Star QBs pit against each other

KJ Jefferson
KJ Jefferson

FAYETTEVILLE -- The Arkansas at LSU game on Saturday will pit the two quarterbacks who gained the most preseason hype for all-conference honors in Razorback senior KJ Jefferson and Tiger senior Jayden Daniels against each other.

The Tigers signal caller wound up as the first-team choice by media members at SEC media days, while Jefferson was voted to the second team.

Daniels is off to a roaring start with 976 yards and 8 touchdowns while going 70 of 95 on pass attempts with just 1 interception. He's added 157 yards and two more scores on the ground.

Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman thinks the matchup will spur Jefferson, who has started the last two UA games in Baton Rouge, La., and is 1-1 there.

"It would me [and] I think it would any competitor," Pittman said. "So I believe, yes, that's the case. Anybody that's considered an underdog, which obviously our entire team is as well going to LSU, but anybody that seems to be viewed as lower than somebody else, absolutely you want to prove that you're as good or better.

"I think KJ has been driven by that probably his whole life. There have been a few games where maybe he wasn't because he was the man on the field, everybody thought he was. But most of the time he's got something to prove. That chip. I think you'll see him play well on Saturday."

Boot series

The Razorbacks and Tigers will play on the earliest date in series history by a wide margin. Arkansas and LSU have played in November every year since the Hogs joined the SEC in 1992. Prior to that, the teams met 11 times in October, but they have never played in September.

LSU holds a 43-23-2 edge all-time, including a 13-4-1 mark in Baton Rouge. Three of the Razorbacks' wins in south Louisiana have come in the last eight games there, since Coach Houston Nutt's final team in 2007 beat the No. 1 Tigers 50-48 in triple overtime. LSU would go on to win the BCS national championship that year. Arkansas also won in 2015 (31-14) and 2021 (16-13, OT).

Each of the last three games have been decided by three points, with LSU winning 27-24 in 2020, Arkansas prevailing 16-13 in overtime in 2021 and the Tigers winning 13-10 last year.

The series has been played in six different venues and LSU has the lead in all but one of them. The Razorbacks are up 1-0 in Memphis, having won 16-0 there on Nov. 13, 1909.

The Tigers are up 8-7 in Little Rock, 5-2 in Fayetteville, 16-9 in Shreveport, La., and 1-0-1 in Dallas.

Since former Razorback David Bazzel created the Golden Boot Trophy for the 1996 game, LSU leads 18-9.

The Hogs' longest winning streak is four games (1922-25) while LSU had a 12-0-1 run between 1930 and 1966 and a 5-game streak from 2016-2020.

Ear blast

Visitors to Arkansas practices this week have heard the high-decibel roar coming from the speakers to simulate crowd noise. The sound is a generic roar of white noise with a bit of crowd sounds mixed in.

"I've had a headache since Monday," Pittman said on his Wednesday radio show.

Earlier in the day, Pittman said the Razorbacks were training themselves to embrace the noise.

"We're trying to make it worse than it can possibly be, so we can go have fun with the crowd," he said. "We know it's going to be loud and all those type things. ... We've got it cranked. I'll tell you what, I've never watched so much defense because I got through about period eight yesterday and I was about to throw up and had a headache.

"They've done a nice job with it. You know what it is, you're building confidence with that you've had it plenty loud enough to handle any situation."

Sizzling streak

The top unit on the LSU offense is on a heater as it welcomes the Razorbacks into Death Valley. The Tigers have scored on 14 of their last 15 possessions with Jayden Daniels at quarterback dating back to a 72-10 rout of Grambling State in Week 2. The possessions have produced 12 touchdowns and two field goals, including six consecutive touchdowns in the first half against Grambling.

Daniels is 49 of 59 (83.1%) in that span for 705 yards, 8 touchdowns and no interceptions and he's rushed for 157 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Daniels is fourth in the FBS with 325.3 passing yards per game, 10th with a 185.66 efficiency rating and tied for 11th with 73.7% completions.

Five corners

The Razorbacks deployed five cornerbacks last Saturday, starting with freshman Jaylon Braxton and transfer Lorando "Snaxx" Johnson, who had been playing nickel through the first two games. Dwight "Nudie" McGlothern, Jaheim Singletary and Kee'yon Stewart all subbed in at the spot. Singletary and Stewart had taken most of the reps at those spots in a 28-6 win over Kent State in Week 2.

"Wasn't that incredible?" Pittman said of the heavy corner rotation. "We decided to go with Braxton and Snaxx, because Tuesday was not a great practice out there at corner, so we switched it up a little bit.

"However, 15 [Singletary] played the best of the corners. We're still ... Nudie with the turf toe, that's been a hold-back a little bit. I anticipate him being healthy this week. He's going back to Louisiana.

"We think all five of them can play. There's obviously a pecking order of who can play better than the other. The other night it was just simply we didn't practice very good and Braxton did and that's where he went in. I don't know that we can play all five of them, to be honest with you, in a particular game."

Social anxiety

Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman dove into some of the ramifications of losing a game a little deeper than most coaches would venture during his weekly press conference on Monday.

"It's hard," Pittman said. "I mean, it's not a job, it's my life. That's what you do.

"It's the same way with the kids. It's hard. Because of the addition of social media has -- and the addition of, not opinions so much but negative. You know, used to it was 'You gotta do better' or something, not 'You suck. You're fat. You're this.' You know what I mean?

"Now it's, the comments have nothing to do with what happened in the game, it's 'You suck.' And it's not just me, it's the kids. I think it's a time when it's harder to recover from losses if you're a social media person."

Pittman said he and the program want to please the UA, the team, family members, the state and the media and it can't always be done.

"That's the hard part about our job and I would imagine the hard part about being a student athlete," he said. "Because we all have feelings ... and when you let people down, you're already beating yourself up on it, and then somebody [online] starts beating the hell out of you with it. I think it's a little bit harder to recover. But they're going to recover it as I do. And when I get to that meeting today, it's going to be all about LSU after we get the corrections that we need to do."

Going on 4th

LSU is 4 of 8 on fourth-down conversions, including 2 of 2 in last week's 41-14 win at Mississippi State.

"I use a combination of good sense in terms of what the game feels like," Tigers Coach Brian Kelly said. "We use analytics. I'm plugged into what the analytics are telling me relative to fourth down. It's a combination of getting a sense and feel for the game and how you might have control or not control the game, plus the use of analytics.

"And then when you have a quarterback that is multi-dimensional, it really puts a defense in a bind. We have those three factors working for us when we get the fourth-down calls."

LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels completed a 5-yard pass to Malik Nabers on fourth-and-2 from the Mississippi State 29 on a drive capped by a field goal that put the Tigers ahead 3-0 in the first quarter.

Facing fourth-and-7 from the Mississippi State 33, Daniels and Nabers connected for a touchdown pass and a 17-0 lead on the second play of the second quarter.

Talented Tigers

Mississippi State Coach Zach Arnett was asked on Wednesday's SEC teleconference his assessment of LSU after the Tigers beat his Bulldogs 41-14.

"They're one of the most talented teams in the country," Arnett said. "If you just did a combine with strength, agility, change of direction, tests of athleticism, LSU's players are going to be up there with any team in the country.

"Arkansas has a very good team too. I've been able to see them play a little in bits and pieces. So it should be a heck of a game. I love what Coach [Sam] Pittman has done there."

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