LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas hopes to break a three-game losing skid in Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium on Saturday when they face UAPB.
Sam Pittman and the Hogs are the big favorites over 1-5 UAPB. But Arkansas enters the game with some players injured and others playing, but not at full strength. Pittman is hoping the team plays well.
“Well, we’re very excited to go to Little Rock.” Pittman said. “I think it’s what makes Arkansas, Arkansas, that we’ve taken the team to Little Rock for so many years. It started in 1948 when we played over at War Memorial and have done it every year since besides last year and the COVID. Excited to play an in-state team in Arkansas-Pine Bluff. We haven’t played an in-state team here in football since 1944, so it’s going to be a really enjoyable weekend and looking forward to getting to Little Rock.”
Several FCS teams have defeated some FBS squads this season. Is that something you have shared with your team to help motivate them for this game?
“We haven’t,” Pittman said. “There’s different situations where I might and I might not. We’re just worried about our own team this week and getting back on track. A lot of positive energy at practice this week. Try to get poised to make a run. Certainly you can’t make a run if you don’t win the first one. So we haven’t talked a lot about. Well, honestly, we haven’t talked any about teams getting beat by I-AA teams. So no, to answer your question, we haven’t really addressed that.”
For years the Razorbacks wouldn’t play another in-state team. That has changed under Arkansas Director of Athletics and Vice-Chancellor Hunter Yurachek.
“I think even if you’re a fan for Pine Bluff, we don’t play that often,” Pittman said. “I think it helps our fan base, as well, when we can somewhat unite the whole state into the Arkansas Razorbacks when we’re not playing another in-state (team.) It just shows that we’re willing to do it. We certainly hadn’t done it since 1944. If you’re going to give money to schools to play you, keeping it in-state is probably a pretty good idea to help in-state programs as well. I think it’s going to be a pretty good deal. Obviously there’s that risk of getting beat by somebody in your state, and that’s probably the main reason why we haven’t done it in so long, but I’m all for it and looking forward to seeing Doc Gamble and his fine football team on Saturday.”
Have you crossed paths much with Gamble?
“I haven’t,” Pittman said. “I tried to do some research on him. I always try to find out about the head coach and where is he’s from and things of that nature. And he’s had a journey, like I have. Not as many [coaching stops], but he’s had a journey and I respect that he’s worked his way up through the coaching ranks and got him a head coaching job.
“I just like the way they play. They’re a very physical team, and they play extremely hard. They’re not afraid, I guess, would be the biggest thing. They’re not afraid to throw the ball deep three times in a row. They’re not afraid to go after a punt. They do it 75% of the time. They’re a very aggressive, well-coached football team.”
Arkansas is 1-3 in the SEC and also stepped outside the conference to beat Texas. So is there any worries about a letdown this week?
“I think we have to be smart with our team a little bit,” Pittman said. “Just the way we’ll practice and approach practice. I think we can keep the team involved in the opponent. We always go shells on Monday, and we’re not. We’re just too beat up right now, and we’ve got to get some players back. I don’t want them back for Mississippi State. I want them back for this weekend. I want them back for Pine Bluff. We probably won’t practice as lengthy as what we had. I know we won’t practice quite as physical as we had because we just don’t have enough depth to do that right now. We would do it whether we were playing Auburn or playing Arkansas Pine Bluff. We don’t really have a choice. We’ve got to be smart with our team. That’s certainly not being soft, that’s being smart. I don’t think we’ll have much of a problem getting ready and those things. A lot of times when you have some injuries, the new guy coming in certainly doesn’t have a problem getting ready because it’s his opportunity. I think we’ll be fine there.”
Pittman knows that his team will get UAPB’s best shot.
“The best they have, and you can tell they have the want to,” Pittman said. “They play hard. They’re not as big as some teams we’ve played and things of that nature. They’re rotating quarterbacks and things of that nature, but they’ve got speed, they’ve got enough size, and they were in the championship last year. For whatever reason, they haven’t won games quite like they did in the spring. But I expect their effort to be… I think they’ll be jacked up and ready to go. I’m positive they will be.”
The kickoff is set for 11 a.m. and will be televised on the SEC Network.