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Hogs’ Offense on Overcoming Slow Start

Bryce Stephens, KJ Jefferson, Raheim 'Rocket' Sanders after 38-27 win
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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas' Bryce Stephens had an idea something big could happen with a punt return Saturday.

Special teams coach Scott Fountain had worked on that a lot against Missouri State, probably because the Razorbacks saw something on film.

Penalties wiped out a couple of early returns that were solid.

Bryce Stephens-Missouri State

It was Stephens' 82-yard punt return for a score with 9:16 left in the gme that finally gave the Hogs a lead and it was like a typical long return.

"There were great blocks all around," Stephens said later. "Sam [Mbake] told me to look at his side when I was back there and for me to do what I do."

Like most big punt returns, it can be a huge shot in the arm. They all tend to work in a fairly similar fashion. Go ask Ken Hatfield about his punt return against Texas in 1964 and he'll tell you about all the great blocks.

This one happened the same way.

"Sam Mbake was on their gunner," Sam Pittman said later. "We felt like if we could handle the gunner we’d have not an opportunity to score a touchdown but an opportunity to get a decent return."

After the Hogs had struggled with penalties and some uncommon turnovers throughout the game, this time they needed a shot in the arm.

"We played down to their level," running back Raheim "Rocket" Sanders said. "We had a great week of practice ... we just played down to their level. The thing we did as a team we relaxed and everybody came around.

"Even the players on the team not playing today, they came around, and everybody had the same energy,"

KJ Jefferson-Missouri State

The result is a 3-0 record for the 10th-ranked team in the country. They probably won't drop out of the Top 10 in the newest rankings.

But they can't count on scoring on every kick.

Stephens will have folks thinking he might, though.

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