FAYETTEVILLE – For stellar performances in Arkansas’ 21-14 upset of 16th ranked Mississippi State last Saturday in Starkville, Miss., Razorbacks junior linebacker Bumper Pool and junior safety Joe Foucha were named SEC Co-Defensive Players of the Week Monday by the SEC Office in Birmingham, Ala.
Pool achieved a career high 20 tackles. His 15.5 tackles average per game for the 1-1 Razorbacks leads the nation. Pool of Lucas, Texas also broke up two passes becoming the first Razorback in the same game logging 20 or more tackles with two pass breakups.
Foucha intercepted two passes, one in the second quarter and one in the fourth not only thwarting a Mississippi State drive at the Arkansas 21 but returning it 26 yards. Foucha also contributed tackles, with one shared for a loss.
The two contributed immensely to Arkansas and first-year Coach Sam Pittman snapping a 20-games SEC losing streak started in 2017, passing through two head coaches and interim coach and Pittman’s debut in defeat to nationally No. 4 now No. 3 Georgia.
“Yeah, I think it’s a great honor and I’m happy for them,” Pittman said opening his weekly Monday press conference. “Obviously they had good games and were helped by their teammates to receive those honors. We’re very, very proud of them and happy for them.”
If the league bestowed weekly honorable mention defensive awards, the Razorbacks wouldn’t lack for candidates. Nickel back Greg Brooks’ pick six, a 69-yard TD interception return on the game’s first series, and defensive tackle Jonathan Marshall’s fourth-quarter fourth and 2 from Arkansas seven stop short of a first down rival as THE plays of the game. Senior middle linebacker Grant Morgan of Greenwood shrugged off a first-half elbow injury to make 15 tackles, one shared for a loss, and a pass breakup. “Well, we may have to get the other elbow hurt,” Pittman joked. “If he made 15 tackles, he may get to 20. In all seriousness, he’s fine. His elbow is sore, but he’ll be ready to go. He’s a tough kid.”
Arkansas’ best running back, best receiver and best cornerback all exited last Saturday’s game with injuries. But Preseason All-SEC running back Rakeem Boyd, sophomore receiver Treylon Burks and cornerback Montaric “Busta” Brown all should play, Pittman said, in Saturday’s 3 p.m. SEC Network televised game against the nationally 13th-ranked Auburn Tigers, 1-1, in Auburn, Ala.
Pittman predicted Monday morning that Boyd and Burks would participate in Monday’s closed practice and that Brown might. “He may or may not be at practice today, but we feel like he’ll be available on Saturday,” Pittman said.
Going into Auburn the Razorbacks face a problem last experienced Oct. 29, 2017 the day after they beat Ole Miss. How do you handle SEC success? “I really don’t think it’s going to be a problem,” Pittman said outlining his Monday afternoon and evening plans. “You know we always have a good, bad and ugly video that I talk about to the team. I’m going to show them why we had success, what we have to work on to get better, and some things that are unacceptable. We’ll get them all fixed.”
Auburn, ranked No. 7 until last Saturday stifled, 27-6 by the great Georgia defense that stifled Arkansas, 37-10 on Sept. 26 in Fayetteville, has Chad Morris, Arkansas’ head coach in 2018 and 2019, as its offensive coordinator. Will that be weird, Pittman was asked, knowing the coordinator dissecting your team all week has coached your team? “I don’t know how Coach (Morris) will feel about it,” Pittman said. “But I was the O-line coach (2016-2019) at Georgia and we played them. So it’s not really a big deal.”
He won’t make it such. “We won’t mention the fact that Coach Morris was the head coach here,” Pittman said. “They know it. Some of them probably loved him and some of them probably didn’t. Just like any coach. We’re just trying to compete and win the football game.”
Kickoff times for Arkansas’ next three games after Saturday’s have been set. On Oct. 17 Arkansas and Ole Miss will kick off at 2:30 p.m. at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville on ESPN2. Following its Oct. 24 open date, Arkansas, on Oct. 31, will clash at 6:30 p.m, on the SEC Network vs. the Texas A&M Aggies at A&M’s Kyle Field in College Station, Texas. On Nov. 7 in Fayetteville, the Razorbacks host Tennessee at 6:30 p.m. on either ESPN or the SEC Network.