By Jason Pattyson
Fayetteville – When fans get upset and call for heads to roll, the loudest are usually heard first; eventually, the rest of the choir will join in. The time could be arriving when the line of objectivity and being honest with ourselves intersect.
The offense is in shambles, and the defense can only do so much before the load becomes too much. It has been discussed on Hogville.net that this offense is equipped to get the ball out fast and keep the momentum rolling. That has not been the case for most of this season, and it’s too little too late.
The Hogville staff at the game today kept track of the seconds it took KJ Jefferson from when he called for the snap to when the ball was released in the first half. When that exchange was completed in under 3 seconds, Jefferson was 7-9, 43 yards, a sack, and a fumble that Rashod Dubinion recovered. That part of the passing game worked but was used sparingly through three quarters. Sam Pittman was asked about that after the game.
“No, I don’t think so. We were just trying to call plays that could get 4 or 5 yards and have some success,” Pittman said on the limited passing attempts for most of the game. “We missed one down the field that was called, basically, a screen and go, that we had a guy open. We just didn’t see it, you know. I don’t think so. Guys, we’re struggling so much on offense that you know, and I know, we’re grabbing over here, grabbing over here — trying to find something that will work.”
For the rest of the game, Jefferson went 10-19 for 51 yards in a hope and a prayer that they could pull off a late-game comeback. Arkansas has had an opportunity to win every game they trailed by 7 points in the fourth quarter and have yet to do so this season, 0-5 in this six-game losing streak.
There was hope coming into this game with the matchup of the Razorback passing game finding success against a Mississippi State secondary that was 123rd in the nation coming into today’s game, allowing 291 yards per game. They stuffed the Hog’s air attack and limited them to a mere 97 yards on a day where you saw most of the attempts late in the game. Arkansas entered the day 100th in passing yards per game with 200.7.
With the open date coming this week, it’s hard to keep the whole team on track after a performance like today’s, but Pittman is confident the staff can keep the team moving in the same direction.
“I think we’ll be okay as long as we don’t separate in the locker room. I think we’ll be okay,” Pittman said postgame. “We still have an opportunity to get bowl eligible, but we’re obviously going to have to play a lot better to do that. But we’ve got good kids on the team, and I think they’ll stay together. I told them it’s okay to be angry. I mean, it is. It’s okay to be upset. It’s okay to (be) all these things. But what you can’t do is let it separate the team.”
Pittman and the staff have a plan for the open date with the players, but it is to be seen what or if any changes will come to the staff in the middle of this season. He was asked that after the game, and his response was, “I don’t really want to answer that.”
The one statement that stood out during the press conference was whether or not to kick a 51-yard field goal towards the end of the second half.
“No. If I was having trouble thinking about 51 and where the ball was … My mind was thinking if we miss it there versus putting them inside the 10 if we can.” Pittman said. “And all those things are ifs and ands and buts. You know I went for it fourth down, and we didn’t make it. We had a fumble on it, and I don’t know if we’d have made it anyway. And the defense bailed the decision to go for it out. Should I have kicked it there? I don’t know. We’d had a couple of first downs put together, so I thought maybe we can get some … Your mind, when you’re struggling that much offensively, it changes now. It changes of what you’re… It just does. Maybe I should have punted that one too.”
The talent is there, but the fan base is waiting to see if this staff can identify what they need to do at this point in the season to salvage the final five games left on the schedule. Changes are coming one way or another; we don’t know when exactly.