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: Urgency level increases, injury report
Arkansas cornerback Dwight McGlothern returns an interception during a game against Western Carolina on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023, in Little Rock.
FAYETTEVILLE — University of Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman said he has sensed a different urgency in practice this week, largely due to a rise in the challenge level, as the Razorbacks host BYU on Saturday at 6:30 p.m.
Arkansas dispatched Western Carolina (56-13) and Kent State (28-6) by a combined 84-19, allowing one touchdown in its first two games. BYU (2-0) outscored Sam Houston State and Southern Utah by a combined score of 55-16.
“If feels different out there, very physical,” Pittman said on his Wednesday video conference. “It’s been very good morale. We’ve got some things to clean up, obviously, but if you’re worried about effort or passion or anything like that — which I’m not saying we didn’t have it [but] we didn’t have it as much as we do this week.
“I think we’re ready to play. We’ve got to take Monday and Tuesday and make it Wednesday, but you can just feel it’s a little bit different out there this week. It feels good.”
Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson said he thought the Razorbacks lacked a spark early last week.
“I feel like we’ve got to come out with an edge, with a chip on our shoulder early on in the game to go and set that tempo and set the standard,” Jefferson said.
“It all comes down to focus. … We have no excuses. We’ve just got to lock in to the details and execute the game plan and come out with an edge and play with passion from the start.”
Arkansas cornerback Dwight McGlothern had one interception in the season-opener and played one snap in Week 2.
McGlothern said he felt he couldn’t push off well with a turf toe injury and came out after the first scrimmage play in Arkansas’ 28-6 win over Kent State to be replaced by Kee’yon Stewart.
McGlothern was doing drill work in the early parts of practice open to reporters on Monday and Tuesday, though he left his cleat untied for part of the Tuesday work to take pressure off his foot.
“He’s practiced both days,” Coach Sam Pittman said prior to Wednesday’s practice. “He’s still got little tenderness in that toe, but I believe he’ll be ready to play on Saturday.”
Stewart had one tackle against the Golden Flashes and gave up a late 36-yard reception that led to an Arkansas goal line stand.
BYU Coach Kalani Sitake and Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman speak highly of each other.
“Well, we have mutual friends, which started it,” Pittman said. “Then I knew Kingsley [Suamataia], their left tackle, knew his parents. They rave about Kalani.
“So I already knew some people that told me several wonderful things about him. And then I just like the way his team plays. But if you talk in coaching circles, he’s one of the most well-respected guys in the country. Then you go and play them, their team plays extremely hard.”
Arkansas won 52-35 at BYU last season.
“They’re well-coached, but they’re very disciplined,” Pittman said. “I just have a lot of respect for him as a family man, how he runs his business.
“He was very kind to me when we went out there last year. And when you lose — obviously we were fortunate we won — it’s hard to say some things after the game. It’s hard, but he was very respectful of the team and myself and all those things, even after the win.
“It’s easy to be a good guy when you win. It’s hard whenever you lose.”
Sitake heaped praise on Pittman in his Monday news conference.
“Sam Pittman is an amazing person and a great mentor and a great coach,” Sitake said. “I like being around him. … I really admire what he’s done and the way he leads.”
The Arkansas linebackers spent a very short period of time in group drills Monday hitting hard, with the clack of pads echoing around the practice field.
There was a purpose to the drill.
“We didn’t wrap up very good [against Kent State],” Coach Sam Pittman said. “The only way I know how to get better at it is to go do it. I’ll be honest with you, I was out there watching it live too and I was like, ‘Man.’ They were getting after it.
“Every group was having a tackling circuit, but this one right here drew your attention to it because of the noise that was going on. Yeah, a lot of strong hitting right there. We didn’t wrap up good Saturday, and we wanted to make sure we emphasized it.”
Sack stack up
The Razorbacks will enter Saturday’s game with nine sacks, which is tied for sixth nationally behind co-leaders Nebraska and Tennessee, with 11 each.
Arkansas will face one of the seven teams in the nation that has not allowed a sack in BYU.
KJ for 2
KJ Jefferson threw two touchdown passes against Kent State on Saturday, extending his streak to six consecutive games with at least two scoring passes. That run dates to last year’s 21-19 loss to No. 23 Liberty. Jefferson had just one touchdown pass in a 41-27 win at Auburn the week before, but he accounted for three touchdowns in that game.
Jefferson pushed his career number for touchdown responsibility to 73, second in the Arkansas record books behind Matt Jones (77).
Jefferson also tied Jones for fourth place in UA history by reaching 53 career touchdown passes. Only Brandon Allen (64), Ryan Mallett (62) and Clint Stoerner (57) have more.
Jefferson had 13 runs for 48 yards, including 2 sacks, in a game he was only expected to have short-yardage duty.
“In the first half, we kind of plus-one’d him in the box to make it harder for him to run the ball with the running back,” Kent State Coach Kenni Burns said. “They’re good coaches. They figured it out. They started running it a bit more, using the running back as lead blocker.
“They took our numbers away from us. So that’s a good coaching job by them. We did a good job getting them down when we could, but again you look at the first half they were 3- to 4-yard gains, and they became 5- to 6-yard gains.”
Arkansas won 52-35 at BYU last season, but Razorback defensive back starters Lorando Johnson and Al Walcott experienced a road loss to the Cougars in 2022.
Johnson started at cornerback and Walcott at safety for Baylor, which lost to BYU 26-20 in double overtime at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah.
Walcott had four tackles and a pass breakup, and Johnson had two tackles.
No FGs yet
Arkansas junior Cam Little is one of the nation’s top kickers, but he hasn’t added to his total of making 33 of 40 field-goal tries.
The Razorbacks are the only SEC team that hasn’t attempted a field goal, but Little is 12 of 12 on extra points to improve to 108 of 108 for his career.
Cougars vs. SEC
BYU has a 4-7 record against SEC teams, with two wins over Mississippi State and one each against Ole Miss and Tennessee.
BYU Coach Kalani Sitake is 1-1 in road games at SEC venues, with a 29-26 win in overtime at Tennessee on Sept. 7, 2019, and a 35-10 loss at Mississippi State on Oct. 14, 2017.
The ESPN2 broadcasting team will consist of Brian Custer on play by play, Rod Gilmore as the analyst and Lauren Sisler providing sideline reports.
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