Arkansas wins wild Liberty Bowl 55-53 in 3OT over Kansas after losing 18-point fourth quarter lead

Arkansas escaped Kansas’ comeback attempt with a 55-53 Liberty Bowl win over the Jayhawks in triple overtime.

The Razorbacks (7-6) led 38-13 at one point in the third quarter and led by 18 points in the fourth. But Kansas (6-7) got the game to overtime before KJ Jefferson hit Rashod Dubinion out of the backfield for the winning two-point conversion.

Kansas, playing in its first bowl game since 2008, had a chance to tie thanks to college football’s rules after two overtimes. The Jayhawks ran an end around to backup quarterback Jason Bean but his pass on the run sailed out of the back of the end zone.

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KU and Arkansas traded touchdowns in the first two overtimes and Arkansas thought it had the game won in the second OT. College overtime rules mandate that teams go for a two-point conversion after scoring a TD in the second OT. Arkansas scored to go up eight to start the second extra period and KU QB Jalon Daniels was stopped short of the goal line on Kansas’ game-tying conversion attempt.

But officials called targeting on the hit to Daniels and upheld the call on a lengthy replay review. The targeting call gave Kansas another shot at the tie and the Jayhawks forced a third OT.

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Any game that goes past two overtimes becomes a two-point conversion shootout — basically college football’s version of penalty kicks. The two-point shootout was implemented in an effort to cut down on game length.

Had Kansas snuck out a win in overtime it would have completed one of the best bowl game comebacks in recent memory. Only Houston overcame an 18-point or greater fourth-quarter deficit in 2022 and the Jayhawks had to get an onside kick to have a chance at overtime against Arkansas.

KU scored all 17 points put up in the fourth quarter and cut the lead to 38-20 with 1:05 to go. KU had to go for the onside kick since it had no timeouts and Arkansas inexplicably didn’t move to recover the kick. Kansas recovered and was in the red zone after its first offensive play.

A TD pass to Luke Grimm set up a a two-point pass to Lawrence Arnold that tied the game at 38-38 with 41 seconds to go. Arkansas then played for overtime instead of playing for a potential game-winning field goal in regulation.

Daniels finished the game 37-of-55 passing for 544 yards and five TDs to go along with two interceptions. Arkansas QB KJ Jefferson was 19-of-29 passing for 287 yards and threw two TDs and one interception while also rushing 14 times for 130 yards and two scores. The Razorbacks played most of the game without star running back Rocket Sanders after he exited the game following his third carry.

Kansas found itself trailing 31-13 at halftime thanks to three first-half turnovers. But it got back into the game in the second half after Arkansas punted four straight times and then fumbled to set up Kansas’ penultimate score of regulation.

Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson (1) gestures toward fans after scoring a touchdown against Kansas during the first half of the Liberty Bowl NCAA college football game Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson scored four TDs in Arkansas' Liberty Bowl win over Kansas. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)