FAYETTEVILLE – With Thanksgiving falling in the middle of Arkansas’ unexpected open date week, Coach Sam Pittman allowed his Razorbacks to go home from after Wednesday’s practice until reconvening Sunday.
By then, actually Friday Pittman said he was told, the Razorbacks will know whether on Dec. 5 they play Alabama as scheduled in Fayetteville, or Missouri as was supposed to be scheduled this Saturday in Columbia, Mo. or be open again Dec. 5 and make up those two remaining games on the Dec. 12 and Dec. 19 dates the SEC extended beyond the regular season to play games that have been postponed because of rosters too decreased by positive covid-19 coronavirus tests and contact tracing quarantines plus various injuries and illnesses.
Arkansas, 3-5 and playing its first eight games on schedule though with barely enough to play last Saturday’s 27-24 loss to LSU in Fayetteville, fell below the SEC’s healthy roster numbers Monday and had to postpone Saturday’s game with Missouri.
From Monday through Wednesday the Razorbacks have lifted weights, held team meetings and gone through walkthroughs but not the normal practices.
“You can’t get a whole lot accomplished,” Pittman said on Wednesday’s SEC Coaches/Media teleconference of the current circumstances. “At least us. We’re beat up and we didn’t have enough to play. If you don’t have enough to play, you probably don’t have enough to practice. Now you could develop, possibly, some young kids but we just didn’t have the numbers, to be honest with you. So what we’ve done is we met. We’ve met on Alabama and we’ve met on Missouri. We’ve had a couple of walk-throughs. So we’re trying to get better on ourselves, some technical things and things of that nature, but we have no had physical practices this week.”
Under those circumstances, better for morale to let all who can get home for Thanksgiving have the time to get there, Pittman said.
“Would we have normally given them Thursday?” Pittman said. “No. But, with it being Thanksgiving, we decided to add that day in there. Obviously, every decision we make is whether is it the best thing we can do to win. We can take a little bit of mental stress off these guys and let them come back and say, ‘Hey we’ve got two weeks left, let’s go get it.’ That was our thinking in our coaching staff.”
The Razorbacks reported no additional covid positives from Tuesday’s tests, Pittman said.
“We’re very positive that we’ll be able to play next week, assuming the SEC, that’s what they do,” Pittman said. “Whether they give us a game next week or if we go on the 12th and 19th, whatever they decide to do. We just didn’t have the numbers to play (this Saturday in Columbia) and I’m thankful the criteria was set way before the season started. I’m thankful for the SEC to allow us to postpone our game and reschedule it.”
Missouri, scheduled to play Mississippi State on Dec. 5, has already had to postpone it’s Georgia and Vanderbilt games because of covid issues. Mizzou is making up its game against Vanderbilt Saturday because Tennessee, Vandy’s originally scheduled opponent, had to postpone Saturday’s game because of its covid issues.
Alabama, playing Auburn Saturday, still has a game to make up against LSU.
As the present lone SEC unbeaten (7-0), Alabama currently is most likely to play as the 10-game entirely SEC games SEC West champion against the SEC East champion in the Dec. 19 SEC Championship game in Atlanta.
Florida, 6-1, presently leads the East with a game to make up against LSU.
Mentally, Pittman expects the Razorbacks prepared either vs. No. 1 Alabama at home or Mizzou on the road.
“We’ve already watched film on both teams,” Pittman said. “So we’re prepared on whomever it may be.”
Displeased against LSU that punt returners Treylon Burks and then Nathan Parodi didn’t get to LSU punts before they hit the ground rolling the Razorbacks into bad field position, Pittman was asked about evaluating the punt returns before the next game.
“We’ll look at some guys on punt return,” Pittman said. “Obviously some of the balls were kicked short and different things of that nature, but we’ll look at some guys and we’ll get our best guy back there that we feel like could have some production there.”