FAYETTEVILLE — Sam Pittman sounded positive about KJ Jefferson’s health on Monday, but not so much on Wednesday while on the SEC Teleconference.
Pittman addressed Jefferson’s health and brought up Malik Hornsby’s week of practice.
“Well, still again, that’s a few days away,” Pittman said. “KJ threw some on Monday, and not much at all yesterday. I don’t know exactly what he’ll do today. But that’s still kind of a fluid situation. I will say this, that Malik Hornsby’s had a really good week of practice. The team is confident in him.
“So either way, whatever happens, whether we play KJ or whether we play Malik, we feel like we’ll have a guy that can go back there that the team believes in that can execute our game plan. But there hasn’t been a whole lot of change from last week to this week except KJ has thrown a little bit more than what he did last week.”
Hornsby saw extensive action off the bench in a 40-14 loss to Mississippi State on Oct. 8. In that game, he completed 8 of 17 passes for 234 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Hornsby led the Hogs in rushing that day with eight carries for 114 yards.
Even though Arkansas beat LSU 16-13 in Baton Rouge last season, the Tigers held Arkansas to only 13 first downs and 283 yards of total offense on 66 plays. That was Arkansas’ lowest offensive output of the season. If he is healthy could Jefferson get out of the pocket more than he did against Liberty?
“I think so,” Pittman said. “And you know, it’s not only the athletic ability, it’s the strength of your mind, you know. When you’re beat up and you haven’t practiced as much and things of that nature, I think that goes a long way as well in your performance. A lot of it has to be how you feel in the head. And I think KJ is in a lot better spot than he was a week ago, But I do believe the team believes in Malik as well. And we certainly do too.
“Yes, he made a great play. LSU basically dared us to throw the ball and had to get it out of our hand fast because they totaled us. They brought more than we could protect. That was their game plan. It worked well against us last year. They had run it the week before when they had played Alabama and had success, so they used it again against us. But yes, very talented team and they played sic’em ball last year against us and they’re playing extremely well this year.”
One thing that will be important for the quarterback, whether it’s Jefferson or Hornsby, is the offensive line play considerably better than it did last week.
“Well, I think anytime that you don’t play well, and our line has not played well, not very many times,” Pittman said. “I don’t want to discredit Liberty because they whipped us. So let’s get that first and foremost. But with that being said we didn’t play well. I think you go back to work. Hopefully you strain harder, your eyes are up better, the physicality part of it gets back to where we have been. I think if we get back to where we have been, there’s gonna be a hell of a battle on Saturday. But that’s our offensive line. They’re not quitters. They’re not pouters. They know they didn’t play well. I think they’ll come out and play well on Saturday, but they’re going to have to because as you just said, LSU’s front seven is very, very talented and very, very physical.”
Pittman and the Hogs will be tested on what is projected to be a very cold day on Saturday with No. 7 LSU in town. The temperatures will be in the 40s during the game with the wind chill in the 20s.
“We’re excited to play LSU,” Pittman said. “They’re playing extremely well. Really well coached. Their offensive line is playing lights out. Jayden Daniels is their guy. They obviously have a plethora of wide receivers. Defensively, a great defensive line playing well, playing really good. Obviously they’ve got a couple of kids that transferred from here in (Greg) Brooks and (Joe) Foucha, who are playing well over there for them. Love their linebackers. Just got a really good team. There’s a reason why they’re top of the West right now. We’re looking forward to the challenge though at home at 11 on Saturday.”
LSU is coming off a very impressive 32-31 overtime victory over Alabama. Pittman feels LSU played a very efficient game.
“It really was,” Pittman said. “Daniels, he handled the game. I mean, he handled the game plan. Obviously their plan was to throw the ball. I don’t think they ran it but maybe 20 times in the entire game. But he was efficient, made people miss, made big plays. Him and the offensive line were the difference in that game offensively.
“Defensively- And I really like their front. Their front four is really good, I think. And obviously, Brooks and Joe are playing well on the back end as well, but I like their ability to rush the passer, their ability to stop the run with their two what I think are outstanding D-tackles, and their linebackers can really run. Harold Perkins is going to be a highly, highly drafted kid. He’s a really good player. They’re just playing well as a team, playing inspired, well-coached, and therefore that’s why they beat some really good teams over the last three weeks.”
The game will kickoff Saturday morning at 11 a.m. and televised on ESPN.