Kedon Slovis threw for 167 yards and two touchdowns, including one to Chase Roberts who made a one-handed catch with eight minutes left, to give BYU a 38-31 win against Arkansas on Saturday night.
Roberts’ grab capped a nine-play, 69-yard drive that saw BYU (3-0) convert two third-and-longs to keep Arkansas’ defense on the field. It was also the third straight series on which the Cougars scored, as they rallied from a 10-point deficit late in the third quarter.
Arkansas (2-1) drove inside the BYU 20 in the final 20 seconds, but the drive stalled with four penalties including one on the final play to end the game.
“On Arkansas’ side, they had penalties, some drive killers that hurt them. Fortunate for us, not for them,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. “Second half, down by 10, the guys just keep believing.”
Slovis and BYU tied the game on the first of the previous series when Parker Kingston caught a wide receiver screen pass and ran 20 yards to the end zone. The touchdown was set up when Max Tooley intercepted Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson the play before to provide the Cougars with their third drive to begin in Arkansas territory.
Arkansas led 14-0 early when AJ Green went 55 yards on the ground on the Razorbacks’ first series and Isaiah Sategna returned a punt 88 yards immediately after BYU’s first possession. The Cougars scored touchdowns on three of their next four drives to take a 21-14 lead.
Arkansas countered with the next three scores – a 19-yard touchdown reception by Luke Hasz, a 26-yard field goal from Cam Little and a second touchdown run from Green to go back ahead early in the third quarter.
Jefferson, a preseason second-team All-SEC selection, tried to take over in the fourth, but his offensive line struggled. Jefferson was sacked three times and fumbled twice, both of which came in the fourth quarter as Arkansas was attempting its comeback.
“They proved they were longer and stronger than we anticipated,” Arkansas coach Sam Pittman said. “No exotic blitzes … they just whipped us.”
Green had 86 yards rushing on nine carries with two touchdowns and Jefferson was 25-of-36 passing for 261 yards with a touchdown, an interception and two fumbles.
Slovis completed 13 of 25 passes with the two scores. LJ Martin ran for 77 yards on 23 carries with two touchdowns for BYU. The Cougars finished with just 281 yards of total offense, but were helped most by starting four drives in Arkansas territory.
“There were times where the offense didn’t play their best,” Slovis said. “We felt that, but guys came back and stepped up when it was important.”
BYU is 3-1 in its last four games on the road against the Southeastern Conference. Their last such victory was in 2019 against Tennessee when the Cougars were still an independent.
Arkansas committed 14 penalties resulting in 125 yards against. The biggest came with about 1:20 left when Jefferson ran up the middle for 15 yards to get inside the BYU 20 the first time. The play ultimately didn’t count because of a holding call and Arkansas was forced back to the BYU 49 before attempting a final charge.
BYU: The Cougars were fortunate with field position regularly, which helped pull the upset. Where BYU ends up in the Big 12 hierarchy remains to be seen, though.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks can’t feel great as they head into a stretch of four straight games away from Fayetteville, three of which come against ranked teams.
BYU: Travels to Kansas to open Big 12 play Saturday.
Arkansas: Travels to LSU to begin SEC play Saturday.