FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas’ defense produced another outstanding game on Saturday in a 20-10 win over Texas A&M.
The Arkansas defense limited Texas A&M to 272 yards of total offense. Sam Pittman was pleased with how the defense played particularly defensive end Tre Williams who had four tackles, two for loss, a pair of sacks and three quarterback hurries.
“Tre Williams was a big difference in the game, in my opinion,” Pittman said. “Defense
overall, they held them at 10 points. Really, they had the one long run. And we gave up a field
goal right before half. Which, you know, is going to happen. They had the one long run on
third and 2, I believe it was, and other than that, our defense played outstanding.
“You know, if you look at our defense, they’re going to line up and it’s going to look like, man,
you could just run the heck out of the ball. You know, you got three guys, they got eight guys
everywhere. But that not necessarily has been the case. So Coach [Barry] Odom and his staff
on that side of the ball did an outstanding job, but the kids executed the plan. They kept us in
the game all night. And we knew they had to coming in, because we knew A&M’s reputation on
defense. It was basically our defense versus their defense and which offense can score more
points. And fortunately, we did.”
Texas A&M running back Isaiah Spiller seemed to be have involved in a different game than the one we watched on Saturday. Spiller rushed 12 times for 95 yards and a touchdown. Following the game he had this to say about Arkansas’ game plan on defense.
“If I’m being honest with you, it really wasn’t — we just hurt ourselves,” Spiller said. “That was the whole point. They never stopped us. We hurt ourselves with penalties and holdings and stuff like that. They never stopped us. So just got to move on.”
Really? If we are going to pretend then lets look at what would have been Texas A&M’s stats if one took away Spiller’s 67-yard touchdown run. That would have left the Aggies with 205 yards of total offense for the game. It seems a little far fetched for Spiller to claim Arkansas never stopped them. In fairness to Spiller he did admit the Hogs outplayed them when asked about the feeling of losing a game which is something the Aggies hadn’t experienced in quite some time.
“It’s not good, but it’s a learning curve,” Spiller said. “I feel like we got to learn from it, keep moving forward. We can’t ponder on it too long. Arkansas did a great job today, played better than us. So we’ve just got to come out Monday and be more focused.”
Pittman credited Arkansas’ toughness for the Hogs being able to come out on top in the game for the first time in 10 years.
“I think our toughness showed tonight. I mean, we had some guys who got hurt,” Pittman said. “We needed to get a rush in a three-man line. And Tre Williams and [John] Ridgeway and those guys and
[Markell] Utsey and a bunch of guys got to the quarterback. The game plan worked.
“And then when we had injury, the guys that were second team came in and performed well. So, I mean, we’ve got a tough football team. I’m proud of that fact. And what happens, win or loss, you know, we’re all really proud that we have a physical football team that’s tough and that prides themself in being tough.”
Montaric Brown had a big interception that set up the Hogs to eventually move into field goal position for Cam Little.
“I mean, the two-score part of it was huge,” Pittman said. “We needed to get to 10 somehow. Before anybody asked me, I would have went for that fourth and 1 again. I thought at that point we could get ahead of them at 24-0 at half. And I thought we would deflate them. So I was wrong, but I’d do it again.
“But when Mo picked that pass and we went down and went up 10, the clock was on our
side at that point. And then I was really proud of the way that we ended the game offensively,
you know. Where we could kneel it out with the ball.”
Pittman has gotten great play from his trio of senior linebackers all season. Grant Morgan, Bumper Pool and Hayden have played as well as any group in the nation. Pittman was asked what allowed the three-man front to work so well?
“Linebackers,” Pittman said. “It’s a race to the ball. I mean, you got an edge setter. I really loved what we were trying to get accomplished in our three-down line this week with our ends. And you guys that watch tape, you’ll figure it out what we were trying to do there. But our linebackers, they can run. And you know, we’re a pretty good team whether you have, you know, five safeties back there or four, you know, five DBs with three safeties or four DBs with two safeties. Pretty good football team.
“And I think Barry [Odom] does such a good job of their guessing what the heck are we going to do that week. This one here was a nose with two five techniques. Before it was a shade, a three, a five. Then it was a pair of four eyes, a nose. I mean, then it was a pair of threes and a nose. This week we decided we needed to get rushed with 55 and 56 and 0. So we needed to put them a little bit wider.”
One of those linebackers, Morgan, offered some insight to what made the defense work so well on Saturday.
“The way we got it done was literally just preparation,” Morgan said. “We were the same us that we’ve been week in, week out. As a defense, we know what we had to do, we had to stop the run. We knew we had to limit explosive plays. I think we did a good job at that.
“I know that’s a really good football team that we just beat so, hats off to them. They played a good game. We did a really good job, kind of sticking it to ourselves and making sure we were the enthusiastic team of the bunch. We were always having more energy than them. That’s what our goal was. So always did a good job.”
Morgan and Henry are two of the super seniors who returned for this season.
“Yeah, wins like this are why you come back,” Morgan said. “Like, this is why I came back. It’s why Hayden came back. We saw what this could have been. We saw this was a possibility from last year’s team with Pittman and the crew.
“I’ll tell you right now, there’s not a single person in that locker room that’s a super senior that says, aw, dang, I wish I would have left. So I’m excited to be able to be a part of this group that’s changing the history or changing how the momentum was going in Arkansas football and how we’re starting a new path.
“I’m excited to be able to be in that spot to say younger guys, this is how you win. This is how you continue to win. And we have to continue to do that. Our job is not done. We are 4-0, but we have a big test next week. So we’re going to celebrate this tonight and be able to hang out. And then worry about the next win tomorrow.”
No. 8 Arkansas will face No. 2 Georgia on Saturday in Athens. Kickoff is set for 11 am CT and televised on ESPN.