KJ Jefferson threw for 385 yards and two touchdowns to help No. 10 Arkansas avoid a major upset and rally to beat Missouri State 38-27 on Saturday night in Fayetteville, Ark.
The Razorbacks (3-0) erased a 17-point first-half deficit in order to avoid becoming the first top-10 team to lose to a Football Championship Subdivision team since Appalachian State beat Michigan in September 2007.
The game marked the return of former Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino, who coached a game in Fayetteville for the first time since 2011 when his four-year stint as the Razorbacks coach ended.
Petrino’s Bears (2-1), who entered the game ranked fifth in the latest FCS poll, jumped out to a 17-0 lead with 10:36 left in the second quarter after quarterback Jason Shelley’s 24-yard touchdown run.
Shelley led Missouri State by completing 24 of 43 passes for 357 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.
But the Bears’ offensive line had a hard time keeping Shelley upright as Arkansas finished with eight sacks, 2.5 of which were by Drew Sanders. Jordan Domineck and Zach Williams each had two sacks as well.
After Arkansas tied the game at 17, the Bears gambled on fourth-and-1 from the Arkansas 47-yard line and converted when Shelley executed a perfect play action fake and found a wide open Ty Scott downfield to retake the lead at 24-17.
Raheim Sanders took a shovel pass from Jefferson and broke loose for a 73-yard touchdown to cut Missouri State’s lead to 27-24 with 11:38 left in the fourth. Sanders ran for 167 yards on 22 carries while Jefferson completed 19 of 31 passes.
Landon Jackson and Drew Sanders recorded back-to-back sacks for Arkansas on the ensuing Missouri State possession to force a punt.
Bryce Stephens returned that punt 82 yards for a touchdown to give the Razorbacks their first lead of the game with 9:16 remaining. The Razorbacks forced another punt on Missouri State’s next possession and then completed a nine-play, 80-yard drive capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Jefferson to put the game out of reach.
Matt Landers led all Arkansas receivers with seven catches for 123 yards as the Razorbacks amassed 597 total yards of offense.
–Field Level Media