Arkansas uses all-around effort to topple Western Carolina

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Field Level Media
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Sep 2, 2023; Little Rock, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks wide receiver Isaac TeSlaa (4) scores a touchdown in the first quarter as Western Carolina Catamounts safety Mateo Sudipo (1) defends at War Memorial Stadium.
Sep 2, 2023; Little Rock, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks wide receiver Isaac TeSlaa (4) scores a touchdown in the first quarter as Western Carolina Catamounts safety Mateo Sudipo (1) defends at War Memorial Stadium.
Image: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

KJ Jefferson completed 18 of 23 passes for 246 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, leading Arkansas past Western Carolina 56-13 on Saturday afternoon at Little Rock, Ark.

Raheim Sanders rushed for two touchdowns, Jefferson ran for one score and Arkansas' defense forced five turnovers, including an interception by Brad Spence that was returned 85 yards for a TD.

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Midway through the second quarter, Jefferson was 12 of 12 for 181 yards and two touchdowns as the Razorbacks never trailed. He was the first Arkansas quarterback to complete his first 12 passes in a game since Brandon Allen was 14 of 14 against Texas A&M in 2015.

The Razorbacks, playing with two new coordinators in Dan Enos on offense and Travis Williams on defense, were impressive throughout.

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Defensively, the Razorbacks had first-half interceptions from Hudson Clark and Dwight McGlothern. TJ Metcalf added a first-half fumble recovery and the Razorbacks scored touchdowns off of all three turnovers before halftime.

In the second half, Jayden Johnson and Spence added interceptions. Johnson also had a forced fumble earlier in the game.

Arkansas led 21-3 after one quarter and 35-3 at halftime.

The Razorbacks needed just two plays and 36 seconds to score on their first possession. Jefferson completed two passes for 79 yards on the drive, and the touchdown was a 65-yarder to Jaedon Wilson.

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Arkansas' second possession was more balanced with four runs and three passes. Sanders finished it off with a 3-yard score to make it 14-0.

Jefferson made it 21-0 with his 31-yard TD pass to Isaac TeSlaa, who made his Arkansas debut after transferring from Division II Hillsdale College.

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Western Carolina got on the scoreboard with 15 seconds left in the first quarter as Richard McCollum booted a 34-yard field goal.

But the Razorbacks closed out the first half with two more TD runs - 17 yards by Jefferson and 1 yard by Sanders.

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Western Carolina opened the second-half scoring with a 53-yard touchdown drive, closing its deficit to 35-10. The key play came on fourth-and-1 from the Arkansas 44 as Desmond Reid's run picked up the first down. Reid finished the drive with a 2-yard TD run.

Arkansas responded with Jefferson's 16-yard TD pass to Andrew Armstrong, a transfer from Texas A&M-Commerce.

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—Field Level Media