Razorbacks Lose to Texas A&M

Nate Allen

FAYETTEVILLE – Credit this to Sam Pittman. In defeat the Arkansas Razorbacks first-year head coach doesn’t jump to excuses. Even when they are available.

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He didn’t dwell on the egregious officiating error depriving Arkansas a game-sealing fumble recovery and instead enabling Auburn to kick a game-winning field goal with seven seconds left of  the Tigers’ 30-28 triumph Oct. 10 in Auburn, Ala. Pittman put Auburn in the rearview mirror immediately focusing the Hogs on their Oct. 17 game against Ole Miss.

Arkansas won, 33-21 in Fayetteville. Last Saturday night in their 42-31 loss to the nationally No. 8 Texas A&M Aggies at A&M’s Kyle Field in College Station, Texas, the Hogs and A&M  locked in a 7-7 first-quarter tie.

Redshirt freshman safety Jalen Catalon, Arkansas’ best defensive back  with 45 tackle the previous four games, two pass breakups and a pick-six 35-yard interception touchdown,  hit A&M receiver  Chase Lane with the crown of his helmet ruled first contacting Lane’s helmet. It was not an intentionally  dirty hit and used to be legal.  But to make a violent game prone to concussions less hazardous, even inadvertent crown first collisions are called targeting.  Targeting automatically disqualified Catalon the remainder of the first half and entire second half. He reactivates opening Arkansas’ Saturday night game vs. Tennessee  in Fayetteville.

Texas A&M defensive back Antonio Johnson was penalized for targeting in last Saturday’s second half.  He sat the remainder of the  game and must sit the first half next Saturday when A&M visits South Carolina.

Did the Hogs miss Catalon against Texas A&M? Of course, Pittman replied postgame to a reporter’s question. “One of the best players we have and he’s a leader back there,” Pittman said.  “I’m sure our defense missed him.” But does that excuse losing the game?  Absolutely not, Pittman asserted.“Let’s make no mistake now,” Pittman said.  “We’ve  had a lot of people out this year and played good defense. We missed him no doubt about it, but we can certainly play better than we did.”

At least this year offenders charged with targeting aren’t treated like social lepers. Instead of  escorted off the premises ejected, they remain on the bench cheering on their teammates. So both Catalon and A&M’s Johnson got to see what they couldn’t finish. Considering with most targeting calls these days, the offending hits seem more by chance than intentional, that’s a good thing.

“I think it was a good call,” Pittman said of Catalon’s penalty. “His head was down. It wasn’t what I would consider a spear. It wasn’t like he was doing it maliciously or trying to lead with his head. It just happened. It didn’t look dangerous, but when they called it I understood why.  That’s the rule.”Still tough for Catalon to take. “He was devastated,” Pittman said.  “Obviously he loves to play. Worked hard to play.  I just went up to him and said ‘Let’s stay on the sideline and help the football team out.

”After ranging from good to superb defensively  their first four games, the now 2-3 Hogs struggled in College Station. Give the by senior Kellen Mond quarterbacked Aggies and their veteran line and line and running backs and mammoth/mobile 265-pound tight end Jalen Wydermyer  a big hand for their hand in that.

“We didn’t wrap up and missed quite a few tackles,” Pittman said. “Usually that means you’ve got to get better at tackling and that  they’ve got a good back that can run through tackles. They did. They’re a really good football team.” And really well quarterbacked.  “Kellen Mond played a really good game and we couldn’t get them off the field,” Pittman said.  “They caught the ball well and blocked well and basically did whatever they wanted to a lot of the time on third downs.

”Offensively, with senior running back Rakeem Boyd’s 100 yard rushing providing his first 100-year yard rushing game for 2020 after five times surpassing that last year, and quarterback Feleipe Franks’ surprising 91 yards on 16 carries,  and running back Trelon Smith adding 30 on 5 carries, the Razorbacks ran a season game high 222 net rushing yards and total offense  actually out-gained A&M,  461-442.“We’re rolling a little bit better offensively,” Pittman said.  “I was very happy with  the effort and all those things, but we’re not here just to give great effort. We’re here to give great effort and coach them up well enough to win games, and that’s what we need to do.”

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