As Arkansas coach Sam Pittman sat at his post-game press conference following their 42-27 victory over Ole Miss, a bright smile appeared on his face.
Bateman said he was just smiling at his wife, Jamie, and that he was “usually morose and in agony” after the way his team had gone the past two weeks.
After missing out on midfield last week, Pittman’s offense looked much better with KJ Jefferson at the helm in Saturday’s win over the Rebels.
Jefferson missed last week’s 13-10 loss against LSU due to a shoulder injury he was nursing. It had also been “banged” during the Hogs’ 21-19 loss to Liberty the previous week.
He looked as healthy and dominant as ever in the first 16 minutes of the game against the Rebels. He was 9-12 with 110 passing yards, 49 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns even one minute into the second quarter.
“Man, it’s good to have KJ back,” head coach Sam Pittman said. “We weren’t very clean on the first two drives, the first two scoring drives, but he made us clean because of his athleticism.”
The quarterback from Sardis, Mississippi, finished the game 17-22 with 168 yards passing and the three scores. He did mention after the game that he’s close to getting back to 100% health, but nobody has 100% when they play in the SEC.
“It just felt so good to be back out there with my teammates and to be able to be out there on the field and really cheer them on and see what’s going on,” Jefferson said. “Just being around these people and being able to be outside is a huge positive.”
After losing 52-51 in the Thrillers on a botched two-point conversion at the end of regulation against Ole Miss last season, Jefferson said he has a chip on his shoulder to get back to the Rebels this year.
“I took it as a challenge, knowing I didn’t play last week,” Jefferson said. “I had to come out and make a statement tonight. Also being Ole Miss, I’m from Mississippi…Last year they kind of got me last year, so this year it’s been quite a challenge for me, just being able to go out there and play for my mates.” Me too “.
His presence on the field not only caused Arkansas’ offense — which averaged less than 14 points per game in the two games he didn’t play — to run like a well-stocked machine, but he gave other players the confidence they needed. a great offer.
Running back Rocket Sanders ran for 232 yards—the fifth-highest total in program history—and three scores in the win over the Rebels. It looked like Sanders had an extra rush on Saturday, as he had five rushes of at least 20 yards, including a 68-yard score to put the team up 42-6 just twice in the third quarter.
“Yeah, definitely with me hitting (extra blast) and I trusted myself and KJ told me to hit him too,” Sanders said. “I feel like this helped me.”
The Razorbacks ran for 335 yards as a team, the highest total they reached all season. It was a huge move of 144 yards on the ground against Liberty and 133 yards against LSU.
Pittman attributed the success in the ground game to the QB1.
“Well, the biggest improvement is KJ Jefferson, to be completely honest with you,” Bateman said. “When you have a guy behind you like that, it builds confidence in you when you have a big runner who can run people over physically… When you have a guy who can break tackles and make things happen, you play a little bit better, to be honest with you.”
Jefferson had no medication for the week and the staff felt like if they could get Jefferson back the way the defense was playing, Pittman said, they could do what they did against the Rebels.
When the offense gassed in the second half and began trying to wind down the clock, it allowed Ole Miss to make the game look closer in the final score than it actually was. The Razorbacks showed an unbreakable defense in the first half that allowed the offense to give them a 35-6 halftime lead.
After Sanders’ 68-yard home run to begin the second half, the game was out of control, some scores for the Rebels, too few, too late.
“Our defense is very bent,” Pittman said. “Heck, they had a lot of yardage, but a lot of it was after we got 42-6. But they didn’t break. Obviously, when you get 42-6, the defense plays really well.”
The win over Ole Miss put the Hogs 6-5 on the season and secured bowl eligibility for Arkansas for the third consecutive season. Bateman and his team broke up with an old friend after the game: Larry the Bowling Ball.
“Yeah, we’ve got a new tote bag for him,” Bateman said. “I think it’s from the ’80s. Pat Dougherty brought him in, in his carrying case. We shone him a little bit. By the way, we had him available for a few weeks. He looked hungry when he got out of there. But he shone, he looked good and we pulled him out.”
Pittman and his team will have another chance to make their resume look better when they take on the Missouri Tigers in Columbia on Friday. The match will kick off at 2:30 PM KSA and will be broadcast on CBS.