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Hogs win, end Fayetteville skid

Arkansas wide receiver Jaedon Wilson (13) catches a touchdown pass defended by Florida International defensive back Hezekiah Masses (12), Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023, during the first quarter at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville. Visit for today's photo gallery..(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Hank Layton)

FAYETTEVILLE -- The Arkansas Razorbacks bounced back from the misery of a deflating home loss to Auburn by plowing past outmanned Florida International 44-20 on Saturday.

Quarterback KJ Jefferson passed for 187 yards and three touchdowns and took sole possession of Arkansas career records with 67 touchdown passes and 7,909 passing yards.

Arkansas (4-7) snapped a three-game losing streak at home before an announced crowd of 66,442 at Reynolds Razorback Stadium that was smaller in actual attendance.

"It was good to have a game where you thought you were going to win with two or three minutes left in the game," Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman said. "That was fun. But our kids needed that for some confidence-builder after last week."

Speaking on the Razorback Sports Network, Jefferson talked about what the win meant for the Arkansas fan base.

"It means a lot," said Jefferson, a fifth-year senior. "It's been a frustrating time. That's why I came back, because we wanted to be a brotherhood again."

The win took some heat off Pittman, whose team had battled a series of ranked opponents in LSU, Alabama and Ole Miss to one-score games on the road but had performed sluggishly at home.

Pittman was asked in his postgame news conference about an ESPN report that said he had met with Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek for a couple of hours on Sunday and been told his job was safe.

"I don't remember having that conversation with those guys," Pittman said. "When we start talking about firing and all this, it kills us in recruiting. It does, especially when we fabricate stories and put it out.

"I don't think I'm getting fired, guys, or he [Yurachek] would've told me I'm getting fired. And so I'm not sure why I have to answer these questions about getting fired or not. I don't, but we'll kill recruiting if we keep talking about it."

Florida International (4-7) was knocked out of bowl-eligibility in falling to 0-2 against the Razorbacks.

The Razorbacks also rediscovered a running game that has been missing much of the season, fueled by tailbacks Dominique Johnson and Isaiah Augustave, who had been down the depth chart. After early injuries to Raheim Sanders and Rashod Dubinion, Arkansas churned for a season-high 323 yards on the ground.

Augustave, a true freshman, broke a large number of tackles and finished with a season-high 101 yards. Johnson had a 31-yard breakaway touchdown, his first in nearly two years since a score at Alabama in 2021, and finished with a season-high 62 yards. Augustave averaged 7.2 yards per carry and Johnson was at 10.3.

Jefferson also barged for his way to 90 yards and averaged 6 yards per pop.

"Arkansas had a good game tonight," FIU Coach Mike MacIntyre said. "The quarterback is a heck of a runner and made a lot of plays. He does a great job. I thought they did some really good things and made a couple nice throws.

Arkansas amassed a season-high 510 total yards and held the big-play Panthers to 341.

Jefferson threw touchdown passes of 10 yards to Jaedon Wilson, 4 yards to Tyrone Broden and 32 yards to Isaiah Sategna before giving way to Jacolby Criswell midway through the fourth quarter.

Arkansas kicker Cam Little rectified a pair of missed field goals, including his first from less than 49 yards this season, by making three kicks.

Safety Alfahiym Walcott had a pair of takeaways, both of them leading to points. The senior transfer from Baylor intercepted a pass off Dean Patterson's shoulder and his 33-yard return for a touchdown as part of the Hogs' 24-point second quarter. The Hogs' fifth defensive touchdown of the season was similar to Jaylon Braxton's strip and score in a win at Florida two weeks ago and was the exact same distance.

Walcott also had a falling interception against Keyone Jenkins in the third quarter to set up Little's 39-yard field goal and a 41-20 lead.

The Razorbacks, leading 31-13 at the half, drove into scoring range on each of their two possessions of the second half before Little misfired on field goals of 34 and 48 yards.

The Panthers made things interesting when Keyone Jenkins found ace receiver Kris Mitchell for a 12-yard touchdown early in the third quarter to make it 31-20.

However, the Razorbacks rallied later in the quarter, moving 66 yards in six plays, capped by Jefferson's pass to Sategna on a deep post.

The win did not come without some anxiety for the Razorbacks, who had to battle back from a 13-7 deficit after taking an early lead.

The Panthers went for it on fourth and 3 on their first possession and threw incomplete.

Arkansas took advantage, driving 32 yards on five plays, including a 15-yard run by Sanders and Jefferson's touchdown throw to Wilson, the sophomore's first score since the season-opener.

Mitchell's 80-yard catch and run on a crossing route set up Jenkin's tying 1-yard touchdown on the Panthers' second possession.

Later, FIU overcame an offensive pass interference to drive 75 yards for a go-ahead score. Trajan Jeffcoat had a roughing the passer penalty and Jenkins found tight end Rocky Beers for gains of 19 and 15 yards. He completed the drive with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Patterson. However, Chase Gabriel missed the extra point to make the score 13-7.

The Razorbacks responded with a go-ahead touchdown drive, a 12-play sequence on which Augustave contributed 22 yards on two carries. The key play came as offensive coordinator Kenny Guiton got Andrew Armstrong matched up on a linebacker and the Hogs' top wideout turned a short reception into a 27-yard gain. That play set up Jefferson's 4-yard touchdown pass on a slant to Broden.

Johnson's 31-yard scoring run on a fourth and 2 up the middle capped a two-minute drill and gave Arkansas a 31-13 lead with 1:08 left in the half.