FAYETTEVILLE — Most stadiums in the SEC are greatly limiting the number of fans attending games because of concerns about COVID-19.
Florida head coach Dan Mullen talked about the large crowd in College Station and Sam Pittman said he expects 50,000 fans at the Arkansas game there on Saturday night. Arkansas quarterback Feleipe Franks isn’t concerned with how many fans the Aggies pack into the stadium.
“It doesn’t really matter in my opinion,” Franks said. “We’re going there to win a game. Yeah, crowd noise is a factor, but at the end of the day it’s not that big of a factor.
“They’ve got a great stadium and a great fanbase and all that, but I’m just saying in a sense our mindset is that it’s a non-factor. We practice that throughout the week with the crowd noise here. We try to use it to our advantage and make it a non-factor in the game.”
As a competitor you don’t mind the opposing team having a big crowd?
“Yeah. I love playing home games, but I love playing away games if I’m going to be completely honest with you,” Franks said. “I think the more the better. I think it’s fun. It’s a fun environment to be in and a fun environment be a part of. Going out there and having a successful day makes it even better. So I’m excited for the game. I think it’ll be a good game.”
For Franks, loving to play on the road isn’t anything new to him.
“Yeah, I have always been that way,” Franks said. “If I had to give you like a reason why. But to give you a reason why, man, I don’t know. I just love it when everybody’s against you, if I was going to be completely honest with you. I just love it when everybody’s against you and you go out there and you have to perform at your best. And you got who you flew down there on, whoever you flew on the plane with, with you there. I just think it’s a really big challenge and I love challenges. I think it’s just a really great opportunity to everybody on our team to go out there and play against an opposing crowd, an opposing team at their home stadium.”
Do you feel you are more locked in for road games than those at home?
“No, I think you should be equally as locked in on home or away games – any time it’s game time,” Franks said. “I think that you have to be locked in on certain things, like the crowd noise and those things that can matter if you don’t practice them throughout the week. I think you have to be locked in on those little things. But, I think you should prepare the same, everything should be the same.”
One fan Franks loves to see at games is his mother, Ginger, who drove 14 hours one way to both the Georgia and Ole Miss games in Fayetteville. He appreciates what she does for him.
“Great question,” Franks said. “She means everything to me. That’s just a little snippet of what she does on a week in, week out basis for me and my brother, showing the dedication by driving 14 hours for just one weekend game and drive 14 hours right back on Sunday. She’s everything to me. That’s my mom and my dad and my brother. We’re all super close-knit. When they’re able to get a chance to come up to a game and stuff like that, I really try to go out there and perform at my best and perform like I’m capable of. She means a lot to me and it’s awesome for her to get an opportunity to come up, so I’m grateful for that.”
Franks is impressed with Texas A&M’s defense and expects the Aggies secondary to be a good one.
“I think they’ve got good players there,” Franks said. “They’re at a big university. Obviously, they’re ranked No. 8 for a reason. They’ve got good players, they’re coached very well, and they play good, hard football. I think they’ve got really good players up front and then in the secondary as well. They’ve got guys who can cover. Some of them are quick, quicker than others.
“I think they’ve got a good all-around defense, and at the end of the day it’s just about going out and executing our offense and executing what we’re coached to do throughout the week. I think we’ll handle those situations fine, because we have guys that can go out there and compete against anybody in the country. I’m excited to watch everybody go out there and compete. I think it’ll be a really good game for us.”
Arkansas is 2-2 on the season, but have been the underdog in each of the first five games. That isn’t anything that concerns Franks.
“To be honest with you, I didn’t even look at it,” Franks said. “I don’t ever look at it. You know, I don’t believe in that stuff. I believe that the best team goes out there and wins. The team that prepares the most, the team who goes out there and works extremely hard throughout the week like every day is a game day goes out there and wins. I don’t know. I don’t really get into the underdog type of stuff, to be honest with you.”
Do you feel some are sleeping on the team though considering the way the Hogs have played?
“Maybe, but I wouldn’t know, because I don’t get into it,” Franks said. “I don’t know. I think we’re improving every day. I can tell you that we’re improving, seriously, a lot every day. These guys are motivated – really motivated – to come in and work and get better every day, as well as our coaching staff, so we’ve got a group of guys that are excited to go out there and continue to win and continue to work to win. It’s exciting to watch.”
Arkansas and Texas A&M will kickoff at 6:30 p.m. Saturday night with the game televised on the SEC Network.
One added not to this series is while this game will be played in College Station, next year’s contest will return to AT&T Stadium in Arlington.