead.

But Saturday night belonged to Sanders and the Razorbacks.

“I’m so proud of Rocket,” Wagner said. “To have 232 net yards, that’s insane. That’s crazy.”


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