FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas and Texas A&M are set for a key game this early in the season on Saturday and televised on the SEC Network.
Sam Pittman and the Hogs opened SEC play by falling to LSU 34-31 on Saturday night in Baton Rouge. The Aggies opened play with a 27-10 win over Auburn. Arkansas is 2-2 on the season and Texas A&M 3-1. The lone loss for the Aggies was 48-33 to Miami in Week 2. Pittman has a lot of respect for the Aggies.
“Obviously, two years ago we went over there and won when we went down to Dallas,” Pittman said. “Last year… when I was here before we lost in overtime. I’m not for sure if we went twice. It was once for sure, but I’m not for sure if it wasn’t twice. It’s a series where games are going to be close. Obviously, another trophy game and things of that nature.
“In all honesty, in these close games we’ve come up disappointed more times than not. So, we’ve got to play with the same amount of passion that we had last week, but with smarter pre-snap penalties basically on both sides of the ball. Other penalties are going to happen. You’re going to get a hold, and we had one. You’re going to get a hold on defense. We had two. You’re coaching and trying to coach that, but the pre-snap penalties. We overcame them offensively besides the short-yardage down on the goal line, but that doesn’t make it right. We have to get that out of us. We thought we were prepared and had done a nice job there, but obviously we didn’t do a good enough job.”
Last season, Arkansas faced Bobby Petrino when he was the head coach at Missouri State. Petrino is now the offensive coordinator for Jimbo Fisher and the Aggies.
“Well, he’s obviously a great coach,” Pittman said. “Watching them, I think there’s a lot of Coach Petrino. A lot of … heck, I see a lot of Jim Chaney in them. Obviously Coach (Jimbo) Fisher, I think he’s got a lot to do with it too. I don’t see a whole lot of difference in this year than what they were last year. There are some differences but they’re still a physical running team. They’ve adjusted some of their line from last year.
“But Coach Petrino is one of the best offensive minds in the game and we respect him a lot. They’re doing a really nice job on offense. I think the quarterback threw five touchdowns in the first game, (Conner) Weigman, against New Mexico. So they’re throwing it well and they’re running it well. They have the same staple of physicality that they’ve been using in the past.”
Weigman got the start against Auburn, but was injured and gave way to Max Johnson. Johnson finished the game 7-of-11 passing for 123 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed four times for 15 yards. Weigman completed 8-of-14 passes for 70 yards before exiting with the injury. Pittman was asked about Johnson since rumors have Weigman missing the game.
“I think he’s really good player,” Pittman said. “They’ve obviously done a nice job with being able to keep him when he wasn’t named the starter. I think in his mind, it looks to me like, he believe he’s the starter and more importantly, the kids around him believe in him.
“Obviously, he’s got a lot of speed. He’s fast. Great movement thrower. They run a lot of nakeds, trying to move the pocket with him. He was very, very accurate and really gave the team a spark, I thought, last week watching the game.”
Pittman was asked to describe a Fisher-type team. The former Florida State coach has had success at A&M against the Hogs.
“Physical,” Pittman said. “Big. Lot of speed. I think those three would come… Well-coached. They’re always big. I remember my first year here running by — well, that’s a lie — jogging by their receivers and they looked like tight ends. I mean, they were the biggest dang guys ever. I remember we were playing over there in front of their 17, 60 thousand people in Covid. 17,000? No, I think it was 60. They were big. They just have a big team. They got a great, big team. Coach has developed a heck of a football team.”
The game will be played in AT&T Stadium again in Arlington. Pittman was asked if he preferred that or playing the game in Razorback Stadium?
“Well, if you look, and you’ve got Little Rock and you got Dallas, and they’re both home games,” Pittman said. “They’re not home. So obviously I’d like to play in our stadium as much as we possibly can.”
Outside of the Miami game, the Aggies have only given up 23 points in three games. Pittman talked about the A&M defense.
“Again, big comes to my mind,” Pittman said. “I think they’re really good at linebacker. I think they would think, and I do too, that their front four is big, physical, like it seems like they always are. Boy, they get off the football. I really like their linebacker corps this year. Obviously they’ve got a tremendous amount of speed in the secondary. They got really good statistics. So it’s going to be a really big challenge, but they’re a big, physical group that can run. I mean, you see why each guy is playing the position that they’re playing.”
The Aggies won this game 23-21 last season. Kickoff Saturday is set for 11 a.m.