Aggies Face Toughest Test With Arkansas' KJ Jefferson

KJ Jefferson provides a dual-threat mentality in stopping the Aggies.

COLLEGE STATION -- Mobile quarterbacks aren't Texas A&M's kryptonite, but they have been effective against the defense through three games. 

Kent State's Dustin Crum rushed for 61 yards in the season opener. Colorado's Brendon Lewis led the charge in Denver with 76. New Mexico's Terry Wilson finished with -14 yards, but nine carries proved that the Lobos were willing to run.  

Arkansas' KJ Jefferson is a different type of player when it comes to the rushing attack. A&M has yet to face a 6-foot-3, 245-pound trucker taking snaps behind center. 

"He's got a lot of Cam Newton about him," safety Leon O'Neal said. "I think he's a big-time leader on that team. We have to be able to stop him on everything we do."

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Jefferson's growth with No. 16 Arkansas (3-0) hit its stride in Week 3's victory over Georgia Southern. Sure, fans saw what he could do with his legs in the open field before, but it was the arm that stole the show. 

During the third quarter, Jefferson found wide receiver Warren Thompson in perfect stride for a 60-yard touchdown. Inside the red zone, he led Tyson Morris for an easy 14-yard score. 

Oh yeah, don't forget about Treylon Burks, the Hogs' go-to weapon over the past two seasons. A quick bubble screen would go 91 yards for the game-sealing touchdown, cementing the notion that Arkansas means business. 

Of course, there's the other side of Jefferson that makes him dangerous. Against Texas and Rice, he tallied 162 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Jefferson also averaged 8.6 yards per carry. 

"You see that running at you and you're like 'OK, I need to be ready for that,'" O'Neal said. "That's alarming." 

The No. 7 Aggies (3-0) haven't allowed a point since the first quarter of Week 2. However, if there's anything that A&M could struggle stopping is the run. The Golden Flashes rushed for 226 yards in Week 1. The Buffs tacked on 171 and New Mexico added another 89. 

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Eighty-nine yards doesn't seem like much, but compare that to Wilson's 33 passing and it's clear the weak point of A&M's defense is on the ground. It's also the Hogs' bread and butter. 

In all three outings, Arkansas has recorded at least 240 yards rushing, including a season-high 333 yards against then-No. 15 ranked Texas. 

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"The team were playing right now is an experienced team," A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said. "They don't have a young team. This group has a lot of fourth-, fifth-, sixth-year guys on their team and they're probably playing as well as anybody in the country." 

Teams that are one-dimensional won't last long in the SEC. Arkansas has struggled at times passing, but when the Hogs on point, it's a nightmare for the opposition. 

Meanwhile, Jefferson is more than just a one-trick pony. Even on plays that look like he's going deep could change in instant, leading to him to tuck the ball and pick up the first with his legs. 

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"Just because you hit him doesn't mean he goes down," Fisher said. "He's going to be a heck of a challenge, there's no doubt about it." 

A&M enters Saturday with College Football Playoff implications on the line. For the first time since 2016, the Hogs will be ranked for the showdown at AT&T Stadium. 

Rivalry games are always a challenge. Since the Southwest Classic moved back to Arlington in 2014, five games have ended in a one-possession win for the Aggies. 

Each season, one could argue quarterback play from Arkansas has limited the potential of pulling off the upset. Maybe this time around, it's the strength. 

"Arkansas is a growing brand right now in football," O'Neal said. "They're doing a lot of good things. They're bringing that physical brand of football back. 

"The mentality is, we have a job to do, and they're in the way." 

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