FAYETTEVILLE – Many Arkansas fans were perched ready to move on to the Texas game this Saturday night at Reynolds Razorback Stadium before the Razorbacks ever kicked off their season-opener last Saturday afternoon there against Rice.
They might have been ready just to move away from Arkansas as the Razorbacks trailed 17-7 at 10:28 of the third quarter. And after enjoying the Hogs’ 31 consecutively points comeback, not only beating the underdog Owls 38-17, but the 19-point point spread, fans sat by last Saturday night and likely moved on to Texas again.
Older Arkansas fans detest Texas from bygone Southwest Conference days.
Younger Arkansas fans who’ve grown up in the SEC no doubt will learn to loathe the Longhorns whenever they and Oklahoma can free themselves of Big 12 contracts and join the SEC.
Arkansas coaches and players can wait. Coach Sam Pittman said they first faced a Sunday go to meeting.
Arkansas fifth-year senior right offensive Dalton Wagner regurgitated what Pitman resonated.
“The rule is usually 24-48 hours of holding on to this, keep watching the film, cleaning it up,” Wagner said. “By Monday, I want to say probably 5 o’clock, we’ll put the lid on this and move on to Texas. But there’s a lot we need to correct off of this. Once we get them corrected, we’ll be able to start rolling and really focusing on Texas. It’s a long week ahead to focus and just get ready for this.”
Other than one busted coverage leading to Rice quarterback Wiley Green capitalizing with a 41-yard touchdown pass, the defense played well, Pittman said. Pittman, of course, cited the Hogs picking off three Green fourth-quarter passes, one by cornerback Montaric Brown of Ashdown and two by super safety Jalen Catalon, 11 tackles, and lavish postgame praise from Rice Coach Mike Bloomgren and Pittman. The Hogs grounded Rice’s game to a net 2.1 yards per carry, 81 yards on 39 totes.
Arkansas’ offense, sputtering for more than a half, and special teams, downright disastrous for a half, weren’t anticipating rave reviews at Sunday’s film festival. And 13 penalties assessed the Hogs total, including targeting penalties banishing senior middle linebacker Grant Morgan from 8:03 of the first quarter through the game’s remainder and banishing senior weakside linebacker Bumper Pool from the Rice’s game’s second-half remainder through the first half Saturday vs. Texas, will have some flinching.
They won’t be Pittman-exonerated, but also not Pittman-berated. For they did, as Pittman reminded, win the game. And they were, Pittman reminded, at half only down three (10-7) at intermission.
That they trailed needed to be on the coaches, not just the players, Pittman said.
“We talked a lot about adjustments from our coaching staff,” Pittman said of halftime regrouping. “You’ve got to look in a mirror about things going wrong. You can’t just go, ‘Oh, he dropped a pass, he did this, he did that.’ That’s coaching. And we talked about running the ball up the gut. We were trying to get the ball outside too much. They have more speed, not size, and we were running the ball outside too much. So we wanted to adjust that and run the ball right at them, get KJ (Jefferson) involved in the run game. That’s what we did.”
Jefferson’s 34-yard run had accounted for Arkansas’ first half touchdown. Jefferson finished netting 89 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns that would have been three touchdowns and surpassing 100 rushing yards had not a holding penalty reduced his 64-yard touchdown run to a 38-yards first down.
Postgame, he reminded the Hogs of their downs but rousingly reminded they finished up.
“I told them I was excited to see how we would handle adversity,” Pittman said. “I told them I didn’t want the whole half of it, but I told them I was proud of them. Anytime you win a football game you need to be excited about it. The bottom line is if we would’ve won 45-7 or we’d lost, come tomorrow we were going to watch the tape, make the corrections, and we’re going to love our kids and we’re going to get them to play better. And we’re going to coach better.”
They’d better against Texas he said.
First-year Coach Steve Sarkisian’s No. 21 ranked Longhorns opened at home in Austin last Saturday beating the No. 23 Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns, 38-18.
“We’re going to have to put a full game together against Texas,” Pittman said. “This may wake us up a little bit more than we were. Both us and the kids.”