Q. Our first question is from littlewheezy who asks: Did you feel the officiating in the Liberty Bowl was as bad as the fans on social media seemed to think?
Yes. Any ref can miss a call on the field but when there is clear evidence in the review process that the call is incorrect and it’s not reversed there is an issue. It happened twice in the Liberty Bowl and it could have cost Arkansas the game. It was so bad that the NCAA supervisor of officials got involved two days later and reversed the targeting call that prevented Arkansas from winning the game in the second overtime period.
But there were other issues. I thought Arkansas defense played a remarkable game under an interim defensive coordinator with two starting linebackers gone. Kansas comeback in the second half began on some chuck pass plays where there was obvious holding on the O-line that was not called. For the most part the pass rush was very good. Razorbacks were in the backfield a lot in that game especially on run plays. But then they didn’t get there, far to often it was the result of holding.
Then there was the mysterious unsportsmanlike conducted penalty called on Bryce Stephens. He got shoved several feet backwards by kansas player. I think the refs got confused and flagged the wrong player.
How about pass interference againt Isaiah Sategna at the goal line. Not only did it keep him from catching a TD pass but the ball was intercepted by the Kansas player who committed pass interference.
The good news is, as we all know, Arkansas won the game and hopefully it will be a long time before Arkansas has to play a game another game with Pac 12 referees.
After watching that game, SEC refs look a lot better to me.
Q. Pigsfeat wants to know: Did you lose $$ because of this officiating crew? Worst called game I have ever seen!
A. No but it sounds like you did. If so you have my sympathy. I’m not a gambler. My dad was and he gambled with money we didn’t have. I saw what it did to my mother so I managed to stay away from it.
Q. SemperFi asks: Can you walk us thru the process the Athletic Dept takes when addressing poor/incompetent officiating?
A. Every coach submits a review of the officiating after each game and submits it to the SEC office where the supervisor of officials does his own review. On occasion the league has reprimanded or even suspended crews if the mistakes are bad enough. This process is supposed to be a frustrated coach’s way of dealing with what he feel were bad calls. Sometimes, although it’s rare, a coach will lash out in the post game presser and usually end up getting fined for it. That’s why Sam Pittman, when asked his opinion of those two reviewed calls in the Liberty Bowl, said “I like my money.”
Q. Hogdogger wants to know: Who would have initiated the complaint from U of A about questionable calls in a game? Does the process start with Pittman then go to Yurachek? I’m just wondering how a wrong call makes it to the ncaa committee and gets reversed. The refs got a LOT wrong this game.
A. In the case of the overtime targeting call in the Liberty Bowl that got reversed by the NCAA supervisor of officials, that’s very rare. The U of A has not commented on this but common logic suggests it started with Yurachek, who went to SEC commissioner Greg Sankey who went to the NCAA with the complaint.
The purpose was pretty clear. Arkansas wanted the automatic first half suspension on Quincey McAdoo lifted and thankfully that happened because the only thing dumber than the targeting call not being reversed was the ejection not being reversed.
Q. Slobberslob asks: I just counted 24 Hogs in the transfer portal, seems excessive. A couple of them played really well in in liberty bowl, what is going on here?
A. Sam Pittman realizes that the fans want the rebuild process with the football program speeded up. When the NCAA uncapped the number transfer signings the door was opened to a quicker remaking of the program. After the Missouri game Pittman sat down with his coaches and identified the positions in need of an immediate infusion of new talent. His goal is to replace outgoing players with better players.
In order for this to happen players have to leave. I don’t think he’s running them off but he is letting them know that he’s out to replace them on the field. The process started before the early signing period and it went well. More potential transfers are coming in this week to look the place over. There will be more signings in February and a final signing period for transfers will open up after spring football. It’s an ambitious plan. Only time will tell how well it goes. But he is doing this intentionally.
Q. Logan County Hog says: Love CSP, but during the second half of our games, there’s no enthusiasm or fire whatsoever on the offensive side of the ball. The o line becomes very lazy and undisciplined. How do you think the players would respond to some emotion from him.
A. Arkansas has been inconsistent offensively but I don’t think it’s a first half/second half thing. Also maybe I’m not seeing what you’re seeing but I don’t attribute those inconsistencies to the O-Line being lazy and undiscipled. More often than not when a drive breaks down it’s due to a lost yardage play or a penalty. I’ve seen instances where Arkansas is moving the ball and suddenly the opponent jumps all over a play and I’m asking where did that play come from? But the truth is while Kendal Briles’ play calling may seem odd at times, when I watch other games I see the same thing including in both college football playoff games this season.
I have seen Sam Pittman get on his players some but mostly he lets his coordinators handle that. That’s one of the reasons he has them on the sidelines.
Q. Luke STYwalker says: I saw the Razorbacks snapping the ball with over 20 seconds left on the play clock multiple times in the 3rd qtr. When you are winning by 3 scores, there is no reason to ever do this! Run it down to 5 seconds each time and it would have shaved off the last 3 minutes of the game.
A. That’s a good observation but it also brings up and interesting point. If Pittman was shutting the offense down after getting a big third quarter lead witch a lot of fan complained about, why was Briles still running his tempo offense? The point you are making is that Pittman could have done what he did in the Ole Miss game. That’s is, dominate time off possession just by stretching out the clock time between each play.
You’re saying that if Briles had ditched the tempo offense, none of the Kansas comeback stuff would have happened.
So which approach is best? Sit on a lead and burn maximum clock time or keep trying to score? To me there’s not a clear cut answer.
Q. razorbacker3 wants to know: Is E’ Marion Harris really as big as listed at 6’7″ 340? He looked very fit and played great.
A. I’ve never stood next to him, measured and weighed him but he looks that big to me. Pretty sure those numbers are accurate. He really epitomizes the young players on this team and they way that stepped up in this game. Ty’Kieast Crawford was the starter at right tackle. He got hurt right off the bat and did not return. Harris came in and played a terrific game as a true freshman on the O-Line. Arkansas ended up with just under 400 yards rushing in the game.
This should not be a surprise. Georgia, Oklahoma, Miami, Tennessee & Texas A&M
all went after him in the recruiting process but he decided to stay in his home state.
Harris is 18 years old. What a future he has on Arkansas O-line.
Q. OKINAWAHOG asks: What is your opinion of players who were preferred walkons, got the full ride then go into portal? IMHO it seems like this is a slap in the face to Coach Pittman.
A. If you’re taking about Simeon Blair, he was a 5th year senior who stayed with the team. Helped work with the younger players and played in the bowl game. It was only after that when he hit the portal. To me, if you want to leave, that’s the way to do it.
Maybe he got some NIL money to transfer. Maybe he knew who coach Pittman plans to bring in through the portal and wasnt sure about remaning a starter. I don’t think coach Pittman or any of his teammates are upset about his decision.
Q. Space Hog says: I heard that Deion Sanders was once considered for the Razorbacks head coaching job. Any truth to that? Also, any comment on his hiring by Colorado?
A. Yurachek did reveal that in the job search after Chad Morris was fired that Dion called him to apply. Yurachek said he was very impressed with what Dion had to say but at that time he was a high school coach and Yurachek could not take a chance on hiring a coach who had no college coaching experience.
I think Colorado may have just hit the mother load. Sanders is a great recruiter. We’ll see how good a coach he is in a major conference but I’m impressed with what I’ve see from him so far.
Q. Hogdogger asks: Any word on Dominque Johnson coming back?
A. The last word we got on him is that he’s rehabbing from his second knee injury in two seasons. He is supposed to be ready to go by this spring. Arkansas is absolutely loaded at the running back position but there’s been no indication that Johnson will hit the portal. Sam Pittman loves Johnson. Loves his tough running style. Especially in the red zone. No question, he would want to keep Johnson.
Q. Marty Byrde’s proxy says: Everyone certainly wants Nick Smith back. In the event he’s unable to return, how important is it for an additional consistent scorer to develop? Can we make as deep run as we’ve made the past two years with the status quo offensively?
A. I have no inside information. Muss is really keeping this situation under wraps which has led to a lot of rumors. I still think he’s coming back. As far as developing another scorer, this team has so much talent that from game to game there will be different scorers. I don’t think Muss has to target anybody specific.
I do believe that the SEC is loaded with quality teams and there are games that Arkansas will lose that they would not have lost if Smith and Trevon Brazil were available. But there is no reason to panic. Arkansas will lose some road games but so will other top teams like Alabama, Auburn and Tennessee.
The goal will be that have this bunch ready to do damage in the NCAA tournament. It might be nice to win the SEC but that’s hasn’t meant much come tournament time lately. The more these guys play together, the better they will jell as a unit when it really matters.
Q. Dr. Starcs asks: What are your top 5 favorite Hog bowl games since you’ve been covering them? Could be favorite based on outcome, location or memorable moments.
A. I’m gonna surprise some people because number 5 on the list is the 2022 Liberty Bowl. I say that because of the way this Arkansas team, with so many starters missing and terrible officiating, beat Kansas not once but twice.
Number 4, the 2000 Cotton Bowl. Houston Nutt whipped up the anti Longhorn frenzy in Dallas and Arkansas embarrassed Texas in its own state. Hard to beat that.
Number 3, the 2012 Cotton Bowl. Bobby Petrino’s best team at Arkansas beats Kansas State in Jerryworld capping an 11-2 season.
Number 2, the 1976 Cotton Bowl. My first bowl covering Arkansas. Arkansas goes 10-2. Frank Broyles’ last bowl win. 31-10 over Georgia.
And number 1, what else? The 1978 Orange Bowl. Arkansas destroys Oklahoma 31-6. At 11-1 the Hogs finish number 3 in the nation. Should have been number 1 in my book.
The best bowl is obviously the ’65 Cotton Bowl because that win gave Arkansas a national championship. But I was a junior in high school when that happened. Didn’t cover it. Not even for the school newspaper.