Cougars win a wild, back-and-forth game at Arkansas, 38-31

A go-ahead touchdown strike from Kedon Slovis to Chase Roberts along with a staunch defensive effort helped BYU beat Arkansas 38-31 in a back-and-forth contest at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium on Saturday night.


FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — A go-ahead touchdown strike from Kedon Slovis to Chase Roberts along with a staunch defensive effort helped BYU beat Arkansas 38-31 in a back-and-forth contest at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium on Saturday night.

The Razorbacks scored the first 14 points of the game, then the Cougars scored the next 21, followed by 17 back for the Razorbacks and then the final 17 points of the game went to the Cougars.

BYU is now 4-3 all-time in games on the road against the Southeastern Conference.

“I’m glad we got the win. What a cool environment. There’s so many positive things about being on the road here in Fayetteville. I’m really impressed with Arkansas; their team, coaches and crowd. It was a hard-fought battle. Things just went our way more than they did for Arkansas. I feel like we had some familiarity from playing them last year. Our guys were ready for a challenge this year. I want to give a lot of credit to Sam Pittman and his team. They’re a really good team. I wish them well in the SEC.”

Kalani SitakeBYU head coach

The BYU defense combined to force four sacks, six tackles-for-loss and allow just 2-of-13 on 3rd down. The Cougar pass rush also contributed to 14 Arkansas penalties for 125 yards.

Jakob Robinson and AJ Vongphachanh co-led BYU with 10 tackles (four solo) a-piece. Tyler Batty added nine tackles and one-and-a-half sacks along with a forced fumble and fumble recovery. Eddie Heckard came up big at corner, adding five tackles, two for loss, and another forced fumble. Max Tooley pitched in a game-changing interception.

While outgained 424 yards to 281 yards, the BYU offense made the most of its opportunities, as it scored four touchdowns on each of its four red zone trips.

Kedon Slovis conducted the Cougar attack and went 13-of-25 for 167 yards and two touchdowns. Isaac Rex led BYU with four receptions for 57 yards while Parker Kingston posted three for 46 and a touchdown. Kingston also threw a 37-yard touchdown pass, connecting with Deion Smith.

True freshman LJ Martin led BYU on the ground with 77 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries.

[Full recap below.]


Short drives and big plays dominated the first quarter narrative for BYU and Arkansas. The Razorbacks scored a 55-yard rushing touchdown just four plays into the game and took the early 7-0 lead. Arkansas struck yet again moments later with an 87-yard punt return for a touchdown.

While BYU found itself down 14-0 with 11:29 to play in the first quarter, the Cougars found a way to flip the momentum switch beginning with field position and 3rd down defense.

The Razorbacks started their next drive at their own 3-yard line after a 49-yard punt from Ryan Rehkow. The BYU defense took advantage of the spot and got the stop on 3rd down as nose tackle Jackson Cravens deflected an Arkansas pass and forced an incompletion.

After a slow start to the game, the Cougar offense made a big play of its own on the ensuing drive. Slovis began the play, throwing backward to Kingston, who proceeded to load up and find Smith wide open along the far sideline for a 37-yard touchdown pass. With the trick play, BYU bit into the Arkansas lead and was down 14-7 with 8:28 left in the first.

The BYU defense proceeded to post consecutive 3rd down stops with big plays from its linebackers. On 3rd and 4 from the Razorback 30, Bywater swam around the edge of the line and laid a hit on Jefferson to force an incompletion. A sack from Tooley ended Arkansas’ next drive and led to prime field position for the Cougars from a shanked Razorback punt.

BYU made quick work of the spot in plus territory as Slovis handed off to Martin, who scampered off tackle right and blew past defenders for a 45-yard touchdown run. With 2:24 to play in the first quarter, the Cougars had tied the game at 14.

BYU then ended the quarter with yet another key 3rd down stop. This one came as Slade poked the ball free of the Razorback receiver’s grasp and invited the home team’s punter onto the field once more.



The duo of Slovis and Rex carried the Cougars down the field into scoring position on BYU’s next drive. Rex began the possession with a 7-yard gain, then moved the sticks on 3rd and 5 to give the Cougars a spot in Razorback territory. Following a 14-yard completion to Kingston, Slovis stepped up in a collapsing pocket and fired the ball over the middle to Rex. The sure-handed tight end hauled in the pass with a single paw and rumbled to the Razorback 4-yard line.

Martin finished the job two plays later with a 1-yard touchdown plunge and gave BYU the 21-14 lead with 12:54 to play in the half.

Arkansas would return to the end zone two drives later on a hard-fought, 10-play, 70-yard touchdown drive that ended with Jefferson finding a receiver for a 19-yard scoring strike.

A fumble from Chase Roberts returned the ball to the Razorbacks in good field position and prematurely ended BYU’s bid for points before the half. With a key 3rd down tackle from Vongphachanh, the Cougar defense responded and held Arkansas to a field goal before the break.

BYU went into halftime down 24-21.


Arkansas upped its lead to 31-21 with 11:41 to go in the third with a four-play, 53-yard touchdown drive.

BYU found itself wanting for momentum midway through the quarter after consecutive 3-and-outs on offense. The momentum swing started with the Cougar defense. On 4th-and-1 from the 50-yard line, Vongphachanh wrapped up the Razorback ball carrier and Tooley drove him back for a loss, returning the ball to the Cougars.

BYU responded plays later with Will Ferrin knocking through his first-career collegiate field goal from 43 yards out. The Cougars were then down 31-24 with 4:43 left in the period.

The BYU defense fed off the newfound momentum and stepped up for two more big plays to halt Arkansas again. Batty and Mangelson swam through the Razorback pass protection and dropped Jefferson in the backfield, setting up 2nd and 18. Moments later, the Cougars took the ball back as Tooley picked off a Jefferson pass over the middle and returned the ball deep into Arkansas territory.

Just one play later, BYU was back in the end zone with Slovis swinging a pass to Kingston, who rode downfield blocks 20 yards for the touchdown with 1:52 to go in the quarter.




The Cougars and Razorbacks entered the final frame knotted at 31.

Arkansas came up empty on its opening possession with its 49-yard field goal attempt doinking off the upright. The errant kick followed key tackles-for-loss from Nelson, Tooley and Heckard.

Following the field goal miss, BYU set up its offense and converted on consecutive 3rd downs. Kingston began the clutch play, slipping out of a tackler's grasp and moving the sticks. Plays later, Slovis stepped up in the collapsing pocket and ran up the middle for the 1st down.

A connection with Keelan Marion deep in Arkansas territory set up BYU in goal-to-go, where Slovis slung it to Roberts. The sophomore receiver made a remarkable catch, adjusting to the ball and snagging it with one hand at full extension, while keeping both feet in bounds. It was good for the SportsCenter Top-10 No. 1 play of the day. The touchdown put BYU up 38-31 with eight minutes to play.

Minutes later the BYU defense would again corral the Razorbacks and record a takeaway. On 3rd and 7 from the Arkansas 42, Heckard swarmed Jefferson, stripping the ball away and leading to a Batty fumble recovery.

The Cougars’ ensuing drive ended in a missed 50-yard field goal, returning the ball to Arkansas with 1:55 left.

BYU’s pass rush finished the game strong, plowing through the Razorback protection and forcing a sack, hold and two incompletions. The backfield pressure milked the clock, stalled and ultimately ended Arkansas’ comeback effort.

BYU remains on the road next week for its first ever, in-conference Big 12 Conference game. The Cougars will face Kansas at 2:30 p.m. CDT on Sept. 23. Watch BYU and the Jayhawks on ESPN or listen live on BYU Radio SiriusXM/BYU Radio App/KSL 102.7 FM/1160 AM.