FAYETTEVILLE — No. 17 Arkansas is back in Reynolds Razorback Stadium on Saturday to host Auburn in a key SEC game for both teams.
Both enter the contest with 4-2 marks. Arkansas is 1-2 in the SEC and Auburn is 1-1. Sam Pittman knows this is a big game for his team.
“We’re looking forward to playing Auburn,” Pittman said. “We’re looking forward to being back home. Auburn’s only two losses have been to two Top 7 teams in the country. They have a really, really good football team. Four of the five O-linemen coming back with (QB Bo) Nix is a superstar. Tank Bigsby is as good as any running back in the nation and obviously they have some talented wideouts. On defense, their D-linemen are playing like Auburn. I’ve been in this league a long time and their D-linemen are playing very well. Their linebackers obviously run to the ball. Smoke Monday is a special player. We look forward to playing but we know they have just a very, very good football team.”
Bigsby has rushed 84 times for 458 yards and five touchdowns. Auburn’s leading rusher is Jarquez Hunter who has carried 47 times for 465 yards and three touchdowns. Pittman talked about how they plan to try and stop Bigsby.
“Well, it’s going to be very crucial,” Pittman said. “We have to tackle him. As you’re watching the tape, there’s a lot of people who had trouble with him too. I can just remember from rewatching the game as well from last year, we just couldn’t get him on the ground. He has those big, strong, powerful legs. And he’s just special. I don’t know him personally, but he’s special. He’s a special player, and we’re going to have to get more than one guy around him, and that’s hard to do because their line is playing so well. But we’re going to have to gang tackle him is what we’re going to have to do. We’re going to have to get a lot of guys around him and help each other get him on the ground because he is that special of a player.”
Pittman talked about the type running team Auburn is with Bigsby, Hunter and Shaun Shivers.
“I think they’re a big inside zone team,” Pittman said. “Really, they’re hitting it straight downhill. A lot of cutback on that inside zone and basically they’re letting Bigsby and Hunter and Shivers they’re letting them get their shoulders square and hit it. They’re hard to stop for less than four or five yards when they get to that point.
“They have a variation. They run a little truck play, where it’s down, down, kick-out, a little toss. They do a lot of zone read with Nix and let him be a runner as well. They have a lot of little inside fly sweeps. Not a huge get the ball outside team unless they’re doing it with somebody other than the backs you know. A lot of naked off of their zone scheme. It looked to me a little bit, very similar to what we were doing maybe at Georgia when I was there those four years.
“I know Coach (Mike) Bobo came. Him and Kirby are really good friends and he came to practices and things of that nature. What a really great man he is. He’s a great guy. Third-down package looks pretty similar to what we were doing at Georgia. A lot of quick tosses outside, trying to get the end to bite and just out-run him for the first down. Some things of that nature.”
Nix has completed 107 of 185 passes for 1,196 yards and six touchdowns with just one interception. He also has carried 35 times for 117 yards and a touchdown.
“I think he’s incredible, Bo,” Pittman said. “I mean, extends plays as good as anybody in the country. I mean you can’t get him on the ground. You know we’re going to have to work a ton of scramble drill because he extends plays. Certainly he’s fast. I just really like him and think he’s a big-time competitor. But yeah, I mean those are things … we’re real concerned about him running the football as well.”
The Razorbacks and Auburn will kickoff at 11 a.m. on Saturday and televised on CBS.