Razorbacks Ready for Auburn

By Otis Kirk, Special to the Nate Allen Sports Service

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas will enter Saturday’s game against Auburn with some momentum thanks to a 21-14 win over Mississippi State this past weekend.

Arkansas’ first-year head coach Sam Pittman and Auburn’s Gus Malzahn participated on the SEC Teleconference Wednesday.


Both teams enter the game 1-1 with each having lost to Georgia. But having been an assistant at Tennessee, Arkansas and Georgia, Pittman is very aware of how dangerous Auburn is despite the record.

“Well, Auburn is historically one of the finest programs in the country,” Pittman said. “And they have an outstanding coach in Coach Malzahn, and of course their two coordinators, Kevin Steele and Chad Morris. I mean, those guys are wonderful coaches and are problems schematically. Their football team has always been big and physical, just like it is this year. We are looking forward to going over there, but certainly we know what an outstanding football team Auburn is.”


Both Pittman and Malzahn have seen their teams struggle to get the running game going thus far this season.

Arkansas has rushed 65 times for 140 yards this season with no touchdowns on the ground. They had a 19-yard run against Georgia. Auburn has rushed 52 times for 130 yards and a touchdown with a long run of 13 yards. Against Georgia, the Hogs had 28 attempts for 77 yards while Auburn rushed 22 times for 39 yards.

“Well certainly if it’s raining I think the run game is going to amp up in importance,” Pittman said. “Obviously we’re trying to run the ball every week as well as we possibly can. We certainly, whether it’s going to rain or whether it’s not, we certainly have to get better in our rushing attack. We’ve worked awful hard at it this week and in the weeks prior. Obviously with a wet ball we might not be able to throw it quite as well as normally.”

Malzahn pretty much echoed that as well about his own team’s running game.

“Well, I mean, first of all, for us, we really are striving to be balanced and working extremely hard to do that,” Malzahn said. “Especially in this league, to be effective long term you have to be able to do both. So we’re working extremely hard to do that and hopefully we’ll be more balanced this week. Of course I would probably say the same thing about the other side.”


Pittman provided an update of sorts for running back Rakeem Boyd, cornerback Montaric Brown and wide receiver Treylon Burks who were all injured against Mississippi State.

“They’re fine,” Pittman said. “I anticipate at least two of the three being able to play. We hope all three will.”


Pittman talked about last week the team needing to learn how to win. Did they get that accomplished with the victory in Starkville?

“Absolutely not,” Pittman said. “We need to learn how to not get personal fouls when we can run the clock out, you know. Those things are obviously teaching moments to the football team. But it was a wonderful fun win and all those things, but we certainly don’t have it down pat yet. We’re working hard. We haven’t changed anything we’re doing. We’re trying to work hard and trying to go earn victories and trying to get better at the same time.”

What is the concept to learning how to win?

“Well I think you have to learn how to practice,” Pittman said. “That’s a key there. I think you have to learn what toughness is, you know? How far your mind can take you, how tough your mind can make you.

“Then I think you have to learn what’s the expectation, you know. Before you learn how to win I think that’s all the things that go – not all of them – but I think that’s a big part of what we harp on here is learn how to practice, learn what toughness really means. And what are the expectations on you on yourself, and what are the expectations of the football team. And then, If you can kind of figure all that stuff out, it certainly helps you towards winning.”


The sophomore defensive end from Joe T. Robinson has made a strong impression on Pittman in the first two games. Williams is fourth on the team with 13 tackles, including five solo, 1.5 for loss and a sack.

“He doesn’t say much,” Pittman said. “He’s a lunch-pail type guy. He goes to work. You ask him to do something, he goes and does it. He chases the ball, tries to do his assignment as best he can, he’s not a loafing-type kid, he’s going to give you effort, and to me, he’s just a hard-working kid who can run. He’s working his way up the depth chart. I’m just very, very proud of him.”


“To be perfectly honest I think they pretty much put the win to bed just like they did the Georgia loss,” Pittman said. “We had an hour and 40 minute practice Monday. It was a very good practice as you might expect with enthusiasm. Yesterday was a tough, physical practice. The hardest job I’ve hard is when you have what your program might consider a big win then going and playing the next week. I’d just be very disappointed in myself if we weren’t ready to play. So we’re aware of that. We’ve certainly visited about it. And I think we’re headed in the right direction as far as practice and watching the Mississippi State win.”


Malzahn was asked if this is an emotional game for Chad Morris, his offensive coordinator, who was the head coach at Arkansas in 2018 and then 10 games in 2019?

“I think you’re probably right,” Malzahn said. “I remember we played Arkansas State the year after I got here and it’s always a little bit different. Once the game starts, it’s just like any other game. You do your job and, like I said earlier, Arkansas is coming off a big win for them, so it ought to be a good one.”

After one year as offensive coordinator under Houston Nutt at Arkansas, Malzahn left for Tulsa. Malzahn and Tulsa faced the Hogs that next season.

“It was really weird for me personally that week, I do remember that,” Malzahn said. “But like I said, once a game starts, you just kind of flip the switch. But before and after, it was definitely a completely different feel.”

Is it still emotional to play Arkansas?

“Well, like I said, that’s where I grew up,” Malzahn said. “Coached 15 years of high school football and played there so it’s always a little bit different you know preparing. But like I said once the game starts I mean you’ve got a job to do. Like I said, this year they’ve got a lot of momentum coming in here and we just came off a tough loss. We’re gonna have to regroup and play good hardnosed, clean Auburn Football.”


Arkansas and Auburn will kickoff at 3 p.m. on Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.

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