Scottie Bordelon is a reporter for the Hawgs Sports Network. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas and previously covered high school sports for the Times Record in Fort Smith and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He was the 2022 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
Hogs' O took needed step forward on 3rd down
Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson (1) passes, Saturday, Sept, 23, 2023, during the second quarter of the Razorbacks’ game against LSU at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La. Visit nwaonline.com/photo for the photo gallery.
FAYETTEVILLE — In Arkansas’ first three games against LSU under head coach Sam Pittman, the Razorbacks had little success moving the chains on third down.
From 2020-22, Arkansas was 9 of 43 (21%) converting on third down against the Tigers. In Pittman’s first season, the Razorbacks were unsuccessful in all 10 attempts.
Third-down conversions were a concern entering last weekend’s game given Arkansas’ 2-of-13 performance in the Sept. 16 home loss to BYU. But the Razorbacks took a needed step forward in that regard in their 34-31 loss at LSU.
Arkansas finished 8 of 13 on the down at Tiger Stadium, including 4 of 6 after halftime. Pittman, obviously, was pleased.
“It takes a little bit of game time to play together a little bit better,” Pittman said Monday. “Hopefully we can continue to do a good job on third-down prep and basically do the execution that we did Saturday night against who I thought was a really good football team — really good.
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“You just kind of…I think everybody is just getting used to each other a little bit more.”
Quarterback KJ Jefferson appeared more comfortable when in those scenarios. He completed 5 of 7 passes for 114 yards on the down, and each completion netted a first down or touchdown.
Jefferson had a 25-yard conversion on the ground as well.
The five completions went to four different pass catchers. Jefferson’s 59-yard touchdown pass to tight end Luke Hasz in the third quarter came on third-and-6.
“I think KJ is starting to find his guys that he knows will catch the football,” Pittman said. “And there’s a lot of them out there.”
Tyrone Broden, a transfer from Bowling Green, was more involved in the passing game at LSU, receiving six targets. His 7-yard catch on third-and-4 helped the Razorbacks reach the red zone, where kicker Cam Little got Arkansas on the board first with a 23-yard field goal.
“First of all, we needed to play Broden more and that was a way to get him out there,” Pittman said. “He’s got experience, but we just hadn’t got him on the field enough to kind of get in rhythm.
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“We felt like, ‘Let’s get him in early.’ I think he gives us a tall weapon.”
Andrew Armstrong, in his first season at Arkansas after transferring from Texas A&M-Commerce, had a pair of third-down grabs for first downs that totaled 22 yards. They both came on scoring drives in the second quarter.
Running back Rashod Dubinion also picked up 26 yards on a third-and-9 reception.
The Razorbacks’ third-down stats will be interesting to follow again Saturday against Texas A&M. The Aggies have allowed opponents to convert on 10 of 49 tries (20.4%).
Auburn, which lost 27-10 at Kyle Field last Saturday, finished 3 of 15.
“To me, it all starts with ability to run the football,” Pittman said of third-down success. “I felt like we did that pretty well Saturday night.”
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