Win before bye is what team needed

FAYETTEVILLE — Sam Pittman would have thought of something to say.

Coaches always do. But telling his Razorbacks “we can still come off a bye week and salvage the season” would have rung hollow to them and himself.

Messy too. All that egg to wipe off his face after asserting, “We put all the eggs in this basket.”

With Arkansas on a three-game losing skid, Pittman throughout last week told his Hogs “this was everything” to win last Saturday’s non-conference game at BYU in Provo, Utah.

It wasn’t easy, but Arkansas did it, 52-35.

Instead of spending this bye week ruefully remembering they are 3-4, they renew 4-3. Much like this time last year when the hot-starting 4-0 Hogs snapped a three-game losing streak to finish 9-4, Arkansas stands a mathematical position to finish strong.

The Razorbacks refresh this bye week for a formidable five games finish vs. SEC rivals Auburn, LSU, Ole Miss and Missouri, and 6-1 independent Liberty.

They have cause to feel even better about breaking this year’s three-game skid than last year’s. A scheduling gift, out-manned, lower-division Arkansas-Pine Bluff, broke last year’s free fall.

No gift this year beset vs. the always capable Cougars in Provo.

“It had everything to do with the confidence we needed,” Pittman said. “To beat a team on the road like BYU that should help us. It’s a hard place to play.”

While he would have somehow summoned words trying to rally from a fourth failure, even Pittman found it difficult describing 6-3, 242-pound quarterback KJ Jefferson shedding three sack-seeking Cougars to uncork a third-and-11, 36-yard pass to tight end Trey Knox. The big scramble pass to Knox led to Jefferson’s 15-yard TD pass to running back Rashod Dubinion and a 31-21 halftime lead.

“The play KJ made right before the half was incredible,” Pittman told the Razorback Sports Network. “I don’t know how he did it, but that’s a play he does. Our quarterback played a hell of a game.”

He usually does, though this one — 29 of 40 for 367 yards and 5 touchdown passes — outdid all. Especially turning BYU’s would-be sack to ashes.

“I don’t even know how many tackles he broke on that play,” Arkansas senior right tackle Dalton Wagner said. “But it was insane.”

Jefferson’s great escape to find Knox in Provo makes more forgivable than ever his goal-line fumble trying to stretch for a touchdown against Texas A&M.

The big quarterback competes big trying to make big plays. Occasionally he forces a play too big to achieve, but mostly, like Saturday, Jefferson spectacularly rises above it all.

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