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Arkansas' KJ Jefferson Keeps Offense Alive In Loss To Ole Miss

KJ Jefferson's six-touchdown game gave life to the Hogs' offense.

At least it came down to the wire, right? 

No, Arkansas won't be headed back to Fayetteville with a victory over Ole Miss. The Hogs (4-2, 1-2 SEC) now are looking from the outside in the SEC West race in a 52-51 loss to the Rebels. 

Still, can you blame the offense? More specifically, can you blame KJ Jefferson? The Razorbacks quarterback and Mississippi native kept them in the game late. Even on the final play, at least he took a shot. 

Jefferson and the Razorbacks went pound for pound with Lane Kiffin's high-tempo offense nearly every snap. When Rebels (5-1, 2-1 SEC) put the ball in the hands of quarterback Matt Corral, Jefferson answered on the opposing play. 

Arkansas recorded 676 yards of offense compared to Ole Miss' 611. They tallied more first downs (39-22), controlled the time of possession (35:35-24:25) and were more efficient on third down.  

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Two turnovers, a missed field goal and a shot to win it all with zero on the clock were the differences in this game. Arkansas coach Sam Pittman can't be mad about that. 

“I made plays, but it all started with my teammates giving me lanes to run through, throwing the ball to the guys on the outside and making plays,” Jefferson said. “It all started with my teammates.” 

Jefferson's interception came on a Hail Mary play just before the end of the first half. There was another play in the third quarter where he had Warren Thompson wide open in the end zone in the third quarter. He also missed Treylon Burks on the two-point play to end the game. 

Besides that, where was the flaw in his game? Most teams would kill for a 411-yard, six touchdown game. He was even keel across the board. 

Three scores with his arm, another three with his legs. That's probably a school record of some sort if they kept quarterback touchdowns in a single game.

In a back-and-forth battle, the Hogs came to answer. Not only were drives ending in points, but they also were chewing down the clock. 

Down by 10 to begin the second half, Arkansas instrumented a nine-play drive that took over four minutes off the clock. Running back Raheim Sanders was the driving force with a 42-yard run. Jefferson capped it off with a 3-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Trey Knox. 

The next three drives all ended in points. It only took off just 5:46 off the clock. Jefferson would score from six yards out before connecting with Burks for a 20-yard touchdown the following drive. The Hogs would also settle for a 31-yard field goal from Cam Little. 

Yet, Arkansas was always playing catch up. Following a 7-yard touchdown run from Corral in the second quarter, the Hogs either were tied or down a score. 

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Pittman said postgame that the offense did its job. The defense did not. 

“By far it was our poorest tackling game," Pittman said. "We couldn’t fill the gap from the safety spot on a simple stretch.”

Corral connected on big plays for scores. One was a 67-yard pass to Dontario Drummond to tie the game at 14. Another was a 59-yard yard shot to Braylon Sanders that set the Rebels up at the 1-yard line. Running back Snoop Conner would score a play later to take the 45-38 lead. 

Corral's 287-yard day was culminated with a 68-yard touchdown pass to Sanders with just 1:07 left on the clock to take the lead. Jefferson and the Hogs could have panic. 

Instead, he matched the drive once more. 

Nine plays and 75 yards later, Arkansas was down by one. Jefferson found Thompson as the clock struck zero for the 9-yard touchdown, and Vaught-Hemingway grew silent. Pittman wanted the win instead of the tie. 

Burks was double-teamed by a pair of Rebels, and the ball game was over. No comeback for the ages found for one of college football's biggest surprises this fall. 

"We were thinking they were going to play man, but they just played great coverage on the back end,” Jefferson said. “I tried to get one of my guys the play.”

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In close losses against competitive programs, it's best to look at the little things. Jefferson's six touchdown game was the most by a Hogs' QB in over a decade. If that wasn't enough, the 676 yards were the most in program history since joining the SEC. 

Arkansas still controls its own destiny. A trip home to face Auburn could be the pickup it needs to return back to winning ways. Of course, performances like Saturday will be expected if the Hogs want to beat the Tigers. 

 There's pride on the line, as well as a perfect record at Razorbacks Stadium.

“We are going to stay together,” Pittman said. “We’ve got Auburn coming and we have not lost a game at home.”

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