Arkansas looks to turn page quickly

By Dudley E. Dawson
on 2022-09-25 16:08 PM

The challenge of facing No. 2 Alabama (4-0, 1-0) Saturday afternoon in Fayetteville was already going to be a physical and mental one for No. 20 Arkansas (3-1, 1-1) and now it is going to be an emotional task as well.

The Razorbacks coughed up a early two-touchdown lead in a 23-21 loss to Texas A&M Saturday night in the Southwest Classic in Arlington, Texas, with Cam Little’s potential game-winning 42-yard field goal bouncing off the top off the right upright with 1:37 left.

Arkansas players know they must put the loss behind them quickly ahead of Saturday’s battle with the Crimson Tide, which will be televised nationally by CBS at 2:30 p.m.

The Razorbacks missed an opportunity to go 4-0 to start the season in consecutive year for the first time since 1988-89 and to be 2-0 in SEC action for the first time since 2006. 

“Right now, for me, I’m focusing on Alabama right now,” Razorback quarterback KJ Jefferson said after the loss. “No need to focus on Texas A&M. The game is over. We can’t go back and play the last play. We can’t go back and wish on which drive or 2nd quarter or anything. 

“We’re focusing on Alabama right now. Everybody turn their focus on Alabama. We nip this in the bud. And we’re looking forward. No need looking in the past.”

Razorback wide receiver Jadon Hasselwood was of the same mindset after Arkansas’ first loss of the season and its first since a 42-35 loss at Alabama on Nov. 20, 2021.

Arkansas had won eight of its last nine games entering Saturday night.

“We can’t dwell on it,” Hasselwood said. “We dwell on it,

we’re living in the past, and we can’t worry about our next opponent. Like I said, we can’t go backwards. We got to keep thriving and striving.”

Jefferson, who had 175 yards passing and 105  rushing  while accounting for three touchdowns in the game, plans to show positive leadership this week in practice.

“Just keep encouraging everybody,” Jefferson said. “I mean, it happens. It’s college football. I mean, you’re not going to be able to win them all. So just make sure the team keeps their eye on the ball, make sure we come together, encourage each other, just keep uplifting each other and make sure the locker room stay positive, nobody’s pointing the finger or blaming anyone. 

“So just being able to stay together, keep the bond that we have, and just bounce back next Monday and get back to work.”

Jefferson took ownership of his fumble at the Texas A&M 2 when he tried to leap a pile into the end zone.

It turned into a 98-yard fumble return that changed the momentum of the contest.

“They just made a great play on the ball,” Jefferson said. “I needed to be more aggressive and go down to the goal line and just finish the play.”

Jefferson sees Arkansas’ mistakes as correctable.

“Just being able to fix the small details, learn from our mistakes in this game, and just try to protect the small details and come down and be more aggressive and just handle business,” Jefferson said.

 Haselwood intends to take the loss personally, but learn from it.

“Yeah, I’d say this probably put a little chip on our shoulder,” Haselwood said. “You know, all we can do is work. It’s not going to stop. College football is going to keep going. We got to get better weekly. 

“We can’t go down just because we lost. We got to keep rising up.”

Arkansas linebacker Bumper Pool, who had 7  tackles Saturday to move into second in the school history with 385  in stops, mentioned moving on quickly after the game.

Pool is just 23 tackles behind Arkansas record holder Tony But, who had 408 from 2000-2003.

“We’re already on Alabama mentally,” Pool said. “We’ll obviously need to clean up things from the tape. But I thought the team, we fought hard. We needed to make stops; we made stops. We got the offense tracking on the field to give us a shot to win. 

“There’s a lot of positives, I think, with the resilience of the team. But just too many errors. And when you play in the SEC, one play, two plays, they’re the difference between a win and loss.

Razorback safety Simeon Blair agreed that many SEC games come down to just a few plays.

“Yeah, like Bumper said, when you’re in these SEC games and conference games, you can’t play perfect, but you have to play close to perfect as perfect can get,” Blair said. “I feel like we’re definitely worried about — we’re not worried about this game anymore. We’re going to correct the errors that we had. And our focus is strictly on Alabama right now.”

Photo by John D. James

(Last updated: 2022-09-25 16:08 PM)