FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas will finish a brutal four-game stretch on Saturday morning when it takes on No. 11 Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
Arkansas enters the game having lost four games in a row this season and the last 16 against the Tide. Sam Pittman talked about the challenge ahead with the Tide.
“We’re really excited to go to Alabama,” Pittman said. “They’ve got a great team. Very physical, big, (Jalen) Milroe is playing very good. Their defense is playing exceptional. They’ve got a huge offensive line. (Jermaine) Burton is the real deal out at wide receiver. Running back wise with (Jase) McClellan and (Roydell) Williams are really good runners. Bond is an exceptional wide receiver. They’re Alabama. Playing really well right now. Physical football team. But we’re excited to go over there and play the game.”
Alabama (5-1, 3-0) sits atop the SEC West again with Nick Saban as the head coach. Pittman was asked about Saban doing what he continues to do at his age?
“Unbelievable,” Pittman said. “I mean it is. To go through all the years that he’s done, he’s had great success but you can’t say that he hasn’t been stressed. For him to do that, and so successful, I mean, he’s the best coach that’s ever been. I imagine he’ll quit when he’s not having fun anymore and not changing lives in these kids. Until that time, you know you’re going to get one hell of a football team. Well-coached and talented and plays physical.”
Arkansas (2-4, 0-3) is hoping to snap both losing skids on Saturday. Pittman talked about the plan entering the game.
“Well I think it’s just no different than a little bit, we’ve got to get better,” Pittman said. “We have six games left. We’ve played half out season and we can’t win two games and go to a bowl game, so we’ve got to continue to get better. I think that would be the first one. Let it all hang out. You can’t beat them if you don’t, so let’s go over there and let’s have some fun. Let’s put a great gameplan together and keep fighting. In order for us to win, whether it be Saturday or forward, we have to concentrate on what we can do better. We’ve got to run the ball better. We’ve got to cut down on the pre-snap penalty. It’s not post-snap. It’s pre-snap penalties. You know, you’re going to get three or four.”
Going back to last season, Arkansas has lost 10 games with eight by a touchdown or less. On Monday, Pittman talked about how to turn some of those close losses into wins outside of the obvious of cutting down on penalties.
“Yeah, I think offensively running the ball successfully, whatever that may be,” Pittman said. “I think this team here, Alabama, rushed in the low 100s on Ole Miss as well. Not as well, we didn’t. What I’m saying is the consistency of first down. We’re just putting ourselves in a hole all the time. We’re not winning first downs. A gain of three would get us to second-and-7. We’ve been playing a lot of second-and-10, second-and-12, second-and-13. So I think that would help us with more drives, sustaining some drives.
“Obviously we haven’t been very good at scoring touchdowns in the red zone when we get down there. We got a big turnover Saturday [at Ole Miss], I think it was on the 38, and we kicked a field goal out of it. That would have been huge momentum for us if we would have went down and scored [a touchdown]. We have to move the pocket, because we can’t protect it. We can’t sit back there and protect him. And that’s OK. We know that. So we’ve got to move the pocket.
“Defensively, we’ve just got to get off the field on third down a little more often. I thought our secondary had by far their best game this year. But we had a third-and-15 and we jump offsides. [So Ole Miss gets] a third-and-10 and they make the first down. We’ve just got to be more consistent. We’ve got to help each other. In other words, when we go down and score, we take the lead, it’s time to get off the field and give us the ball back. We’ve just got to play better team football and be more consistent.
“We’re close. I know to the outside world it doesn’t look like we’ve got a very good football team, I think we do. We’ve just got to find a way in how to win at the end.”
The Hogs saw linebacker Chris “Pooh” Paul, cornerback Jaylon Braxon, safety Alfahiym Walcott and defensive tackle Cam Ball left the Ole Miss with injuries. Cornerback Dwight McGlothern, out against Ole Miss after being injured in the Texas A&M game, had a concussion.
“Yeah, I mean, you know, I think…well, we have three guys, well, we had a bunch,” Pittman said. “There’s a possibility of about five not being able to play and then a possibility of two of those five being able to play. We’ve got to see through practice, you know, if they can get through, you know, workouts or no-contact practice and things of that nature. Those type of injuries are daily evals to see whether they’re able to play or not. Makes it hard, too, because on one side you’re trying to prepare without them, then on the other one you’re trying to prepare with them, so the sooner we can find that out the better off we’ll be. We’ve got a plan, but we’ve got about five that are big question marks.”
Arkansas will kickoff at 11 a.m. on Saturday in Tuscaloosa and televised on the SEC Network. They will also kickoff at 11 a.m. against Mississippi State in Razorback Stadium on Oct. 21 with it telecast on ESPN.