Arkansas coach Sam Pittman knows the importance of running the ball and hopes his Razorbacks can figure out how to do it effectively soon.
That chance may come on Saturday afternoon in Fayetteville, Ark., when the Razorbacks host Kent State.
Fortunate to have talented, experienced leaders in quarterback KJ Jefferson and running back Raheim Sanders, Arkansas (1-0) saw one piece of its offense (the passing game) excel while the other (the running game) came up short in the opener.
Jefferson completed 18 of 23 passes for 246 yards and three touchdowns as the Razorbacks began the season in Little Rock with a 56-13 rout of Western Carolina, an FCS program.
However, Sanders — a hard-nosed back who rushed for 1,443 yards (6.5 per carry) and 10 touchdowns last season — finished with just 42 yards on 15 attempts. He did score twice against the Catamounts, though.
As a team, Arkansas produced just 105 yards on the ground, averaging a feeble 2.9 per rush.
“We’ve got to run the football better,” said Pittman, who is in his fourth year as the Razorbacks’ coach. “We are throwing and catching and protecting pretty good.
“The run game wasn’t what we wanted it to be, but the passing was what we wanted it to be.”
Kent State (0-1) opened as a five-plus-touchdown underdog against Arkansas after getting drilled 56-6 by UCF in Orlando on Aug. 31.
The Golden Flashes, a Mid-American Conference East Division school, return no offensive starters from last year’s squad and only four starters total.
Against UCF, quarterback Michael Alaimo threw for 145 yards and an interception, and the offense ventured into the red zone just once.
First-year Kent State coach Kenni Burns said his defense’s main concern on Saturday will be containing Jefferson.
“It starts on the offensive side with the quarterback,” Burns said. “(Jefferson) is a phenomenal athlete. He’s big, he’s strong and he’s got a big arm. He’s a guy we’ve got to bring down and really suffocate him and put pressure on him.
“If you let him sit back there and do what he does, he’ll eat you alive.”
–Field Level Media