FAYETTEVILLE — Redshirt freshman Jalen Catalon is turned in another outstanding performance on the field Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium in a 30-28 loss to Auburn.
The Hogs lost following a very controversial ruling that resulted in an intentional grounding on Bo Nix. Nix spiked the football backward and it rolled approximately six yards behind him, but it wasn’t ruled a fumble by the officials. Catalon was asked about it afterward.
“We thought he had threw it backwards once he received the ball, and Joe Foucha did a good job of getting on top of it,” Catalon said. “We thought it was a fumble, but sometimes the game doesn’t bounce your way, and that’s what it was. So, we got to swallow one. It’s a tough one to swallow, but we got to swallow it, get back in the film room, and get ready for Ole Miss next week.”
Catalon did his part in the game leading the Razorbacks with 14 tackles, including 10 solo and one pass breakup. For the season, Catalon is tied with linebacker Bumper Pool with 36 tackles and has two pass breakups and a forced fumble.
Auburn rushed for 259 yards against the Hogs which is much more than the first two opponents could manage. Catalon talked about Auburn’s running game.
“Just one of those games the conditions were different, and we just kind of tighten up, come together, you know,” Catalon said. “As a defense, I thought it was one of those games where we all messed up and did some things that we got to fix out. But I have to note the people that stepped up and did their part, like Hudson Clark at corner. He came in, did his thing. Khari Johnson came in at corner, stepped up and made some huge plays. Those guys stepped in when things weren’t going our way and made some huge plays. But we’ll get back in that film room and see what we did wrong, what we have to fix. But overall, proud of our defense and the guys that stepped in and did their thing.”
It was a downpour at times in the first half and Arkansas’ tackling wasn’t what it has been in the other two games. Was it the conditions?
”Yeah, we were slipping around,” Catalon said. “It wasn’t the best field of playing conditions and everything and different for us. But Coach always said there’s no excuses, no matter whether we’re playing in sun, rain, cold, snow, we’ve got to be ready at all times, and there’s no excuse for us to do what we did. We did some things that were unacceptable, but we kind of pulled together toward the second quarter going into the halftime and second half. I think our tackling got a lot better, but definitely wasn’t our best tonight. But, like I said, we’re going to get in the film room and see what we have to do and we’ll get back right for sure.”
Regardless of the ending, Catalon and the Razorbacks came back from down 17-0 to take the lead at 28-27 with 5:52 remaining. Catalon talked about the determination and attitude with this year’s team compared to last year.
“There’s a big difference,” Catalon said. “I just didn’t see panic. We’re down 17-0, you know, it was easy for us to get down and blame and start pointing fingers, but that’s not what we did. We just looked at each other and said, ‘I got you, you got me.’ It showed. We came back, made a couple stops, offense strung together some good drives and got some scores, and before you know it we’re back in the game. That just showed we have the ability to come back no matter what happens, and no matter what gets hit at us we’re going to bounce back from it. I’m just proud of this team for coming back, straining to the very end. I wish there were a couple of calls that went our way, but football is like that. You’ve just got to swallow it and move on.”
Catalon was impressed with quarterback Feleipe Franks’ leadership at quarterback throughout the game.
“Feleipe is a baller,” Catalon said. “No matter what happens, I never see Feleipe get shook by anything. He always has his head high and he’s always motivating us to keep going no matter what the scenario is. It showed tonight. Down 17-0, it’s easy to get down with everything, but you saw that look in his eye that he was ready to go no matter what. You saw him string together some drives, which gave us – the defense – confidence to say, ‘We’ve got a quarterback that’s going to do his thing. Let’s do our thing.’ Before you know it, we’re back in the game. They had that score toward the end. I was proud of him for stringing together that drive. Auburn has a good defense. He did his thing, you know. I wish there was a couple of calls that went our way toward the end to finish off the game, but it is what it is. I’m proud of Feleipe, and I’m glad he’s our quarterback. I wouldn’t want anyone else on our team.”
Catalon and many of the current players were recruited by Chad Morris, Auburn’s offensive coordinator, when he was Arkansas’ head coach. Did Catalon or any of the players talk to him following the game?
“I didn’t see,” Catalon said. “I talked to a couple players after the game and went my way, so I didn’t see who talked to him or not, or anything like that.”
Arkansas (1-2) will be at home on Saturday to face Ole Miss (1-2) for homecoming. The kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. in Reynolds Razorback Stadium and televised on the SEC Network.