While Arkansas fans have another bad officials’ call they’ll wallow around worrying about, many will miss what really was the biggest message.
“The times of us going somewhere and embarrassing ourselves and our fans are over,” Sam Pittman said following the 30-28 loss to Auburn on Saturday night.
Pittman knew the details of the job he talked himself into last December … on the team and with fans.
There are enough things to discuss from Saturday’s loss to give everyone in the state paralysis by analysis which is going to obscure the biggest takeaway which is the Razorbacks can play with just about anybody.
Yes, the Hogs could have won over the Tigers. Probably should have won.
But they didn’t and this game will not fall into the rather large file of close misses that too many fans tend to wallow around looking at in the rearview mirror instead of looking ahead.
The latest entry in the file has a lot of excuses.
Yes, the officials blew the “backwards pass” call
The SEC wasted little time getting an explanation for the call at the end of the game which was — whether you like it or not — is the final decision:
“During the 3rd down play at 0:30 in the 4th quarter, the officials on the field sounded their whistles and blew the play dead as they deemed the passer illegally grounded the ball to conserve time as governed by Rule 7-3-2-f.
“During the subsequent replay review, there is conclusive video evidence that the pass was backwards. 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.”
“I saw the same thing you did,” Pittman said later. “It was a fumble (from the center), then a pass that went 6 yards backwards.”
Arkansas’ Joe Foucha recovered it after a teammate had knocked it backwards again and it bounced off an official’s leg as he was blowing a whistle and waving his arms, which is when everything after that doesn’t really matter.
The guess here there isn’t a single official that’s ever seen that happen in a game before. I’ve never heard of a quarterback throwing a “clock pass” backwards before, much less ever seen it actually happen.
It’s one of those things I would not be surprised to hear has never even been discussed at officials’ meetings before.
Having said all that, it still shouldn’t have happened at the SEC level but it is what it is and was just one of several things that led to the Hogs’ losing that game.
Hogs’ special teams collapsing more critical to loss
The Razorbacks gave up nine points on special teams in the first half that put them off-pace on the scoreboard the rest of the way.
Having a punt blocked for the second time in three games and losing an average greater than a first down on starting position is probably going to get more than a little conversation in the coaches’ meetings.
There really is no excuse.
Most fans won’t agree because they like to be victims of SEC biased officiating but that’s a bigger deal here than a blown officials’ call at the end.
“There were a lot of opportunities where we could have won the football game,” Pittman said. “At the end they had one more play better than ours.”
Hogs’ offense struggling at start … again
Pittman is ready to change just about anything to get the offense to start the game when everybody else does.
“We may have to change the way we warm up or something,” Pittman said. “We’ve got to get a handle on that.”
Arkansas didn’t get points until 6:24 to go in the second quarter.
By then Auburn was up 17-0.
Defense can’t remember how to tackle in first half
The Hogs were arriving, but simply not finishing tackles and the Tigers simply ran the ball in huge chunks, finishing with 187 on the ground.
Of course looking around the world of college football I’m not sure anybody has figured out how to tackle in this season unlike any other.
Ole Miss had over 600 yards and scored 45 points on Alabama on Saturday night … and gave up over 700 yards and lost by double digits.
The tackling across the landscape of college football hasn’t caught up with the games being played. The Hogs really aren’t that much worse than anybody else.
Fans shouldn’t lose sight of Pittman’s bottom line
Arkansas has now shown they are capable of playing with ranked teams.
When you beat No. 16 one week, then manage to have a loss to No. 13 that came down to a blown officials’ call, the Hogs are way ahead of the group that lost 20 straight league games.
Both of those games were on the road, by the way.
The Hogs were a double-digit underdog, didn’t start playing offense for the first quarter and a half and still lost at the end on a bad call.
That’s why Pittman basically told the fans (and reportedly his team) they aren’t going to get pushed around by anybody.
Fans will probably wallow around complaining about what happened against the Tigers that the team had no control over.
It will be more interesting to see how the coaches and players adjust what they can control.