FAYETTEVILLE — On a night when KJ Jefferson broke another pair of records Arkansas easily defeated FIU 44-20 to get a much-needed win.
Jefferson now holds six records at Arkansas. The pass completions, passing yards, passing touchdowns, total plays, total yards and touchdown responsibility. As far as the team, Arkansas put up 510 yards of offense including 323 on the ground. Jefferson completed 15-of-28 passes for 187 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 90 yards on 15 attempts.
"It means a lot," Jefferson said. "Grace to God and it wouldn’t have happened without my teammates pushing me every day and making plays for me."
Jefferson and the Hogs moved to 4-7 on the season with the win. The season hasn't gone like they hoped, but Jefferson was happy with the win on Saturday.
"I think it means a lot," Jefferson said. "We wanted to get that taste out from last week. We wanted to come out and start fast. FIU has a great team. They play hard. We wanted to establish ourselves we can play Arkansas’ brand of football."
Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman praised Jefferson afterward as well and talked about how he's handled the season.
"I think he's handled the season well," Pittman said. "He competed tonight for us and for the team, and I'm really happy -- we recognized him after the game, you know, being the all-time passing yard leader and passing touchdowns. I hope, I know it meant a lot to him. It meant a lot to us that we've been able to have him for four years now. Feleipe Franks was here tonight, so that was cool for him to come back to witness all that kind of stuff, too. I know it wasn't his record, but it was really neat that he was able to come back. But KJ's meant a lot to our program. He's going to mean a lot to us next Friday, too. Just really, really happy for him."
Jefferson and the offense had some help on Saturday. True freshman running back Isaiah Augustave saw his first extended action of the season. He didn't disappoint. Augustave rushed 14 times for 101 yards. The four-star from Naples (Fla.) High School had been waiting on his opportunity.
"I’m just feeling blessed and happy," Augustave said. "Just blessed to have the opportunity to do what I did and hopefully go out and do it next week."
The plan was to get Augustave some carries, but injuries to Raheim "Rocket" Sanders and Rashod Dubinion Saturday night made it necessary. Pittman was asked if he knew the extent of either's injury.?
"I don't," Pittman said. "Rocket's got a shoulder and R-Dub's got a knee, but other than that, I don't know how bad."
Dominique Johnson has battled injuries for much of the past two seasons, but also got his opportunity against FIU. He carried six times for 62 yards with a 31-yard touchdown sprint.
"It meant a lot to me, I hope it meant a lot to him," Pittman said. "The fourth and 2 deal, there was nobody in the middle of the field. I'm sure he was really excited about it. His face was glowing when he came off the field. There was a pretty big hole there and he just ran straight ahead to the goal line, but I'm really happy for him."
It wasn't just the offensive stars that shined Saturday night. Safety Alfahiym Walcott had two interceptions including one he returned 33 yards for a touchdown. He also added five tackles, including two solo.
"Big," Pittman described Walcott's game. "There was three guys that were talked about. One was Al, one was KJ, and one obviously was Augustave, at the end. We talked about a lot, O-line play, all that kind of stuff, but that was a big-time play. The ball kind of went around the helmet and got it and ran it in on the first one. Then, the second one he really stole it. The second one was one where he was in the flat and the guy didn't see him, threw it right to him. He made some good tackles tonight, too, I thought.
"I thought we tackled better in the second half, but obviously they had some long runs. One in particular when they were in Wildcat, we had it bundled up for -2, the guy comes around and makes the first down. Which, give him credit too, but I thought Al played a good game. We're beat up back there, we're beat up at corner. (Jaylon) Braxton didn't play, and a lot of positions, but we'll have enough to go out there against Missouri on Friday."
In an odd move by the FIU head coach, Mike MacIntyre, he opted to go for a fourth-and-three play at his own 32 on the first possession of the game. It failed and Arkansas took over. Jefferson took the Hogs 32 yards in five plays hitting Jaedon Wilson for a 10-yard touchdown pass. Arkansas defensive end Landon Jackson admitted he was surprised at the FIU decision to go for it there.
"I’m not going to lie, I was amazed," Jackson said. "I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in a game before. I guess that’s a bold move by their coach. I feel like he was really in a win-win situation. He didn’t have a whole lot to lose. He’s coming in here trying to make big-time plays happen. Get momentum on his team’s side. Give him credit, but that’s something I’ve never seen going out there on the defensive side of the ball."
After FIU jumped to a 13-7 lead, Arkansas fought back with Jefferson finding Tyrone Broden for a 4-yard touchdown with 11:58 remaining in the first half. The PAT by Cam Little put the Hogs up 14-13.
Walcott then three plays later picked off the Keyone Jenkins pass and raced 33 yards for a 21-13 lead. Little then added a 31-yard field goal for a 24-13 lead. Johnson's 31-yard touchdown run put the Hogs easily out in front 31-13 at intermission.
After FIU pulled to within 31-20 on a touchdown pass, Jefferson found Isaiah Sategna for a 32-yard touchdown strike. Little then added field goals of 39- and 41-yards to close the scoring.
Arkansas will be at home on Friday at 3 p.m. to host Missouri, a 33-31 winner over Florida Saturday night. The game will be broadcast on CBS.