Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson threw for 136 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Razorbacks to a 28-6 win over Kent State on Saturday.
Arkansas’ offense was not especially sharp most of the game, finishing with a modest 308 yards of total offense against a team picked to finish last in the Mid-American Conference. Jefferson threw for Arkansas’ first touchdown with 2:20 left in the first half on a five-yard pass to Andrew Armstrong in the back of the end zone.
“Early we couldn’t throw, couldn’t catch it, couldn’t run it. Defense kept us in the game,” Arkansas coach Sam Pittman said. “We weren’t giving up points, but time. The game plan was going exactly how they wanted it to go minus scoring a lot of points.”
The Razorbacks (2-0) had trailed 3-0 before Antonio Grier scored a 25-yard pick-six on his first snap in an Arkansas uniform after transferring from South Florida.
Rashod Dubinion added a one-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and Jefferson threw his second touchdown, a 12-yard completion to Armstrong, in the fourth. Armstrong, a transfer from FCS-member Texas A&M-Commerce, led the Razorbacks with four catches for 21 yards and two scores.
Arkansas linebacker Jaheim Thomas and the defense kept Kent State (0-2) from any significant damage.
Thomas led the team with 12 tackles, including two for-loss, and the Razorbacks sacked Mike Alaimo seven times, resulting in 26 total rushing yards on 36 carries.
Kent State had its best chance at a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter by going on a 10-play, 70-yard drive. The Golden Flashes had four tries from inside the Arkansas 2, but were stuffed each play.
Arkansas has yet to give up a touchdown through two games, though Pittman said he anticipates a stiffer challenge in Week 3 after Western Carolina and Kent State.
“I think we’ll fix all this,” Pittman said. “I think we’ll play a much better football game against, no disrespect, a much better football program next week.”
FIGURING IT OUT
Pittman rotated through several offensive lineman against Kent State as Arkansas returned just two starters from last year’s team that paved the way for the No. 7 rushing offense in the country. The Razorbacks have averaged just 138.5 yards per game on the ground through the first two games, 98 fewer than in 2022.
“Right now, guys,” Pittman said, “when you go through two games, you really, in all honesty, you don’t know what you have yet. You’ve got to get them out there to really figure out who you really have.”
TRANSFERS LEAD THE WAY
Thomas, a transfer from Cincinnati, Grier and Armstrong weren’t the only newcomers to have good games for Arkansas. Wide receiver Isaac TeSlaa, a Division II transfer, had three catches for 51 yards and Missouri transfer Trajan Jeffcoat had 1 1/2 sacks from his spot at defensive end.
Arkansas’ Raheim Sanders did not play against Kent State because of a knee injury. Coach Sam Pittman said earlier in the week that Sanders, a preseason second-team All-American, could miss Week 3, as well.
Sanders had 1,443 yards rushing with 10 touchdowns last year.
Kent State: After losing by 50 points in their opener to Central Florida, the Golden Flashes looked better against an SEC opponent. Still, Kent State’s bowl hopes will hinge on how it handles MAC play.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks have won twice by large margins, but the margins belie some offensive issues and with a possible bowl team visiting in Week 3, Arkansas will have to improve, especially in the running game.
Kent State: Hosts Central Connecticut State from the FCS on Saturday.
Arkansas: Hosts Brigham Young on Saturday.