KJ Jefferson likely to break pair of Razorback records held by Matt Jones

Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson, a fifth-year senior, is likely to set career records for total offense and combined passing and running touchdowns today when the Razorbacks take on Texas A&M at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Hank Layton)

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Matt Jones has held University of Arkansas career records for combined passing and running touchdowns and total offense for 19 years.

That's likely to change today when Arkansas plays Texas A&M at AT&T Stadium.

Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson, a fifth-year senior, is tied with Jones for combined touchdowns with 77, and with 8,279 yards in total offense, he needs 114 to break the record 8,392 Jones produced from 2001-04.

Jones said he'll be pulling hard for Jefferson to break his records and for the Razorbacks to beat the Aggies.

"Go get 'em, man," Jones said. "I'm a KJ fan and a Razorback fan. Let's go out there and get those records and get a win."

Jefferson has at least one passing touchdown in 15 consecutive games and has passed or rushed for a touchdown in 23 consecutive games.

The last time Jefferson was held without a touchdown and had fewer than 183 yards in total offense, Georgia beat Arkansas 37-0 on Oct. 2, 2021, en route to winning the national championship. Jefferson had 70 yards in total offense with 65 passing and 5 rushing.

Since that shutout, Jefferson has had 250 or more yards in total offense 13 times, including 417 in the Liberty Bowl against Kansas last season in a 55-53 victory in triple overtime and 411 in a 52-51 loss at Ole Miss in 2021.

"Matt Jones is an incredible competitor," Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman said. "That's what I remember about him.

"He gave you a chance to win. Sort of like KJ gives you a chance to win every single week. And both of them are very strong at making things happen. Sometimes, not out of nothing, but out of almost nothing, and making big plays.

"KJ, to be able to have an opportunity to break those records, shows how valuable and how important he is to our football team and what kind of competitor and athlete he is too.

"Both of them, great leaders and great competitors."

Texas A&M Coach Jimbo Fisher was LSU's offensive coordinator when the Tigers played Jones and the Razorbacks.

Jones threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to DeCori Birmingham with 17 seconds left in Arkansas' 21-20 victory over LSU in 2002 in Little Rock in a finish dubbed "The Miracle on Markham," but what Fisher recalled this week about the 6-foot-6 Jones was his speed and long strides.

Running a 40-yard dash in 4.37 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine helped Jones become a first-round draft pick as a wide receiver for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"Matt could fly," Fisher said. "At 6-6, he covered so much ground. He'd outrun angles, and then of course you'd play him up there and he'd throw the deep ball and hit it and hurt you."

Jones had 53 passing touchdowns and 24 rushing. Jefferson has 57 passing touchdowns and 20 rushing.

"Both guys are dynamic players," Fisher said. "Both guys are big, fast, strong.

"Matt was probably faster. I mean, not many guys were as fast as him. I don't think some of the backs were.

"KJ throws the ball and is so strong. That's two great players."

Jones said he enjoys watching Jefferson play and how he has improved in his three seasons as a starter.

"What I like most about KJ is watching his maturation process and watching him grow as a quarterback and as a leader throughout the last couple years," Jones said. "KJ's a leader, and everybody believes in him."

Jefferson is a three-time team captain, the first Razorback to earn that distinction since Herbert Fishback from 1895-97.

"I know from experience KJ's a great leader, tremendous guy on and off the field," Arkansas sophomore running back Rashod Dubinion said. "He handles his business. He makes sure everyone around him does the same.

"He makes sure everyone is on their P's and Q's and executing the offense no matter what the play call is."

Andrew Armstrong, a senior transfer from Texas A&M-Commerce, leads the Razorbacks with 24 catches for 273 yards and 3 touchdowns.

"KJ is just KJ," Armstrong said. "He stays in the film room, he pays attention to the defenses.

"If he sees anything wrong, he talks to all of us about what we can do better, what he can do better. He just takes accountability for everything, even if he's not in the wrong.

"He's a great guy, great quarterback and he makes sure everything runs as smoothly as possible."

Arkansas freshman cornerback Jaylon Braxton said Jefferson also is a leader for the players on defense.

"Before the games, he's always coming around to the defensive side and daps up every single one of us and says, 'Let's go,' " Braxton said.

Junior defensive end Landon Jackson also is an Arkansas team captain.

"KJ's what makes the offense run," Jackson said. "He's the engine to the offense."

Jackson doesn't envy opposing defensive players who have to try to tackle the 6-3, 247-pound Jefferson.

"Man, you would think he has eyes all around his head," Jackson said. "He'll get hit from behind and won't really budge.

"I think he has really good balance and is really elusive."

Jefferson completed 21 of 31 passes for 289 yards and 3 touchdowns in Arkansas' 34-31 loss at LSU last week.

"We wanted to try to get him moving so we could get him off schedule in terms of throwing on the run," LSU Coach Brian Kelly said. "But he was highly accurate, moving and throwing.

"If he plays at that level, he's one of the elite quarterbacks in college football."

In 36 games, including 30 starts, Jefferson has completed 512 of 774 passes (66.1%) for 6,722 yards. He's rushed for 1,557 yards.

This season Jefferson has completed 76 of 108 passes (70.4%) for 918 yards and 9 touchdowns.

"Even when KJ gets out of the pocket, he keeps his eyes downfield and makes the proper read more times than not," Jones said. "That's such a great quality to have, to be able to make something positive happen if a play breaks down.

"If I could have had KJ's arm 20 years ago, I would have signed up for it."

Jones said his favorite part of playing quarterback was helping teammates make big plays.

"Football's a team sport, and I just wanted to help my teammates win, and I know that's the way KJ is too," Jones said. "You can tell he's not a me-first guy. He's somebody that likes distributing the ball to his teammates and wants them to have success."