Hogs put KJ Jefferson fumble behind them

By Otis Kirk
on 2022-09-28 12:44 PM

FAYETTEVILLE — Among the plays still being talked about some in Arkansas’ 23-21 loss to Texas A&M was quarterback KJ Jefferson’s fumble at the Texas A&M two-yard line that resulted in 98-yard touchdown for the Aggies.

That pulled Texas A&M to within 14-13 with 3:11 remaining in the first half. Arkansas once led 14-0, but the momentum shifted to the Aggies following that play. Sam Pittman was asked Wednesday if he has talked to Jefferson about the play?

“No, I think any time you have elite players on your team, there’s not a whole lot you have to say to them, to be honest,” Pittman said. “You saw him during the game after that play trying to play his heart out, trying to, I don’t know if make up for the play is something, but he’s trying to win the game and had us in position to do that. I think he’ll be fine.

“I’ll be honest with you, I stood up guys who made MAs, I stood up coaches, including myself, that could have done a better job, I stood up guys who missed tackles, guys who missed blocks, and the bottom line is guys who miss kicks and guys who fumble the ball, and the bottom line is the entire team stood up. We all made mistakes, sometimes they’re just bigger than others because of the situation and the timing of the game that they happen. It was a mistake and we had everybody on our team (stand up) that made a mistake, and coaches, as well, so we all had to move on from it. He’s done a really nice job moving on this week. We don’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves. We’ve got the University of Alabama we’re needing to play, so that’s kind of how we handled it. He’s fine.”

Running back Raheim “Rocket” Sanders agrees with Pittman that Jefferson is fine.

“Yeah, with that, I feel like he’s the type of guy he’ll get over things fast, just as in the game where he fumbled and I fumbled,” Sanders said of Missouri State. “He actually helped me out with my fumble, after my fumble. I was down and I didn’t expect me to fumble close by the end zone, so he helped me out. So I feel like this week right here, he’s on one this week, just with practice and taking everything to the next level and making sure just not himself with ball security, but the running backs and everybody else on the offensive side of the ball.”

Tight end Trey Knox also echoed what Pittman and Sanders said about Jefferson.

“I mean, the football is a funny shaped ball and it rolls very weirdly sometimes and stuff happens,” Knox said. “You just have to let it go. KJ does a really good job of letting things go and playing the next play. I mean, he wasn’t too down, he wasn’t too high. Just very even-keel and you could tell by his performance, he knew he had to get it back and he had to put the team on his back and help us try to win the game last week. But he’s flushed it and he knows he didn’t play his best game on Saturday and he’s going out there this week to play his best game.”

The Razorbacks are 3-1 now and 1-1 in SEC play. Knox was asked if coming back home to host No. 2 Alabama helps the team get over its first loss of the season?

“Yeah, you can’t let a loss turn into two, three, four losses,” Knox said. “You’ve got to flush those things. Yeah, we messed up a couple of times last week. But that’s behind us now, and it’s a new week. We can’t do anything about last Saturday. We’ll never be able to change the past, so we need to look forward to the future, going out there and playing hard every week and playing with toughness.”

Knox has caught 11 passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns this season. He knows the Tide will present a big challenge for the Hogs.

“I mean, it’s Alabama,” Knox said. “They’re a well-coached, well-oiled machine. They get those five-star players every class. But we just have to look past that because stars don’t really matter that much. They’re going to be well coached. They’re not going to mess up at all, very few and far between. We just have to take advantage and take what they give us. Not try to do too much and not try to make more than what it is. Just go out there and play our game.”

Among the things Arkansas has had issues with this season is tackling and ball security. Once again this week the Hogs have worked hard on that in practice according to Pittman on Wednesday.

“Well we sure are working on it, I can promise you that,” Pittman said. “It’s a big emphasis, as well, this week of starting fast in the third quarter and hanging on to the football, like you just alluded to. You kind of gotta wait until Saturday to feel like if what you’re doing is working. We certainly are emphasizing it and hopefully we’ll be better at it. We certainly think we will be because we’re practicing specifics, but I think you have to wait until Saturday. A lot of that is closing air, closing cushion. You’re going to be a much better tackler in a phone booth than you are out on the highway. So we’ve got to close the space down better.”

Arkansas has several weapons on offense and Kendal Briles has tried to spread the ball around. Sanders leads the team in rushing with 83 carries for 508 yards and three touchdowns. He also has caught eight passes for 117 yards and a touchdown.

Former OU wide receiver Jadon Haselwood leads the team with 18 catches for 214 yards and two touchdowns. Toledo transfer Matt Landers is next with 15 receptions for 230 yards. Knox was asked how it has been for four running backs to get carries, two tight ends to catch balls and five receivers make catches?

“I mean, we have a lot of talent, man,” Knox said. “Every week it’s just something different. The game plan revolves around whether we can run the ball, maybe this is a running game and we have to stuff it down their throat, or maybe the next week we have to win through the air. I mean, we have weapons everywhere.

“Sometimes it gets hard to feed that many horses, man. Like, it’s just a lot of people. We have the best running back room in the country, one of the best receiver rooms in the country, the best tight end room in the country. I mean, we can’t have everything best in the country and be able to get everybody the ball. So we just have to find small victories in just helping the team out any way that we can and just playing hard and physical every chance we get.”

In addition, Pittman also acknowledged on Wednesday that it’s very likely a true freshman, tight end Tyrus Washington, will redshirt.

“You really don’t ever decide to redshirt somebody to be honest with you,” Pittman said. “I think it just kind of happens. However, Tyrus Washington has been a guy we’ve used on kickoff returns, and you and I both know that probably 80-85%, 90 in this league of the kickoff returns, you don’t have an opportunity because you’re kicking them out of the back of the end zone. So that would be the one guy that I told our staff, ‘Hey, listen, let’s take him off of special teams,’ and if we need him to play tight end to win a game, then we will go ahead and do that. If not, then his four games would be played. That would be the only guy right now that’s kind of not obvious, to be honest with you.”

Arkansas will be at home on Saturday to host No. 2 Alabama at 2:30 p.m. on CBS.

(Last updated: 2022-09-28 12:44 PM)