ERIC W. BOLIN
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — KJ Jefferson threw for 223 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another 62 yards and another score to lead No. 19 Arkansas past No. 23 Cincinnati, 31-24, on Saturday.
Jefferson ran for the first touchdown of the game in the first quarter, threw a jump-pass touchdown to Trey Knox in the second and found Jadon Haselwood for another score in the third.
Cincinnati was held scoreless in the first half despite four of its seven drives reaching Arkansas territory. Bearcats kicker Ryan Coe missed two field goals, from 25 and 48 yards, and Ben Bryant threw an interception at the Arkansas 20 that ultimately turned into the Razorbacks’ first trip to the end zone.
Bryant was better in the second half, leading Cincinnati to scoring drives on its first two possessions of the half. But trailing by seven points and with the ball on the Razorbacks 39, he was strip-sacked by Jordan Dominick and Arkansas recovered. Jefferson threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Knox two plays later for his fourth score of the game.
Arkansas running back Rocket Sanders ran for 117 yards on 20 carries for the sophomore’s second career 100-yard game. Knox caught six passes for 75 yards and the two touchdowns.
Bryant, a transfer from Eastern Michigan who wasn’t announced as the starter until before kickoff, was 26 of 43 passing for 325 yards and two touchdowns with the one interception. His 15-yard throw to Leonard Taylor with 5:49 left created the final margin. Jefferson completed 18 of his 26 throws to reach his 223-yard mark.
Arkansas’ offense, with Jefferson at quarterback, is SEC worthy. The defense struggled in the second half after losing two starters from the secondary.
Cincinnati had the talent to win the game, but its mistakes were too plentiful against a quality opponent.
Arkansas should find itself comfortably still ranked ahead of its SEC opener next week.
Cincinnati is likely to fall out of the Top 25 despite a fair showing.
Arkansas opens SEC play against South Carolina at home in Week 2. The game will be South Carolina’s first in Fayetteville since 2013.
Cincinnati will host FCS opponent Kennesaw State at Nippert Stadium.
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