3 takeaways from BYU’s statement victory over Arkansas
The Cougars showed resilience in rallying past the Razorbacks while BYU’s defense had a much better showing against Arkansas than it did last season
BYU’s first big win of the Big 12 era came in SEC country.
The Cougars rallied from a double-digit deficit twice in beating Arkansas 38-31 on the road Saturday night, keeping BYU (3-0) unbeaten on the season.
What worked well
1. The Jay Hill impact was on full display. BYU’s new defensive coordinator was brought in to bring pressure and create chaos on that side of the ball, and that’s exactly what the Cougars did during critical moments Saturday night.
BYU kept Arkansas scoreless for nearly the last 27 minutes of the game. During that time, the Cougars made a fourth-down stop at midfield that led to a touchdown, had an interception that led to a field goal and a fumble recovery that thwarted a late Razorbacks drive.
One year after the Cougars were shredded defensively in a 52-35 loss to Arkansas, BYU also had four sacks, keeping Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson under wraps down the stretch.
Two of those sacks came on Arkansas’ final two drives, with one leading to a turnover when Eddie Heckard strip-sacked Jefferson and Tyler Batty received.
Hill’s defense came up big on key plays throughout the game, allowing Arkansas to convert just 2 of 13 third-down attempts and 1 of 2 on fourth down.
2. The Cougars showed resilience after tough stretches. BYU found itself down 14-0 early after a 55-yard AJ Green touchdown run on Arkansas’ first drive and an 86-yard punt return score from Isaiah Sategna minutes later.
The Cougars, though, responded with three touchdowns on their next four possessions to capture the lead.
After Arkansas scored 17 straight points to go up 31-21 in the third quarter, BYU again responded, scoring the game’s final 17 points to earn the seven-point win.
After an Arkansas missed field goal, Kedon Slovis led the Cougar offense on a nine-play, 69-yard drive to go ahead for good on a 7-yard Chase Roberts touchdown catch with eight minutes to play.
3. BYU freshmen came up big. Redshirt freshman wide receiver Parker Kingston had himself a game, throwing a touchdown pass for BYU’s first score, catching a touchdown pass in the third quarter and making a key third-down catch on the Cougars’ go-ahead scoring drive in the fourth. Kingston had three catches for 46 yards in addition to his 37-yard TD pass to Deion Smith.
True freshman running back LJ Martin also had a solid night, even if his impact was felt less as the game wore on.
Martin scored two first-half touchdowns — including a 45-yarder — for his first scores as a Cougar, and he had 73 rushing yards at halftime before finishing with 77 yards on the ground.
What needs improvement
1. There are some things to work on defensively as Arkansas controlled possession. Before the game was even five minutes old, the Cougars found themselves down 14-0 thanks to those long early Arkansas scores, though only one was against the defense.
BYU gave up 424 yards of total offense to Arkansas and the Razorbacks held a nearly nine-minute edge in time of possession.
At times, the Cougars’ safeties found themselves out of position — one instance came when Arkansas scored on a 19-yard touchdown pass near the end of the first half when Luke Hasz was left wide open in the end zone.
2. BYU’s run game still leaves something to be desired. The Cougars are still struggling early in the season to have a balanced offense. Against Arkansas, BYU picked up 77 rushing yards on 31 attempts — that equates to just a 2.5-per carry average.
Martin looked strong in the first half, but when BYU was trying to run out the clock late in the game, he was often stuffed.
It helped lead to the Cougars missing an opportunity to add a late score that could have sealed the win.
When will we see UNLV transfer Aidan Robbins again? He didn’t have any carries this game after an already slow start to his Cougars career.
3. Another illegal touching penalty cost the Cougars. BYU appeared to get a huge first down late in the fourth quarter on a 30-yard pass to Isaac Rex that would have moved the Cougars into Arkansas territory with BYU up seven points.
But because Rex wasn’t on the end of the line, he was ineligible and the loss of down and 5-yard penalty led to BYU having to give Arkansas the ball back in good field position after Slovis was sacked on the next play.
Ultimately, though, the BYU defense forced a turnover on the next Arkansas possession to overcome that foley. Instead, it was Arkansas that was hurt most by penalties: the Razorbacks had 14 for 125 yards, including several on their final drive.
1. The Cougars begin Big 12 Conference play next week. BYU will travel to Kansas next Saturday for the program’s first conference game in the Big 12 era.
The Jayhawks played Nevada late Saturday night after winning their first two weeks of the season.
2. Can BYU improve offensively? Even on a night where the Cougars scored 38 points, there were missed opportunities.
If BYU can shore up some of these issues — like better chemistry between Slovis and his receivers, and the obvious run game struggles — the Cougars could make things interesting during conference play.
3. Is the Big 12 the worst Power Five conference this season? The conference has been dealt some bad losses in nonconference play, and that included losses by Oklahoma State (to South Alabama) and Cincinnati (to Miami, Ohio) on Saturday.
BYU’s impressive win over an SEC team was arguably the Big 12’s highlight of Week 3 and gives the team momentum heading into conference play.