FAYETTEVILLE — No. 20 Arkansas will face a tough challenge on Saturday when they take on No. 2 Alabama in Razorback Stadium.
The Hogs will obviously have to score a lot of points to have any chance at winning. They lost 42-35 last season in Tuscaloosa. They will need 35 or more this year to likely have any chance at winning.
“Well, I think we’re gonna have to,” Pittman said. “I mean, we’re gonna have to score. We’re gonna score some points, you know, to stay in the game. And we were able to respond last year. The problem is, for the most part of that game, it was we were down two, at one point three, scores. And we continued to battle back into it. We need to strike as fast as we possibly can. Last year, I felt like it was playing catch up the whole time. I think we got within six at one point. But we need to strike fast, and hopefully we’re able to do that. But it showed that we were resilient, and we scored 35. That was a big deal for the offense. We just we couldn’t hold them under 42 last year. They’re as good offensively and defensively – probably better on defense than they were a year ago – and certainly as good or better on offense.”
One key to Arkansas’ offense last year was wide receiver Treylon Burks. He’s obviously now in the NFL catching passes for the Tennessee Titans after being drafted in the first round. Pittman talked about the carryover from last season’s offensive showing against the Tide.
“Well I think the thing that we did last year that allowed us to get the ball to Burks, and Warren Thompson caught a long ball there as well, and Trey Knox had several catches in that game – maybe four or five, I can’t remember the number, but several – is we ran the ball pretty well,” Pittman said. “And for us to have offensive success, we don’t have to run the ball a lot. We just have to run it when we want to. And that can open up a lot of things for us. We did a decent job a year ago of that, and certainly we have to do it again. But again, I think they’re better on defense than they were a year ago, and I think they’re really good. It’s going to be a tall task trying to turn around and hand the ball off, but for us to have success we have to have positive running yards when we decide to do that.”
Alabama coach Nick Saban thinks this year’s offense at Arkansas is more dangerous than the one his team faced last season with Burks.
“Yeah. I think Burks was obviously a fantastic player and made tremendous plays,” Saban said. “I think they’ve got three or four guys now who are all capable of making plays, and they get the ball spread around pretty good to those guys. The tight end is a threat as well. So, I would agree with you that they have more explosive players playing receiver this year all the way around.”
Saban knows that KJ Jefferson has the talent to keep the Hogs in the game with his ability to run and pass. Saban was asked if he reminds him of any other quarterback?
“Not really,” Saban said. “This guy’s pretty unique. He does a really good job of executing what they want to do on offense. Whether it’s quarterback runs, whether it’s passing the ball, whether it’s scrambling, extending plays in passing plays, being able to make plays with his feet, but also extend plays and make plays down the field. He’s a pretty unique guy. Big. Physical. Hard to tackle. Hard to sack. I’ve got a tremendous amount of respect for the way he plays.”
The players Saban refers to includes Jefferson. The redshirt junior has completed 67 of 97 passes for 941 yards, eight touchdowns and one interception this season. He also has rushed 64 times for 274 yards and four touchdowns. Running back Rocket Sanders leads the team with 83 carries for 508 yards and three touchdowns. He also has caught eight passes for 117 yards and a touchdown.
Jadon Haselwood leads the wide receivers with 18 catches for 214 yards and two touchdowns. Matt Landers caught 15 passes for 230 yards. Warren Thompson has eight catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns. Ketron Jackson has grabbed three passes for 103 yards and one touchdown. Tight end Trey Knox has 11 receptions for 118 yards and two touchdowns.
Arkansas and Alabama will kickoff at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday and televised on CBS.