FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas rallied from down 17-7 in the third quarter to take a 38-17 victory over Rice on Saturday at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Here’s a few thoughts on the morning after Arkansas’ win to open the season.
Special Teams Struggled Some Again
Once again, Arkansas’ special teams had some bad moments to go with good ones. Reid Bauer had a punt blocked and LaDarrius Bishop fumbled the opening kickoff though Austin Nix fell on the ball helping the Hogs avoid an early hole in field position. It wasn’t all negative though Cam Little was good on his only field goal attempt, 34 yards, and Vito Calvaruso had six touchbacks on his seven kickoffs. Little also made all the point after touchdowns. Following the game, Sam Pittman offered his thoughts.
“At half, I said Rice was kicking our butts in special teams,” Pittman said. “They were more urgent than us. They blocked a punt on us. We just missed a block on the outside, that’s all it was. But, people go through games and don’t get punts blocked, and we need to be those people. We need to hold on to the ball when we get it, and all those things. There was a lot of bad stuff out there that looks like as a head coach this wasn’t a very well coached football team. That’s me. That is nobody else. That’s me. We’ll get better, but I was so proud we came back in the second half.”
Trelon Smith Goes over 100 Yards
Starting running back Trelon Smith rushed 22 times for 102 yards and one touchdown. He had a long run of 28 yards and no negative-yardage carries. Quarterback KJ Jefferson rushed nine times for 89 yards and two touchdowns. Freshman backup running back Raheim (Rocket) Sanders had seven carries for 44 yards. Redshirt freshman Dominique Johnson finished with four carries for 16 yards and scored his first touchdown as a Razorback. Pittman was asked if Sanders could have a bigger role moving forward.
“I think so,” Pittman said. “I like 20, I like Dominique too. I do, I like him. But, I think so. It was good for him to get in there and play. We needed him in a meaningful situation, I thought that was good. I think that will really do something for his confidence, because he was seven for 44, what’s that? 6.2 or something per carry, that’s pretty good.”
Treylon Burks Rusty
Junior Treylon Burks was targeted nine times finishing with five receptions for 42 yards. Burks has battled an injury in recent days and Pittman acknowledged he was probably rusty some.
“I would think he would be,” Pittman said. “He came back Wednesday. He played the first four periods. He did some indy’s, some fastball starts and then he did some routes on air. That’s all we did on Wednesday. Thursday, he came back and did what is our Thursday practice, which is about an hour and fifteen minutes long. He did the entire practice. I just asked Dave (Polanski), I said I don’t care if we’re playing the Green Bay Packers or Grove High School, is he healthy? He said yes, and I said, ‘Okay, if he’s healthy, we’re going to play him.’ He was rusty, I’m sure, and he was nerved up. We knew about him, but the nation didn’t a year ago. All the sudden, all these publications started coming out that he’s a first rounder, and he’s going up the deal and he’s all this. The guy hadn’t practiced a whole lot, I’m sure there was a lot of pressure on him, as well. We’ll see a much better Treylon Burks next week.”
Arkansas trailed Rice 10-7 and left the field at intermission to boos. Pittman revealed what he said at halftime.
“We just made a lot of mistakes,” Pittman said. “The one thing I learned a long time ago is you have to figure out what is really the problem, and how big is the climb. We as coaches, we can bury these guys and you’re down three to a team you’re supposed to beat, and you can bury them. Then as soon as you score a touchdown, you’re ahead. We talked a lot about adjustments from our coaching staff. You’ve got to look in a mirror about things going wrong. You can’t just go, ‘Oh, he dropped a pass, he did this, he did that.’ That’s coaching. And we talked about running the ball up the gut. We were trying to get the ball outside too much. They have more speed, not size, and we were running the ball outside too much. So we wanted to adjust that and run the ball right at them, get KJ involved in the run game. That’s what we did. Our defense had the one bad play and left the guy uncovered on the post route, but other than that, I thought they played really well. We have to get better on defense too, now. At least, at the end of the game, we finished the game. You can’t play an entire game and only talk about the first half. You know what I’m saying? We did win, 38-17. There are some good things to build off, too, and we’ll do both of those.”