If it could go wrong on Saturday for No. 8 Arkansas that is exactly what happened as they fell to No. 2 Georgia 37-0.
Everything that Arkansas knew it had to do to win is what they didn’t do. Georgia simply dominated both line of scrimmages. Arkansas’ offense couldn’t get anything going and neither could the defense stop Georgia. Special teams self destructed and the penalties mounted almost as fast as Georgia points.
When asked after the game what happened Sam Pittman was very honest about it.
“We started slow,” Pittman said. “Our big deal the whole week was we need to start fast and punch a bully in the mouth and try to take the crowd out of it and we did totally the opposite. They punched us in the face and we just had early penalties. We had penalties throughout the day. Just never could get any rhythm at all on offense. I think our kids played hard. I just don’t think we were concerned about tackling them coming into the game and they bullied us. There wasn’t a whole lot we could do about it. Barry (Odom) changed some things around and did some things there and of course on offense we couldn’t block them. And if we did, we’d get a penalty. It was a sloppy game by us and I take every ounce of the blame for that.”
The Hogs were penalized 13 times for 100 yards. On one play the Bulldogs got to pick from three different Arkansas penalties. Arkansas had false start penalties on the first two plays from scrimmage. What caused that?
“You know, I really have no idea,” Pittman said. “I mean, we practiced it. I have no idea why they jumped offsides. I mean, I’m not a mind reader. Hell, I don’t know. We practiced it, we practiced it with noise, we stemmed them, we moved them, and they jumped offsides. I don’t have any damn idea why they jumped offsides. I wish I did, we’d fix it.”
On the day, right tackle Dalton Wagner had three false starts himself. Wagner talked about the loud noise created by the Georgia fans.
“Yeah, obviously the noise played a big factor in the first half,” Wagner said. “Just hard to … we made too many mistakes. There is no excuse for it — no noise, no nothing. We made mistakes that shouldn’t have happened. It’s on our backs to fix those mistakes and it’s time to bounce back from it, too. As an O-line, that’s not how we play. Those mistakes are not what we are, not who we are. We intend to never make that happen again.”
Special teams were anything but special on the day. A blocked punt for a touchdown and other aspects of it helped bury the Hogs. Even Cam Little missed a field goal something he hasn’t done all season.
“Obviously, the entire team wasn’t ready for a noon eastern kickoff,” Pittman said. “We weren’t. We felt like we were. We felt like we had a good week at practice, but they wrapped us on a punt block that they hadn’t shown us. They got home on it. Had too many guys up the middle. We only had two and they had four running by us. Cam’s first miss of the year. We tried to fair catch a ball on the seven so we could get it on the 25 on the kickoff, and we drop it and get it on the seven. That was all in the first half about the time everything else was going bad for us, too. Do we have the right personnel? I think we do. There’s just a lot of stuff we have to fix. That’s why I’m a coach. We’ve got to fix stuff. We’ve got to get better. All these questions you guys are asking me, hell I know. I saw the same things you guys have. It’s my job to get it fixed, and that’s what we’ll do.”
The Bulldogs finished with 345 yards of total offense on the day. Of that total, 273 came on the ground. Linebacker Grant Morgan talked about the Georgia running game.
“They found our pockets,” Morgan said. “If you watch the film or watch the game they would like to line up like the way we line our three down. They would line up and flip the back or the tight end and then try to hit the bubble in our defense and try to run to the open gap to make either the nickel or safety or make me or the linebackers play two gaps and be able to come off and make a play. They did a real good job of scheming us up. But at the end of the day we’re a gap-sound team and we have to be able to make our gaps and make the play whenever it hits our gap.
“Every single one of us can say we didn’t play our best game today. They came off the ball. They started fast. That was our goal to start fast and we didn’t do that. As soon we saw 13 was in we knew we were going to get quarterback runs so it wasn’t a surprise to not see JT Daniels out there. We just knew we were going to have a different gameplan and we let them run they got 10 yards on a big run. So we have to be able to adjust, to be able to find a way to win no matter what. So that’s kind of what happened in the run game today.”
Pittman talked about getting physically whipped today. Morgan certainly agreed with his coach.
“I think that’s exactly that,” Morgan said. “That’s a really good football team. So you’ve got to be able to say the facts right there. We came in thinking we would have to play a perfect game to be able to win this game. Just be us. And we didn’t win in any of the three phases — special teams, offense or defense — and it showed.
“So I think every single one of us, we were sitting in the locker room and we know what we have to do to be able to get better. We have to be able to not let this loss make it into two. We have to be able to bounce back and we have to be able to go back and start preparing for Ole Miss. We definitely have to learn from this game. … Like he said, they out-physicaled us.”
Arkansas is now 4-1 on the season and 1-1 in the SEC. Is Pittman worried about how his players will bounce back since they have a tough one on the road at Ole Miss next weekend?
“That won’t be a problem,” Pittman said. “We’re not going to have a problem regrouping. We won four games in a row, beat a 15-ranked team, beat a 7-ranked football team. We’ve got a good football team. Georgia is a helluva lot better than us today. Helluva lot better than us.”