BYU COUGARS

BYU Overcomes Early Adversity, Battles Back To Beat Arkansas Razorbacks

Sep 16, 2023, 9:36 PM | Updated: 11:30 pm

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The BYU Cougars battled adversity from the opening kickoff and came back in the second half to beat the Arkansas Razorbacks, 38-31.

BYU takes down Arkansas to improve to 3-0

The Razorbacks hosted the Cougars at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, Arkansas on Saturday, September 16.

First Quarter

BYU found themselves in an immediate hole to begin the game. Arkansas running back AJ Green popped off a 55-yard touchdown run that had people forgetting “Rocket” Sanders was out for the night.

Then the Hogs defense bullied BYU off the field after four quick plays, forcing them to punt. BYU booted it away and Hogs return man Isaiah Sategna returned it 88 yards for a touchdown.

Suddenly, it looked like BYU was getting run off the field and wasn’t ready for the bright lights of an SEC stage.

While they were down 14-0, the only positive BYU had going for them was their pregame charity donating 40,000 pounds of food to a nearby food bank in the Fayetteville area.

But BYU didn’t settle on charity as the lone highlight. The defense got the momentum swinging in BYU’s favor.

Ryan Rehkow booted a punt down to the Arkansas 3-yard line, pinning Arkansas deep in their own territory.

Defensive tackle Jackson Cravens came up with a pass batted down at the line of scrimmage and it was the confidence booster BYU’s needed that they can stop the Arkansas offense.

BYU’s offense then got in on the fireworks with a double pass from Kedon Slovis to Parker Kingston and then to Deion Smith to get the Cougars on the board.

Ben Bywater then came up with a hit on KJ Jefferson the following series on third down to force a three-and-out.

On the next defensive series, Max Tooley recorded the first sack on KJ Jefferson. After hitting him, he gave a little bit of a stare. Tooley acknowledged to KSL Sports that this week had an extra edge in practice as they looked to get revenge on Arkansas.

Arkansas then shanked a punt for only 10 yards setting BYU up with a short field on the Hogs 45-yard line.

LJ Martin took care of the rest popping off a 45-yard touchdown run—the first score of his BYU career.

It was a wild first quarter that saw many twists and turns, leaving both teams tied at 14.

Second Quarter

To open the second quarter, Kedon Slovis had a play where he was under pressure, stayed in the pocket, and tossed a laser in front of Isaac Rex. Somehow Rex came up with the grab out in front of him and it set BYU up in the red zone.

Two plays later, LJ Martin found the endzone again to give BYU its first lead at 21-14.

Arkansas fans began getting restless after Hogs OC Dan Enos called a QB keeper on 3rd & 6 that was stuffed by the BYU defense.

One Arkansas possession later, Jefferson capitalized on a defensive lapse from the BYU secondary as Luke Hasz was wide open in the endzone for a score to tie it up at 21.

Momentum was starting to swing back in favor of the Hogs, then Chase Roberts sent it to overdrive with a fumble on a catch over the middle. Arkansas DB Dwight McGlothern had a hit on the ball, causing Roberts to lose possession.

The Hogs were supposed to take over on the 29-yard line, but were called for an unsportsmanlike penalty after the fumble recovery. That put them on the BYU 44.

BYU’s defense tightened up in the red zone forcing Arkansas to attempt a field goal. The Hogs made as the final seconds ran off to end the first half.

Arkansas took a 24-21 lead into the halftime locker room.

Third Quarter

BYU coach Kalani Sitake said on the BYU Radio Sports Network “I think we’re playing the way we want to right now.”

That was at halftime. I’m sure he wasn’t sharing those same sentiments to begin the quarter.

BYU’s offense opened with a quick three-and-out. The special teams then had an illegal formation penalty, their second of the night.

Then BYU had to burn a timeout 90 seconds into the quarter.

Then AJ Green popped off a seven-yard touchdown run to put Arkansas up by 10 points in the first three minutes of action.

BYU’s offense had another three-and-out, but things started to turn again thanks to the Cougar defense.

Arkansas appeared to pick up a second consecutive third down on a drive, but after a review, officials ruled the catch short of the first down marker.

The Hogs went for it near midfield on a 4th and half-yard situation. AJ Vongphachanh blew up the play and got the big stop to put BYU’s offense at midfield to start the next drive.

LJ Martin then caught a pass out of the backfield for a gain of 11 yards that then became a 26-yard gain after a roughing the passer penalty on Arkansas.

BYU’s drive stalled and had to settle for a field goal. But at first, it was going to be a fake. BYU had Ryan Rehkow on the run on a fake but the play was done before it could get going as it was flagged for a delay of game penalty.

Will Ferrin then attempted his first field goal attempt of his BYU career and he booted it through from a distance of 43 yards to cut the deficit to seven, 31-24.

BYU’s defense needed an answer, and they delivered. But at first, there were flashbacks of last year.

Ben Bywater wrapped up KJ Jefferson in the backfield but he escaped to pick up a third down. BYU’s defensive ends Tyler Batty and Blake Mangelson then tag-teamed a sack on Jefferson the following play. Max Tooley, who Sam Pittman was impressed with coming into the game, picked off Jefferson for the first time this season.

Tooley took it down to the Arkansas 20-yard line.

BYU OC Aaron Roderick seized the momentum and had Kedon Slovis throw a quick screen to Parker Kingston for a touchdown to tie the game up at 31.

Fourth Quarter

BYU’s defense wasn’t fatigued to open the fourth quarter. Eddie Heckard came up with a clutch third-down open-field tackle to force a 49-yard field goal attempt for the Hogs.

Arkansas kicker Cam Little missed the kick off the upright. BYU took over on their own 31-yard line.

BYU continued to build the momentum in their favor. Kedon Slovis, not known as a runner, is rewriting that narrative in his one season with the Cougars. He picked up a critical third down for a gain of eight to move the sticks.

Then he went to the air and connected with Keelan Marion for a gain of 37 yards—the first big play for the former UConn transfer.

Chase Roberts capped off the impressive offensive series with a one-handed catch while falling backward to put BYU in front, 38-31.

Arkansas looked to string together a drive to tie it up. They had a 3rd & 4 that came up short in their own territory.

Arkansas was going for it on fourth down by a wide receiver committed a false start penalty, forcing them to punt with 6:21 left in the game.

The BYU offense picked up what appeared to be a huge passing play after Kedon Slovis connected with Isaac Rex. Rex crossed midfield but it was called back.

The call?

Illegal touching.

It was the third straight week that BYU was called for that penalty. Since Rex was the player in the illegal formation and then touched the ball, it resulted in a loss of down.

The defense didn’t care. They took care of business on their own as Eddie Heckard forced a fumble on KJ Jefferson. Tyler Batty recovered.

After a potential game-sealing field goal was missed by Will Ferrin, the Cougar defense held up in the final minutes of the game and prevented the Razorbacks from tying the game after Arkansas moved deep into BYU territory.

RELATED: BYU Football Comes Back To Beat Arkansas For Rare SEC Win

With the win, BYU improved to a 3-0 record this season.

BYU’s next game is its Big 12 Conference opener on the road against the Kansas Jayhawks. Kansas will host BYU on Saturday, September 23 at 1:30 p.m. (MDT) on ESPN, KSL NewsRadio, and KSLSports.com

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on X and Threads: @Mitch_Harper.

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BYU Overcomes Early Adversity, Battles Back To Beat Arkansas Razorbacks