HOGS practice 4 deep; reserves shine
FAYETTEVILLE - Not only Arkansas fans and media but national media and fans decry how the Razorbacks lost 30-28 Saturday night at Auburn.
National consensus, despite an SEC statement trying to explain otherwise, is that Auburn quarterback Bo Nix, with 30 seconds left, no timeouts and Auburn trailing 28-27, fumbled the ball and tried to spike it but did so backwards. Arkansas safety Joe Foucha out-wrestled Auburn receiver Shedrick Jackson for what was a loose ball lateral.
However, officials whistled it an incomplete pass with intentional grounding, an Auburn penalty that allowed the No. 13 Tigers to kick a 39-yard game-winning field goal with seven seconds left.
The SEC’s explanation did not sit well with many.
“During the third down play at :30 in the fourth quarter, the officials on the field sounded their whistle and blew the play dead. They’ve deemed the passer illegally grounded the ball to conserve tine as governed by Rule 7-3-3-2-f,” the SEC announced in a statement. “During the subsequent replay review, there is conclusive video evidence that the pass was backward. However, because recovery of the football was not clearly made in the immediate continuing football action, the ruling on the field was determined to stand under Rule 12-3-2-e-1. Both the determination of a backward pass and the immediate clear recovery are required to reverse the ruling on the field under Rule 12-3–2-e-1.”
Foucha couldn’t get there immediately because he had a long way to run. But he did recover it with Auburn’s Jackson contesting.
So not only are the Razorbacks 1-2 instead of 2-1 after what would have been 28-27 upset, but they will be tempted to feel sorry for themselves after repeatedly hearing they were wronged.
Arkansas plays host to Ole Miss at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
OLE MISS EXPLOSION
First-year coach Lane Kiffin’s Rebels are also 1-2 going into Saturday’s ESPN2-televised game, but they have scored 125 points in three games. Ole Miss lost 51-35 to then-No. 5 Florida, edged Kentucky 42-41 in overtime and lost 63-48 Saturday to No. 2 Alabama.
First-year Arkansas coach Sam Pittman knows continued sympathy for the Auburn loss detracts from readying for the Rebels.
“Well, I’d ask y’all to quit writing about it and talking about it,” Pittman said wishfully. “That would help. You know what, no matter what happened, the outcome was the outcome, and we can’t change it. Even if there was a mistake made, we can’t change it.
"I never spoke to our team one time in the locker room about officiating, not once and will not today. What good would it do? We’re 1-2 instead of 2-1 and we have to go play a heck of an Ole Miss team. So we’re going to leave it at that.”
Besides, Pittman saw plenty to correct.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Pittman said Monday. “We didn’t tackle well. We didn’t play special teams well. We didn’t start the game well on offense. We have to get those things fixed to win an SEC football game, and that’s what we’re going to go after today.”
Improved focus, attitude and perseverance have marked the Pittman regime biggest impact on this program, hapless with 19 consecutive mostly lopsided SEC losses. Pittman's staff inherited consecutive 2-10 overall teams from former coach Chad Morris.
Pittman's Hogs led No. 3 Georgia 10-5 midway into the third-quarter of an eventual 37-10 loss, upset then No. 16 Mississippi State 21-14 and were a controversial play away from upending Auburn.
RESERVES ARE READY
They’ve surprised despite an ever lengthening disabled list. Running back Rakeem Boyd, receiver Treylon Burks, tight end Hudson Henry, right offensive tackle Noah Gatlin (injured his first play at Auburn), cornerbacks Montaric Brown and Jerry Jacobs and safety Myles Slusher were among starters either not playing because of injuries or injured at Auburn.
Fill-ins like running back Trelon Smith, receiver De’Vion Warren, right tackle Dalton Wagner, tight end Blake Kern, cornerbacks Hudson Clark, a walk-on, true freshman Khari Johnson and recently put on scholarship safety Simeon Blair have stepped up admirably.
“You know they don’t say a word about who’s hurt,” Pittman said. “Who’s out. Who’s not there. The next guy goes in there and he plays his heart out. We have practiced four-deep and our players have been ready to play. I’m very disappointed we weren’t able go win but happy with where the program’s headed. Just very proud of them.”
While not offering specifics, Pittman said he expects many of the recently idled Hogs to play against Ole Miss.