FAYETTEVILLE — If Arkansas defeats No. 23 Liberty on Saturday it will mean they are heading to another bowl game following the season.
Arkansas (5-3) will host Liberty (7-1) at 3 p.m. Saturday with the game televised on the SEC Network. The Hogs have won two games in a row and Sam Pittman has never lost to a non-conference opponent.
It will mark the first home game for Arkansas since Oct. 1 when they hosted Alabama. The Razorbacks are favored in this game despite being unranked, but what will they have to do to get a victory? Here’s five keys.
KJ Jefferson Have Big Game
When quarterback KJ Jefferson rolls the Hogs usually do as well. He had a very big game against BYU and came back with another good performance against Auburn. Jefferson is the key in this balanced offense from Kendal Briles. He can run, but the passing game that started slowly this season is now clicking as well. Jefferson has such wide receivers as Jadon Haselwood and Matt Landers along with tight end Trey Knox. His partner in the backfield, running back Rocket Sanders, is also a threat in the passing game. No one will forget the shovel pass from Jefferson to Sanders that helped defeat Missouri State. Jefferson has only thrown one interception all season and that bounced off the receiver’s hands. He had some costly fumbles earlier in the season, but he has eliminated those in this winning streak.
Win Third Down on Both Sides
Yes, this is in here each week it seems like, but the games where Arkansas stays on the field on third down and gets off on defense usually translates to a lot of success for the Hogs. Arkansas has done a better job of this since the last loss to Mississippi State. That was a game where Jefferson didn’t play and the defense had no solution for stopping the Bulldogs offense. Liberty has a good offense that can run or pass and they dominated BYU. Liberty has two proven quarterbacks. Watch third down plays on Saturday and see how successful the Razorbacks are on both sides of the ball. Success there should lead to a win.
Cut Down on Penalties, Eliminate Turnovers
Arkansas has had too many penalties this season. It’s somewhat of a mystery since Pittman’s teams are usually very disciplined. Part of the penalty issue has been a injury-depleted secondary getting pass interference calls. But they have had other penalties as well and too many of them. They have cut back on the turnovers and that is a must. It seems lately they have one fumble each game. They need to eliminate that. Auburn scored three points off the turnover last week.
Have Success in Red Zone
Last week Arkansas was 7 for 7 in the red zone. That is the success they need the remainder of the season against four very good teams to close out the regular season. Touchdowns are important, but if not able to get into the end zone at least get a field goal from Cam Little. The talented sophomore hasn’t missed a field goal since the Texas A&M game. In some games this season the Hogs simply haven’t been very good in the red zone. That haunted them in the loss to Texas A&M. Liberty is fresh off a bye week and Hogs need to capitalize on each opportunity they get to put points up against the Flames.
Don’t Let it be Four-Quarter Game
Liberty coach Hugh Freeze said this week Arkansas has better players and probably better coaches than his team. He is right and that is why Arkansas needs to deliver a knockout blow to the Flames and not let this game go deep in fourth quarter with the outcome still in doubt. The longer Liberty hangs around the longer they believe they can beat the Hogs. Freeze said he has never had success in Fayetteville and the Razorbacks need to make sure his third try at Razorback Stadium isn’t a charm.
There’s several other keys, but if Arkansas can successfully do these five things they will get a win.