Razorback football report: Criswell gets time, Johnson tossed

By: Bob Holt Bob Holt's Twitter account
Published: Sunday, November 12, 2023
Arkansas quarterback Jacolby Criswell runs with the ball during a game against Auburn on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023, in Fayetteville.
( Charlie Kaijo)
Arkansas quarterback Jacolby Criswell runs with the ball during a game against Auburn on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — Bright spots for the University of Arkansas were hard to find on Saturday when Auburn defeated the Razorbacks 48-10 at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

The play of Jacolby Criswell provided a small glimmer of hope.

Criswell, Arkansas’ backup quarterback, replaced starter KJ Jefferson with 7:08 left in third quarter with Auburn ahead 41-3 and led the Razorbacks to their lone touchdown.

The first possession for Criswell ended with a sack, but on his next series he led a 75-yard touchdown drive that took just three plays and 39 seconds.

Criswell gained 4 yards on a keeper, then on the first play of the fourth quarter ran up the middle for 60 yards.

On the next play, he threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Isaac TeSlaa.

Criswell finished 2-of-4 passing for 19 yards and had 6 rushing attempts for 64 yards.

“We’re down 41-3 and KJ is getting the heck beat out of him back there,” Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman said of putting Criswell into the game. “Obviously, I wanted to look at Jacolby, and I talked to KJ.

“I thought [Criswell] went in there and played really well. I thought he played like what I thought he would, like how he’s been practicing.

Criswell, a junior transfer from North Carolina who starred at Morrilton High School, played for the first time since the season-opener against Western Carolina, when he was 2 for 2 for 28 yards and threw a 14-yard touchdown to Davion Dozier.

“We have given him some looks recently in two-minute,” Pittman said of Criswell getting some reps in practice with the first-team offense. “But there isn’t a quarterback controversy in my opinion.”

Johnson ejected

Arkansas starting safety Jayden Johnson was ejected for targeting in the second quarter when he hit Auburn receiver Jay Fair out of bounds.

The play gained 17 yards and the Tigers got another 15 yards when Johnson was flagged for a personal foul.

The replay officials determined Johnson should be called for targeting after reviewing the play.

Because Johnson sat out the second half Saturday, he’ll be eligible to start next week’s game against Florida International.

Senior Alfahiym Walcott replaced Johnson after he was ejected.

Johnson also was called for targeting in Arkansas’ 27-20 loss at Ole Miss on Oct. 7, but it was overturned after a replay review.

Johnson was the third Razorback to be ejected for targeting this season. Sophomore linebacker Chris Paul and freshman defensive end Quincy Rhodes both were ejected for targeting in the fourth quarter of the opener against Western Carolina.

Personnel report

Offensive tackle Patrick Kutas, defensive end Jashaud Stewart and cornerback Jaheim Singletary did not dress out for the game.

Kutas suffered a high ankle sprain in the win at Florida last week. Stewart has been in and out of the lineup all season due to injuries, and Singleltary’s issue has not previously been disclosed.

Defensive tackle Keivie Rose was helped off the field midway through the first quarter, but the senior transfer was able to return.

Linebacker Antonio Grier suffered what looked like a hand injury early in the fourth quarter and had to come out of the game.

Cornerback Jaylon Braxton, a starter, left the game in the fourth quarterback with a shoulder injury.

Unhappy return

Keionte Scott returned Max Fletcher’s first punt of the game 74 yards for a touchdown to give Auburn a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.

It was the second punt return for a touchdown allowed by Arkansas this season. Texas A&M’s Ainias Smith had an 82-yard return in the Aggies’ 34-22 victory over the Razorbacks on Sept. 30.

For starters

Arkansas senior cornerback Dwight “Nudie” McGlothern was back in the starting lineup after playing well off the bench at Florida last week.

McGlothern, who had an interception in the first half to set up a field goal, made his fifth start of the season and first since suffering a concussion against Texas A&M on Sept. 30.

Junior running back Raheim “Rocket” Sanders, who has been limited by a knee injury much of the season, made his fourth start.

Redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Devon Manuel made his second start of the season at left tackle. His previous start was against Texas A&M.

Senior tight end Nathan Bax made his second start of the season after Ty Washington suffered a season-ending shoulder injury at Florida last week.

Series history

Auburn improved to 20-12-1 against Arkansas, including 19-12-1 since the Razorbacks joined the SEC.

The teams first met in the 1984 Liberty Bowl when the Tigers won 21-15. Their first SEC game was a 24-24 tie at Auburn.

The Tigers are 10-6 against the Razorbacks in Arkansas, including 10-5 in Fayetteville and 0-1 in Little Rock.

Arkansas is 7-1 in the series since 2016 with the Razorbacks’ lone victory in that span 41-27 last season.

The Razorbacks haven’t beaten the Tigers in back-to-back seasons since winning 38-14 in 2011 at Fayetteville and 24-7 in 2012 at Auburn.

Family honored

The family of former Arkansas defensive lineman Chris Smith was honored on the field before the game and served as honorary team captains.

Smith, who played for the Razorbacks from 2010-13 and in the NFL for Jacksonville, Cincinnati, Cleveland and other teams, died April 17 at age 31.

Among the family members in attendance were Sherry and William Smith, Chris’ parents, as well as his daughter Alaina and son Jayceon.

ASU coaches

The 2025 season will mark the first time Arkansas plays Arkansas State in football when the teams meet in Little Rock, but the Razorbacks have lots of experience playing former ASU coaches.

This is 12th consecutive season — and 17 games in that span — a former ASU coach has gone against Arkansas.

Auburn Coach Hugh Freeze, ASU’s coach in 2011, faced Arkansas five seasons from 2012-16 with the Rebels.

Gus Malzahn, who replaced Freeze as the Red Wolves’ coach in 2012, led Auburn against Arkansas for eight seasons from 2013-2020.

Bryan Harsin, who replaced Malzahn at Arkansas in 2013, faced the Hogs while at Auburn in 2021 and 2022 before being fired.

Freeze, in his first season at Auburn, also coached Liberty against the Razorbacks last season.

To summarize, Malzahn faced Arkansas eight times, Freeze seven and Harsin twice.

The former ASU coaches are 12-5 against Arkansas with Malzahn 7-1, Freeze 4-3 and Harsin 1-1.

Last West game

With divisional play coming to an end in the SEC after this season, Saturday was Arkansas’ game against a fellow West team.

The Razorbacks finished 68-97-2 in regular-season games against West opponents.

Arkansas will play the SEC’s final East-West matchup against Missouri on Nov. 24 at home on the Friday after Thanksgiving. The Razorbacks are 34-51 against East teams after winning 39-36 at Florida in overtime last week.

The SEC split into six-team divisions in 1992 when Arkansas and South Carolina joined the conference. The divisional setup remained when Missouri and Texas A&M joined the conference in 2012, but with Oklahoma and Texas being added next season, the SEC will be a 16-team conference without divisions for football.

Armstrong streak

Arkansas senior Andrew Armstrong, a transfer from Texas A&M-Commerce, has at least one reception in 26 consecutive games going back to the 2021 season. He had two receptions for 34 yards Saturday.


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