KJ Jefferson proved Saturday in a 20-10 win over Texas A&M he's tough ... and willing to play hurt.
Whatever it takes to get a win.
When he went down hard on a scramble early in the third quarter, some Arkansas fans were nearly hyper-ventilating. It didn't help everyone could tell it was limiting him.
"He hit right on top of his knee," coach Sam Pittman said later of Jefferson's injury. "It's just a bruised knee. They tried to put something on it to maybe numb it a little bit. It takes a second or two, or a minute or two to get it where it numbs your knee."
Those were anxious minutes for Razorback fans. Malik Hornsby came in and showed his speed but the offense wasn't as smooth as it had been. It was really his first meaningful snaps.
"It was awesome to see him go out there and take advantage of the opportunity that was handed to him," Pittman said.
Mainly he accomplished what the coaches wanted, which was not blow the game.
"I was in his ear and just telling him to be smart," Pittman said. "Play ball and play your game. That was the main thing."
He did all of that, not with big numbers (1-of-3 passing for 7 yards, 12 yards rushing) but he did not turn the ball over.
Jefferson came back in the fourth quarter with the Hogs backed up to their own 11 and needing first downs to put their first win over the Aggies in the Southwest Classic on ice.
"It finally kicked in," Pittman said of the numbing gel to dull the pain of the bruise.
Jefferson hit a key pass to Warren Thompson, who stretched for a first down on that possession that drained the clock.
They got the ball back with 1:58 to play and had to get a first down to run the clock. They put the ball in Jefferson's hands.
"I got you, Coach," Jefferson said later he told Pittman before the key play. "I'm going to make sure I get it. When Coach called it, I knew it was a quarterback run the whole way. I knew I had just had to go get it basically. Just put my head down and just drive and just go get the first down."
Which is exactly what he did to cap another big day.
He threw just 15 passes, completing 7 for 212 yards, but no interceptions. Two of the completions were touchdowns and accounted for 133 yards.
Jefferson found Treylon Burks for the first touchdown of the game on an 80-yarder, then AJ Green took a pass 48 yards for another score.
"The main thing I had to do was give my guy a chance to make a play on the ball," Jefferson said. "That's what I did."
Doing that has put the Hogs at 4-0 to start the season. They haven't been there since 2003.
Let that sink in.
Pittman has accomplished something not done since Houston Nutt was halfway through his decade with the Hogs. Not Bobby Petrino, John L. Smith, Bret Bielema or (go ahead and giggle) Chad Morris.
But now the pressure gets bigger. Georgia is next week, ranked second in the nation. The Hogs will likely be in the Top 10 when Sunday's polls come out.
But they know they have a quarterback that's willing to pay the price to win.
"He's tough," Pittman said. "Didn't want to let the guys down. I think he's beat up. We knew we needed another first down so we could start the celebration."
Now he's going to have to deliver again on a bigger stage.
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