FAYETTEVILLE — Sam Pittman’s dream job was one reportedly many wouldn’t touch because of the way they perceived it.
Arkansas hadn’t won an SEC game since winning one in 2017 and was searching for its third head coach during that time. Hunter Yurachek’s search eventually led him to Pittman and now the results are showing on the field.
Arkansas is 2-2 and only a blown call at Auburn away from being 3-1. What did Pittman see in this team last summer that made him such a believer?
“Oh, the players, how hard the worked, how much they care about the university, our coaching staff, how much they want to be at the University of Arkansas,” Pittman said. “There’s a lot of coaching that’s about wanting, about selling, about all-in-together. I know it sounds a little corny or whatever, but it’s true. If you can get a lot of people with one common goal and nobody really cares who’s getting the credit, who’s doing this – because you’ve seen our team, one week it’s this guy, next week it’s that guy – and you can have a pretty good team. This is a great league, a physical league. We understand that, but I also said from Day 1 that we’re the University of Arkansas, we damn sure belong in the SEC. And we do.”
Arkansas coming off a 1-23 record in the SEC the past three years was picked last in the SEC West again this year. Pittman said he isn’t surprised by Arkansas’ success so far.
“Hell, I thought we were going to win them all,” Pittman said. “I don’t know. You know, I’ll tell you this, when Hunter told me we drew Florida and Georgia from the East, I was probably down for about two or three seconds. Look, there’s not really any pressure on us. The expectations weren’t high outside the building. But in the athletic department and in our locker room, they’re as high as they possibly can be. I’m not surprised that we beat Ole Miss today. I wasn’t surprised we beat Mississippi State. I wasn’t surprised we were in the ball game at Auburn. But I don’t know as much about what happened over the last three years here. I don’t. But I knew that this was Arkansas and this was where the University of Arkansas is supposed to be on the football field.”
Due to COVID concerns, stadiums are limiting the size of crowds attending games. Pittman praised Arkansas’ crowd that showed up on Saturday to witness the first SEC home win since Nov. 5, 2016.
“Well, I thought it was incredible,” Pittman said. “However many we were allowed to bring in there, they were loud now and excited, like you’re supposed to be at Arkansas. On the sidelines, coming in, they were all yelling at me. Hell, I didn’t do nothing. I just stood out there, watched the game, had a good time, had the best seat in the house and everybody’s, ‘Hey coach!’ I mean, ‘ol Clark got three picks and Morgan took one back. I didn’t do nothing. They were so excited. It was just fun. It’s what college football’s like. We needed to experience that. It was fun.”
Pittman is now 1-1 in Reynolds Razorback Stadium. They lost the season opener to Georgia. Pittman talked about getting the first home win.
“Oh, it was awesome,” Pittman said. “The crowd was neat. We went over there and celebrated with the student section. I talked to Tera and she tried to get me to cry, which she was close. But it was awesome. You know, you come here to experience those type of experiences that was today. We certainly want to do the every time we step out there. To have that first win out there was really special.”
Arkansas will now have two weeks to prepare for Texas A&M on Oct. 31 at 6:30 p.m. and televised on the SEC Network. Pittman talked about how the team has to use the open week.
“Well we have to get healthy,” Pittman said. “We definitely have to get healthy. So we won’t do as much hitting as maybe teams in my past that I’ve been associated have. You’d say we need to develop young kids. Well the young kids are being developed right out there in the stadium, heh-heh, on Saturday you know, so I don’t think that’s needed to be done next week. We need to get healthy. We have a six-game stretch coming up and we have to be a healthy football team. We also have to get ready for A&M. We can do that, certainly and we have a good plan for that.”
Do you think during this two-week window you can get cornerback Montaric Brown, linebacker Bumper Pool and defensive end Dorian Gerald back from the injured list?
“Yes,” Pittman said.
Arkansas’ next home game is Tennessee at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 7. The network for the game to be televised is still to be determined. It will reportedly be on either ESPN or the SEC Network.