Arkansas Razorback Football

Nate Allen

FAYETTEVILLE  – Not only  from Arkansas fans and Arkansas media but national media and fans nationally, these Razorbacks incessantly hear they were wronged. 

National consensus, despite an SEC statement trying to explain otherwise, is that in last Saturday’s Arkansas vs. Auburn Tigers game in Auburn, Ala.,  Auburn quarterback Bo Nix, with 30 seconds left  and no timeouts and Auburn down, 28-27, fumbled the ball tried to spike but did so bouncing it backwards, a  loose ball lateral that Arkansas safety Joe Foucha recovered out-wresting  Auburn receiver Shedrick Jackson.

However officials whistled it an incomplete pass with intentional grounding, an Auburn penalty but keeping the ball with the nationally No. 13 Tigers  allowing time for Anders Carlson’s 39-yard 30-28 game-winning field goal with seven seconds left.

The SEC’s explanation did not sit well with many,

“During the 3rd down play at :30 in the 4th quarter, the officials on the field sounded their whistle and blew the play dead and they’ve deemed the passer illegally grounded the ball to conserve tine as governed by Rule 7-3-3-2-f,” the SEC announced in a statement.  “During the subsequent replay review, there is conclusive video evidence that the pass was backwards.  However, because recovery of the football was not clearly made in the immediate continuing football action, the ruling on the field was determined to stand under Rule 12-3-2-e-1.  Both the determination of a backward pass and the immediate clear recovery are required to reverse the ruling on the field under Rule 12-3–2-e-1.”

Foucha couldn’t get there immediately because he had a  long ways to come.  But he did recover it with Auburn’s Jackson contesting.

So not only are the Razorbacks, 1-2 instead of 2-1 as they would have been  a kneel-down away from clocking a 28-27 upset, but  tempted to feel sorry for themselves. That  seems only natural repeatedly hearing they were wronged even while preparing to host the offensive juggernaut Ole Miss Rebels Saturday at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.

First-year Coach Lane Kiffin’s Rebels also are only 1-2 going into Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. ESPN2 televised game.  But  they  have scored 125 points in three games. Ole Miss lost  51-35 to then No. 5 Florida, edged Kentucky, 42-41 in overtime and  last Saturday lost 63-48 to No. 2 Alabama.

First-year Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman knows continued sympathy for last Saturday’s controversy only detracts from readying for the Rebels.

“Well, I’d ask y’all to quit writing about it and talking about it,” Pittman said, wishful thinking accompanying acknowledging reality. “That would help. You know what, no matter what happened, the outcome was the outcome and we can’t change it. Even if there was a mistake made, we can’t change it. I never spoke to our team one time in the locker room about officiating, not once and will not today.  What good would it do? We’re 1-2 instead of 2-1 and we have to go play a heck of an Ole Miss team. So we’re going to leave it at that.”

Besides, Pittman saw plenty to correct.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Pittman said before Monday’s first Arkansas vs. Ole Miss game week practice. “We didn’t tackle well. We didn’t play special teams well. We didn’t start the game well on offense. Those things, we have to get those things fixed to win an SEC football game. And that’s what we’re going to go after today.”

Focus, attitude and perseverance have marked the Pittman regime biggest impact on this program, hapless with 19 consecutive SEC losses, mostly lopsided ones, inherited from the previous Bret Bielema and Chad Morris regimes and consecutive 2-10 overall teams from Morris.

These Hogs led now nationally No. 3 Georgia 10-5 midway into the third-quarter of an eventual 37-10 loss, upset then No. 16 Mississippi State, 21-14 in Starkville, Miss. and were a controversial play away from upending Auburn at Auburn.

They’ve surprised despite an ever lengthening  disabled list.  Running back Rakeem Boyd, receiver Treylon Burks, tight end Hudson Henry, right offensive tackle Noah Gatlin (injured his first play at Auburn), cornerbacks Montaric Brown and Jerry Jacobs and safety Myles Slusher were among starters either not playing because of injuries or injured at Auburn.

Fill-ins like running back Trelon Smith, receiver De’Vion Warren, right tackle Dalton Wagner, tight end Blake Kern, cornerbacks Hudson Clark, a walk-on, and  true freshman Khari Johnson and recently put on scholarship safety Simeon Blair among others have stepped up from admirably.

“You know they don’t say a word about who’s hurt,” Pittman said.  “Who’s out.  Who’s not there.  The next guy goes in there and he plays his heart out.  We have practiced four-deep and our players have been ready to play.  I’m very disappointed we weren’t able go win but happy with where the program’s headed. Just very proud of them.”

While not offering specifics, Pittman said he expects many of the recently idled to to play against Ole Miss.

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