KJ Jefferson, Arkansas football smash Ole Miss to become bowl eligible

Christina Long
Fort Smith Times Record

FAYETTEVILLE — A week of rest did wonders for Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson.

Jefferson had given a poor performance against Liberty in Week 10 and missed the following game against LSU with soreness and bruising in his throwing shoulder and clavicle. But Jefferson was back to his old self Saturday in Arkansas' 42-27 win over No. 14 Ole Miss.

Jefferson broke off long runs, evaded sacks and threw some excellent passes, shoulder pain be damned. He had three passing touchdowns and 51 rushing yards in the first half alone. His three touchdown passes came on consecutive drives, two of them to Matt Landers and another to Ketron Jackson Jr.

Jefferson finished with 168 passing yards, a 77% completion percentage and 47 rushing yards.

The Razorbacks (6-5, 3-4 SEC) needed the old Jefferson desperately. Its offense had been sluggish and ineffective in its past two games, both losses. With the season nearing its end, Arkansas was running out of chances to get bowl eligible. With the win over Ole Miss (8-3, 4-3), the Razorbacks did just that.

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Running game gets back on track

Arkansas' running game had been one of its strengths for much of the season, but the Razorbacks looked like a different team when it came to running the ball in their losses to Liberty and LSU. The veteran offensive line suddenly struggled to block, and star running back Rocket Sanders was held to his two lowest rushing yard totals of the season.

Much like Jefferson, Sanders and the offensive line looked like their old selves against Ole Miss. Sanders had two touchdowns and over 150 yards in just the first half.

Then, at the start of the third quarter, he broke off a 68-yard rushing touchdown to put Arkansas up 42-6. Less than one minute into the second half, Sanders had a new career high of 221 yards. He finished with 232 yards on 24 carries for 9.7 yards per attempt.

Drew Sanders does it all for mostly strong defense

Linebacker Drew Sanders had a big day on defense. The SEC's sack leader didn't add to his total, but he did stuff the box score elsewhere.

Sanders accounted for two Ole Miss turnovers in the first half. The first came when he recovered an unforced fumble by quarterback Jaxson Dart. Later, he intercepted Dart and returned it 12 yards. It was the junior's first career pick.

Arkansas finished with three turnovers after defensive back Dwight McGlothern recovered another fumble in the second half. Three turnovers tied Arkansas' single-game high this season; the Razorbacks gained three against both South Carolina and BYU.

The defense gave up 703 yards, the most it had allowed since 2019. It held Ole Miss without a touchdown until the fourth quarter, then gave up three. The offense did more than enough early, however, to make the deficit insurmountable for the Rebels.

Up next

Arkansas concludes the 2022-23 regular season on Friday (2:30 p.m. CT, CBS) at Missouri.

Christina Long covers the Arkansas Razorbacks for the Southwest Times Record and USA TODAY Network. You can follow her on Twitter @christinalong00 or email her at