FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas’ question marks entering Saturday’s game were almost all on offense, but it was the defense along with two breakdowns on point after touchdowns that contributed most to the 50-48 loss to Missouri.
The defense gave up 653 yards of total offense to Missouri, including 27 points in the fourth quarter, and several off sides penalties that helped keep the Tigers’ drives alive. Arkansas’ AJ Reed also missed a PAT and had another blocked. Sam Pittman was dejected after the loss.
“And on defense we didn’t play well,” Pittman said. “They beat us up. Their offensive line whipped us on our defensive line. Their receivers were open. They beat us in man coverage and they beat us in zone coverage. We couldn’t get to the quarterback. We couldn’t get either runner on the ground. Rountree obviously rushed for about 185 yards on us. We just didn’t play good team defense. We have to play good defense and we’ve obviously got to hit our extra points. Other than that, I thought special teams played well.”
The Razorbacks took a 48-47 lead on a touchdown reception and two-point conversion by junior wide receiver Mike Woods with 43 seconds remaining. But Missouri was able to drive 60 yards in seven plays and win the game as the final gun sounded on a 32-yard field goal by Harrison Mevis. PIttman was asked, in hindsight, if he would have done anything differently in those 43 seconds?
“Yeah, I’d like to pick one or get a sack or cover a guy, you know. Just like Barry (Odom) would or like Sam (Carter) would,” Pittman said. “We didn’t get any pressure on the kid. We couldn’t cover them. They just went right down the field. Then they handed off. They got down to the 15-yard line on us in 40-something seconds.
“They had a good field goal kicker. He made every one of them. So, I don’t know what else you do. I mean, you pressure him. If you can’t play man coverage, you can’t pressure him. I don’t know what you do. We’ll try to figure it out, I’ll tell you that. You know, I do know what you do. We just have to do it. Do I think Barry called a bad 42 seconds? No. But we have to cover them. And we’ve got to get pressure. I mean there is such a thing in football as winning your one-on-one battle and that’s what we need to do.”
Arkansas was penalized 11 times for 95 yards with many of those on the defensive line being offside. When a reporter asked Pittman about the two or three times being offside he corrected him.
“There was more than a couple,” Pittman said. “That’s unacceptable. We’ve got to coach it better. I have to do a better job with it. But we can’t…. The first two drives, I know, we gave them penalty yards and they kicked a field goal and they scored a touchdown off of it. We’re not good enough to help somebody down the field. I mean, we have to be penalty-free and disciplined and we weren’t and it’s very disappointing.”
Arkansas lost Grant Morgan in the second half and Missouri scored 30 points in the final 30 minutes. How much did it hurt to lose Morgan, who had seven tackles before exiting?
“Yeah, I think obviously he’s one of our best football players,” Pittman said. “He’s our leader. He’s a captain. He gets everybody lined up. Obviously that hurt us, you know. I mean, he’s a guy that we plan on being out there. He’s made a lot of tackles this year. I think about as many as anybody else has in the country. But more than that, you’re really missing his leadership, getting everybody lined up and getting to the ball.”
While Morgan had a legit injury some of the Missouri players getting mysterious injuries when Arkansas was driving left Pittman a little puzzled.
“I don’t know if the kids were hurt or not, but there was a lot of them,” Pittman said. “There’s no penalty for that, so umm, again, I’m not a medical doctor, but there was a lot of kids that got hurt and they came back today. That’s not the integrity of the game, in my opinion.”
Linebacker Bumper Pool finished with six tackles including one for a loss. The loss left him heartbroken.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Pool said. “Offense played amazing. 40 seconds, yeah, it’s heartbreaking.”
What happened that caused the defense to give up so many yards?
”We just weren’t making plays and we were undisciplined, bunch of offside penalties, some busted coverages, missed tackles, just didn’t play well in the fourth quarter and they took advantage of it,” Pool said.
He also felt like losing his friend and linebacker teammate hurt the Hogs.
“Grant is so — he knows what everyone’s doing,” Pool said. “He can get guys lined up if they’re in the wrong gaps or things. He’s always there on defense, and when you lose a guy like that down the stretch in a tight ballgame, it’s tough. But we were more than capable of going out there and stopping them. We just didn’t do it.”
How was Morgan after the game?
“He’s doing good, but Grant’s an ultra competitor,” Pool said. “Even though he got hurt and couldn’t be out there, he wished he could do everything in his power to get back out there and help us win. So, he was obviously feeling the same way we were: disappointed. But I hope for the best with everything with his injury, and, yeah, I think Grant is going to keep a good head. He’s a good kid and a great leader and he will continue to do that.”
Pool talked about what Pittman said to the team following the game.
“We got to be tougher,” Pool said. “We got to be more physical. We got to execute better. He thought we fought hard, but at the end of the day, it’s about who makes the least amount of mistakes and today we made the most. It just kills me for a game to end like that, especially with the emotions of the two-point and how well the offense played. We got to click on both sides of the ball and today on defense we didn’t. I take it personal because it’s something that we work so hard on as a defense and we didn’t get it done today.”
Arkansas will close out the regular season at home Saturday against Alabama.