FAYETTEVILLE – If a Louisianan can get caught up in the Arkansas Razorbacks vs. Texas Longhorns rivalry, then Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman figures his history lesson mission accomplished.
Second-year Arkansas Coach Pittman has cram coursed Arkansas vs. Texas history all week as the 1-0 Razorbacks prepare to meet the 1-0 nationally No. 15 Longhorns on ESPN at 6 p.m. Saturday at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
The Arkansas vs. Texas storied Southwest Conference past, particularly during the 1960s Frank Broyles Arkansas and Darrell Royal Texas heydays, but continuing with some Lou Holtz vs. Fred Akers coached Arkansas vs. Texas epics in the 1970s and Ken Hatfield vs. Akers and David McWilliams Arkansas vs. Texas battles in the 1980s, reflects in football present.
Reynolds Razorback Stadium’s 76,000 seats are standing room only sold out. The SEC Nation TV crew televises its Saturday morning pregame from the game site leading into ESPN’s national game coverage.
Native born former Arkansas Razorbacks and Texans who played for the Razorbacks relay stories of Arkansas vs. Texas past to current Arkansas born and Texas born Razorbacks.
Pittman was particularly impressed to hear senior safety Joe Foucha of New Orleans sounding like Foucha sounds the week that Arkansas annually plays LSU.
“Joe Foucha was talking about, ‘We need to perform well and do a good job for the state of Arkansas.” Pittman said. “And he’s not from here. So I think they understand what it means to our fans. Certainly it’s standing room only Saturday night. And we haven’t had that in a while around here. I think our kids understand it. I really do.”
Understanding their fans want them beating Texas is one thing. Actually beating Texas is another.
Though Herman was fired, he bequeathed a 7-3 that won five of its last six including an Alamo Bowl rout of Colorado.
Among the Longhorn stars Sarkisian inherited are Heisman Trophy running back candidate Bijan Robinson, 176 all purpose yards against ULL rushing 103 with a touchdown and 73 receiving yards with a touchdown.
“Robinson is hard to tackle,” Pittman said. “He has elusiveness in space, but he also runs over you. He’s a special, special player.”
Robinson and Texas defensive back/punt returner/kickoff returner D’Shawn Jamison are both Preseason All-Big 12.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Houston Card debut started against ULL completing 14 of 21 for 224 yards including 7 to receiver Jordan Whittington for 113 yards.
Play-caller Sarkisian maximizes their mismatch potential, Pittman said.
“”He (Sarkisian) got Louisiana on an unbalanced 12 set and flipped them back over to the field,” Pittman said. “They didn’t make an adjustment on defense, and Robinson, was wide open.”
The Texas defense is solid throughout, Pittman said and likely to be conscious of Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson’s 89 yards rushing with a 34-yard touchdown in last Saturday’s 38-17 victory against Rice.
“ I look for them to play us a little tighter maybe than what they did Louisiana simply because of KJ’s ability to run,” Pittman said.
Pittman hopes Jefferson’s strong second half against Rice erases any confidence drop from his struggling first half.
His ace receiver, Treylon Burks, should knock the rust off from last week with his first full week of practice since an Aug. 14 injury.
Jefferson and leading rushing tailback Trelon Smith eventually ran Rice ragged set up by Arkansas’ defense.
Safety Jalen Catalon intercepted two of Arkansas’ three fourth-quarter picks against Rice. Senior linebacker Bumper Pool made 14 tackles but must sit Saturday’s first half because of a second-half targeting penalty against Rice.
The Hogs still start two seniors ‘backers with Hayden Henry replacing Pool after last Saturday replacing target penalized but now returned All-American Grant Morgan.
Sarkisian said Arkansas’ strength is defensively “right down the middle” with Morgan, Pool and Catalon.
“They play physical and they play tough,” Sarkisian said.
Reducing penalties from Game One to Game Two, Arkansas committed 13 vs. Rice including the targets called on Morgan and Pool, are a must for their respective teams both Pittman and Sarkisian said.
Photos courtesy of Craven Whitlow, CW3 Sports Action