Bob Holt is a sports reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he sits on the board of directors for the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and a voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 basketball poll. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year four times and has been inducted to the Arkansas Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame.
Razorback football report: Grier won't forget first series at Arkansas
Arkansas linebacker Antonio Grier (3) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during a game against Kent State on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — For a linebacker, Antonio Grier knows his way to the end zone.
Grier, a University of Arkansas senior transfer from South Florida, scored the second touchdown of his career to help the Razorbacks beat Kent State 28-6 on Saturday at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
After Grier missed last week’s opener against Western Carolina because he was still recovering from a quad injury that he suffered in preseason camp, he came into Saturday’s game on Kent State’s third series.
On first down — Grier’s first snap as a Razorback — he intercepted a pass from Mike Alaimo and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown that put Arkansas ahead 7-3.
“Pretty good way to start, isn’t it?” Razorbacks Coach Sam Pittman said.
Grier jumped a route on a pass intended for Jameel Gardner and snagged the ball out of midair.
“I was happy for him,” Arkansas linebacker Jaheim Thomas said. “I was definitely excited for him.
“So when I saw him just jump and make the play, I ran over there and started celebrating with him because that’s big for the first play as a Razorback, having a pick-six.”
Grier’s other touchdown came on a 69-yard return against Tulsa in 2021 while at South Florida. He has three career interceptions, including one against Temple in 2021 the week after the Tulsa game.
Arkansas scored a touchdown on an interception for the second consecutive game.
Freshman linebacker Brad Spence returned an interception 85 yards for a touchdown in the Razorbacks’ season opener against Western Carolina last week when Arkansas won 56-13.
The Razorbacks last scored touchdowns on interceptions in consecutive games in 2016 when Brooks Ellis had a 47-yarder at TCU, and Ryan Pulley had a 25-yarder against Texas State.
The Razorbacks last had multiple interceptions returned for touchdowns in 2020. They had three that season — Greg Brooks at Mississippi State, and Jalen Catalon and Grant Morgan in the same game against Ole Miss in Fayetteville.
Arkansas did not return any interceptions for touchdowns in 2021 or 2022.
Arkansas junior running back AJ Green started in place of Raheim Sanders, who didn’t play because of a knee injury, and had career-highs of 15 carries for 82 yards. It was Green’s first start.
Senior Brady Latham was back in the lineup at left guard after having his streak of consecutive starts end at 36 games last week when he was sidelined by an undisclosed injury.
Josh Braun, a junior transfer from Florida who started at left guard last week in Latham’s absence, started at right guard Saturday.
Freshman linebacker Brad Spence made his first start.
The Razorbacks had two true freshman starters Saturday with tight end Luke Hasz starting both of the first two games.
Sophomore linebacker Chris Paul started the second half after not being able to play in the first half because he was ejected for targeting in the second half of last week’s game against Western Carolina.
Paul finished with five tackles, including one for a 6-yard loss.
Arkansas senior cornerback Kee’yon Stewart, suspended for last week’s game after being charged with reckless driving and speeding for being clocked at going 126 mph on Interstate 49, played extensively off the bench Saturday.
Stewart came into the game on the second play for senior starter Dwight McGlothern, who Coach Sam Pittman said has a turf toe injury.
McGlothern didn’t play the rest of the game.
Running back Raheim Sanders, defensive backs Malik Chavis and Dallas Young, defensive tackles Marcus Miller and Quincy Rhodes Jr., and offensive lineman Luke Brown did not dress out for Arkansas.
Sanders was not on the UA sideline to keep him from having to stand the whole game on his injured left knee.
Twice as nice
Arkansas senior quarterback KJ Jefferson threw two touchdown passes, both to Andrew Armstrong.
It was the sixth consecutive game in which Jefferson has thrown at least two touchdown passes. He had three touchdown passes against Western Carolina and now has 53 for his career.
Arkansas held Kent State to 26 rushing yards with the help of 11 tackles for losses totaling 59 yards.
It was the fewest rushing yards by an Arkansas opponent since 2017 when the Razorbacks held New Mexico State to 11 in a 42-24 victory over the Aggies.
Make it 18
Andrew Armstrong, a senior transfer from Texas A&M-Commerce, has caught at least one pass in 18 consecutive games.
Arkansas improved to 4-1 against Mid-American Conference teams in their first meeting against Kent State. The Razorbacks previously beat Northern Illinois twice and Eastern Michigan once and lost to Toledo.
Kent State dropped to 0-11 against teams currently in the SEC. In addition to Saturday’s loss to Arkansas, the Golden Flashes are 0-2 against Alabama and 0-1 against Auburn, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss, South Carolina and Texas A&M.
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