Razorbacks Outraged Over Whistle Against Auburn

Nate Allen

FAYETTEVILLE – Neither Arkansas Razorbacks fans nor Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman will forget their outrage over the official’s premature whistle blowing dead as an Auburn intentionally grounded incomplete pass that appeared to be an Arkansas recovered fumble.

That whistle after the bobbled snap that Auburn quarterback Bo Nix recovered enough to spike backwards enabled Auburn to keep the ball despite Arkansas safety Joe Foucha’s  recovery. On the next play  with seven seconds left the 13th-ranked and nearly upended Auburn Tigers surpassed Arkansas’ 28-27 lead with Anders Carlson’ 30-28 game-winning 39-yard field goal last Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala.

“”I was told it wasn’t a backwards pass,” Pittman told media postgame in Auburn, Ala.  “I saw the same thing you did, the ball went backwards six yards. I saw a fumble, then a spike that went backwards six yards.”

So add this to such Arkansas fan fuming lore like controversial calls in the 2009 23-20 loss at Florida or the 1971 Liberty Bowl loss to Tennessee or plays that Razorbacks fans not even born yet but told about can tell you regarding the 1969 Shootout loss to Texas.

That won’t be forgotten.  Nor will the Razorbacks’ resurgence in the three games that first-year Arkansas Coach Pittman has coached following the abyss he inherited.

From the final three SEC games of Brett Bielema’s final Razorbacks team in 2017 through the Chad Morris era’s two 0-8, 0-8 seasons the Razorbacks had lost 19 consecutive SEC games, many by whopping margins, especially against Auburn.  Former Arkansas offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn’s Tigers since 2016 routed the Razorbacks, 56-3, 52-20, 34-3 and 51-10.

Those bad old days seem Pittman purified. Notwithstanding the 37-10 final score, Pittman opened this season leading No. 4 Georgia, 10-5 midway through the third quarter in Fayetteville.

Then in Starkville, Miss. against the then No. 16 Mississippi State Bulldogs that had bullied Arkansas, 52-6 and 54-24 the previous two years, Arkansas won, 21-14.

Last Saturday the Hogs were whistle stopped from upsetting the Auburn team previously annihilating them.

“”I told them that I was proud of them,” Pittman said.  “That they fought their butt off, that we’ve got a good football team, and that times of us going some place and embarrassing our fans and our football team are over. That’s what I told them.”

He won’t forget how with top Preseason All-SEC running back Rakeem Boyd and top receiver Treylon Burks both not playing because of injuries in Starkville, in their stead against Auburn running back Trelon Smith rushed 21 times for 81 yards and caught six passes for 78 yards with a touchdown while receiver De’Vion Warren caught 5 passes for 95 yards including two of quarterback Feleipe Franks, four touchdown passes or that linebackers Bumper Pool and Grant Morgan, five tackles each against Auburn after making 20 and 15 against Mississippi State, played despite withheld from practicing all week because of the lingering injuries they gutted through in Starkville.

Certainly he won’t forget Feleipe Franks.  Franks completed 22 of 30 for 318 yards and four TD’s without a turnover registered some tough running among his 15 carries for 28 yards.

“He played tough,” Pittman said.  “He got hit a few times in the run and obviously got sacked a few times. But he just gets better every week. He threw the ball well and he ran the ball for some much needed yardage.”

Pittman may need to recall how tough Franks, 6-6, 228, ran before replacing the graduate transfer via the Florida Gators on the goal-line with faster freshman  backup quarterbacks KJ Jefferson and Malik Hornsby. 

The goal-line package for Jefferson against Georgia, for  and goal-line package for Hornsby, with Arkansas having to settle for an A.J. Reed field goal against Auburn, did not work.

Special teams, suffering a key blocked punt against Georgia, improving against Mississippi State but blatantly and win-loss fatally regressing against Auburn, must improve for Arkansas’ 2:30 p.m. Saturday game against Ole Miss in Fayetteville.

Not only did the Razorbacks repeatedly get called for illegal formation while punting at Auburn, and twice kicked off out of bounds, but Auburn’s blocked punt recovery for its first touchdown ultimately decided the outcome.

“People are going to try to block every punt we freakin’ punt until we figure out how to freakin’ protect the punter,” Pittman said. “We gotta get better.”

Team health and depth wise it would help if the injured Boyd, Burks and injured in Starkville not traveling to Auburn top cornerback Montaric Brown got better, too.

“I don’t have a clue when they’ll be back,” Pittman said Saturday postgame.

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