FAYETTEVILLE — After some really bad football at Arkansas the past three seasons that led to Bret Bielema and Chad Morris both being fired many figured 2020 would be more of the same.
The Razorbacks are currently 1-2 (according to SEC), but most know they should be 2-1. They beat Auburn, but because Sam Pittman isn’t Nick Saban and Arkansas isn’t Alabama it was ruled a loss. The SEC loves them some Alabama. It is much like the Southwest Conference’s love for Texas. One has to wonder if the Roll Tide and Hookem Horns logos hung in those offices.
But with that said, they are 1-2 and will be at home on Saturday to host Ole Miss. The scoreboard operator needs to get a good night of sleep on Friday because Saturday’s game could be more like a basketball score.
Going into the season many figured Arkansas would go 0-10 against all-SEC schedule. And it was figured if they won a game they would have to play a perfect one. The first sign this team might be better than what was thought came against Georgia. The Hogs led 7-5 at halftime and 10-5 in the third quarter.
Then came a road trip to Starkville to face the toast of the town Mike Leach following their surprising win over LSU in Baton Rouge. Arkansas and Barry Odom exposed Leach’s offense and then so did Kentucky this past Saturday. Leach did what he does after a few losses tossing some players under the bus. Never predictable coaching to blame this time it was malcontents on the roster.
When Arkansas went to Auburn the general feeling was they would have to play a perfect game just to keep it close. They played far from a perfect game. The special teams allowed another blocked punt this one resulting in a touchdown. They continuously shot themselves in foot with illegal formations in punting situations. The defense didn’t tackle well at all and the offense was sluggish out of the gate. Auburn jumped out to a 17-0 lead because of all this.
Yet, this team didn’t fold like they would have the past three years. They fought back and took a 28-27 lead with 5:52 remaining in the game.
Arkansas even had the ball with a first down at its own 20 with 2:38 remaining in the game. Auburn had all three timeouts remaining and the Hogs went conservative on the playcalling. It forced the Tigers to burn their three timeouts, but they also forced the Hogs to punt with only 32 seconds gone off the clock. Auburn got the ball back with 2:06 remaining in the game and eventually kicked the winning field goal.
Bo Nix spiked the ball backward thus in what should have been a free ball. Joe Foucha fell on the ball and thus Arkansas should have been given the ball. But they weren’t and so Arkansas is 1-2.
But the point is they have played three ranked teams in three weeks, two on the road, been far from perfect and had a legitimate chance to win two of the games. Georgia and Alabama are the two best teams in the SEC and they play this Saturday.
Pittman came in and didn’t start a roster purge like Morris did here before him and like Leach is gonna do at Mississippi State to basically buy him some time. Pittman has seen player after player, key ones at that, go down with injuries and he just keeps inserting new ones in there and competing with nationally ranked teams.
Saturday’s game will bring another challenge as a team with an offense second to none comes to Fayetteville. Who knows if the Hogs can stop the Ole Miss offense or, for that matter, if the Ole Miss defense can stop the Arkansas offense. Saturday’s game could look like a video one with all the offense. Should be interesting.