Razorbacks Lose Opening Game Against Bulldogs

Nate Allen

FAYETTEVILLE – For  38:37 the Arkansas Razorbacks played their best game  in years against a nationally Top Five SEC team.

Then the trailing, 10-5  nationally No. 4 Georgia Bulldogs donned a quarterback Stetson and with their returning nationally No. 1 defense covered the point spread beating Arkansas, 37-10  Saturday  in the season-opener for both SEC teams at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

Debuting Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman knew what his inherited Hogs, losing 19 consecutive SEC games under the two previous coaches,  were up against having coached Georgia’s offensive line for Coach Kirby Smart from 2016-2019.

But their former Missouri head coach Barry Odom coordinated defense more than held its own.

I was really proud of our defense,” Pittman said. “Proud of them at halftime and the entire game. Coach Odom had a great game plan and I thought our kids especially on the defensive side of the ball played well. But congratulations to Georgia they’ve got a really good football team and a really good defense.”

The Razorbacks led 7-0 on graduate transfer Feleipe Franks’ 49-yard touchdown pass to receiver Treylon Burks (7 catches for 102) yards at 8:48 of the first quarter but otherwise was held to just A.J. Reed’s 25-yard third-quarter field goal for the 10-5.

Then Arkansas had to doff hats off to Stetson,  Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett.  The third-team freshman quarterback advanced to backup with grad transfer JT Daniels injured and inserted late in the first half with  redshirt freshman starter D’Wan Mathis struggling, Bennett  took third-quarter command. He finished completing  20 of 29 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns against an Arkansas  defense wearied by 18 first-half minutes  on the  first-half field.

“When they put that other quarterback in he moved on his feet well,” Grant Morgan, Arkansas’ senior middle linebacker from Greenwood posting a game-leading 13 tackles. “He’s a good quarterback. They are a good football team. We’ve got to remember they are No. 4 in the nation for a reason.”

Pittman said he knew that from Bennett’s Georgia scout team work last year.

Arkansas’ defense, recording  first-half interception by cornerback Montaric Brown, also got hindered by its own offense.

Georgia’s defense scored two first-half points netting a safety on a failed Arkansas trick play that receiver T..J Hammonds fumbled out of the end zone, and a second half pick-six thrown by Franks, returned for a 30-yard TD by Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes.

While at  one point holding Georgia succeeding to just 1 of 11 first-half third downs, the Bulldogs ability mostly to throttle Arkansas’ offense led to Georgia in the second half prevailing by a deceptive margin to how closely the game was contested.

Not sure we didn’t get wore out in the second half some,” Pittman said. “Those plays we were making in the first half seemed like we might have been a half-step behind in the second half. I think they got a little bit stronger and were breaking some tackles. What I think happened though Georgia loosened up the game plan and started throwing the ball outside and throwing it down the middle.”

And Arkansas, with 1,133-yards 2019 running back Rakeem Boyd stifled to 21 yards on 11  carries, just  couldn’t stay on the field. Georgia had the ball over 35 of the game’s 60 minutes.

“Rakeem, it was tough sledding in there,” Pittman said.  “He was going to have to make his own for the most part today. We couldn’t move those guys. It wasn’t that they were playing any kind of special defense. They were just playing their gap and they were hard to move.”

Franks has seen Georgia’s defensive prowess before quarterbacking losses to them as a Florida Gator.

“Georgia has a really good defense,” Franks said. “That’s what you get when you play SEC football.  I thought our offensive line played it’s hard out and Treylon had a great game.  But offensively I thought we could have played more consistent.”

Receivers collided on Franks’ pick-six, Pittman said.

Franks finished 19 of 36 for 200 yards with one touchdown vs. two interceptions.

Arkansas next Saturday night in its 10-game all-SEC schedule visits Mississippi State, a Saturday upset winner over reigning national champion LSU in Baton Rouge, La.

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