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OPINION | WALLY HALL: KJ Jefferson led Hogs to win over Florida, which wasn’t an upset

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — It was not an upset.

It was inevitable that the Arkansas Razorbacks would break their losing streak against a football team from Florida.

It just came two weeks sooner than their date with Florida International.

Arkansas beat the University of Florida in overtime 39-36 in The Swamp on Saturday, their first victory in this stadium in front of 89,782 eyewitnesses.

And it was not an upset.

Not even considering it is the Gators who have three national championships, Heisman trophies and a reputation for being one of the most hostile environments in college football.

Arkansas scored first and last, and while Saturday’s team might not have found a way to beat LSU, Alabama or Ole Miss, it would have beaten Mississippi State and Brigham Young.

Offensive coordinator Dan Whoknows was gone, and the slimmed-down version of the offense took a ton of pressure off KJ Jefferson, who played like he was almost worth all those wild numbers you hear about for his NIL money.

After the Gators took a 26-23 lead midway through the fourth quarter, Jefferson refused to lose.

On the ensuing possession, he ran for a total of 55 yards, including the final 25 for the touchdown, and he passed for 22. Florida — which had been very lucky for most of the game, having to drive just 33, 42 and 33 yards for touchdowns thanks to a punt return, a kick return and a fumble — fired back like Steve Spurrier was calling the plays.

It drove 75 yards in three plays to regain the lead at 33-30. A bad snap on an extra point had cost the Gators.

That allowed the Hogs to tie it for the final time in regulation, although a holding and false start took them from second and eight at the Florida 21, to third and 23 at the 41. With a swirling and twirling wind, asking Cam Little to hit a 59-yard field goal was going to be a stretch.

Instead, Jefferson found Tyrone Broden for 10 yards. Little, who had already made three field goals, kicked the 49-yard field goal, his longest of the day, to tie it at 33-33 with 44 seconds to play.

It is never good to be the visitor in an overtime game, but it wasn’t going to be an upset.

Arkansas’ defense, which held the Gators to 394 yards, rose to the occasion in overtime with some of its best pass defense of the season — forcing two incompletions — and the Gators settled for a field goal.

When the Razorbacks got their turn, they settled for nothing, not even after starting the drive with a holding penalty. Jefferson made up for it with a 20-yard run. Raheim “Rocket" Sanders, who returned from injury with a 103-yard effort, got 10. On first and goal from the 4, Jefferson found Broden again, this time for the win.

The Razorbacks would finish with 481 yards and just their third-ever win over Florida, which was not an upset, against 10 losses, including five in The Swamp.

What changes were made in the offense in the course of less than two weeks were almost remarkable, and Kenny Guidon’s debut as an offense coordinator was a huge success.

They opened the game with Jefferson rolling out. He was 4-of-4 passing for 63 yards on the first touchdown of the game, but that got shelved for runs between the tackles.

Yet, with it all on the line in fourth quarter, almost every Razorback bowed up and said enough is enough, and a poised, confident and comfortable Jefferson was the team leader.

Having sat through all five of those losses here in Gainesville, the first is still most remembered: Florida scored on the opening kickoff and coasted to a 56-7 win.

That was 1997. In 2023, it was not an upset.

The best team won.