FAYETTEVILLE — It’s hard to nitpick a 43-point victory, but it’s difficult to deny that Arkansas football didn’t get as much production from its run game as expected Saturday afternoon.
Even though the Razorbacks beat Western Carolina 56-13 at War Memorial Stadium, they ran for just 105 total yards and averaged only 2.9 yards per carry. It was a surprisingly low total considering they had the seventh-best rushing attack last season and returned their entire running back room, including preseason All-American Rocket Sanders.
However, head coach Sam Pittman downplayed those struggles after the game and then, after having a chance to review the film, gave reporters the kind of detailed explanation you’d expect from a former offensive line coach.
“I wish we would’ve knocked them off the ball more,” Pittman said. “We had some opportunities with some double-teams, and I felt like our shoulder angle was off. To be specific with you, the linebacker and combinations behind you, you’ve got to stay as vertical as you can. You’ve got to work that more. That’s one of the things we’ve got to clean up.
“I think we were quick at times coming off with the guard, and I think we were quick at times coming off with the center. I think we have to play better in there.”
It wasn’t all on the offensive line, though.
He added that the running backs may have been pressing, too. They saw Jaedon Wilson catch a screen and sprint 65 yards down the sideline on the second play of the game and wanted to make a play like that of their own.
Sanders, in particular, had a tough day with only 42 yards on 15 carries. The other four backs — AJ Green, Rashod Dubinion, Dominique Johnson and Isaiah Augustave — fared better, combining for 71 yards on 14 carries.
“I felt like we were trying to make big runs the entire day,” Pittman said. “Sometimes you go into a stadium like that and especially, Jaedon, the second play of the game he goes, what, 65, 67, something like that (for a touchdown). Well, then you go like, ‘Man, he just had a big play.’”
There were some positives against the Catamounts, too. Pittman was especially happy about them converting a pair of fourth-and-1 plays, including a touchdown as time expired in the first half.
“We’re not going to make them all, I get it, but we did on Saturday and that felt good,” Pittman said. “I think it builds confidence in the team, and it builds confidence in the team in us.”
The Razorbacks should have an opportunity to get back on track this weekend in the Arkansas vs Kent State game, which is scheduled for 3 p.m. CT Saturday and will be televised on the SEC Network.
In their opening game, the Golden Flashes allowed UCF to average a school-record 8.5 yards per carry.
If Arkansas can come anywhere close to that while also still protecting KJ Jefferson in the passing game, it would be an encouraging sign as it moves into the meat of its schedule.
“I thought the line did as good a job as we could of protecting it,” Pittman said. “We just have to strain a little bit more in the run game and open up holes a little bit better and I think we will.”
Injuries have played a part in that, as well. The Razorbacks were without fifth-year senior and team captain Brady Latham on Saturday, forcing Joshua Braun to flip from right to left guard and elevating Ty’Kieast Crawford to the first unit.
Redshirt freshman Andrew Chamblee also got the nod at left tackle after getting a lot of reps with the starting unit in fall camp because of an injury to projected starter Devon Manuel.
Manuel was able to split reps with Chamblee on Saturday and Pittman is optimistic that Latham — who is believed to be dealing with a concussion — will return this week.
Arkansas Football’s Weekly Press Conference
Here are several other updates from the fourth-year coach’s weekly Monday press conference, in which he looked back at the Western Carolina win, previewed the Arkansas vs Kent State matchup, gave some injury updates and more…
- On the Kent State matchup: We’re excited to come play at home, in front of hopefully a sold out crowd. I’ve been told it’s going to be close. Coach Burns has done a nice job at Kent State. They play extremely hard. I like their quarterback and running back. I think they’ve got a really good kickoff returner. On defense, they’re aggressive. They move more than what we saw last week. I like No. 5, a D-tackle. I like the two linebackers. Very physical guys. They’ve got a corner named Miller who’s a good player.
- On the penalties vs. Western Carolina: We sent several plays in, just wanting some clarification on why it was called. A few of them we knew why. We haven’t gotten that returned yet. Hitting someone out of bounds we can’t do. I feel pretty good about how we played. I thought we played a pretty clean game. Didn’t have turnovers and got a bunch. Our special teams, this is the best we looked in a first game. It helps that we have better players and athletes on the field.
- On Hudson Clark: He can play multiple positions. He has a great opportunity to start this week. But the guy who really came along was Jayden Johnson. He made it difficult. I think Hud had a good game. He’s a starter in our book whether he runs out there first or not. Hud has as much value as anybody on our defense.
- On playing a MAC school: Each year it happens. A MAC school is going to beat a Power Five. I think it’s already happened this past weekend. They’ll be tough and play hard. They’ll come in here believing they can win. That’s how it was when I was at Western Michigan and Northern Illinois.
- On KJ Jefferson’s chemistry with the receivers: The rules have changed a bit so they can throw more over the summer. Those guys catch everything. They’ve earned his trust. We’re catching contested balls really well – Andrew and TeSlaa. We need to get Broden going a little bit more.
- On Jaheim Singletary: I was really pleased with him. He didn’t play a whole lot at Georgia, so that was really his first opportunity. Obviously we trust him because we left him in there a little bit longer.
- On Luke Hasz and the tight ends: We didn’t catch a whole lot of balls at tight end. It was great to see Luke catch the first one. He’s a weapon. All of them are. But the throws, we were open enough across the middle and attacking the middle of the field. We threw the ball more vertical than even we thought we might.
- On Dwight McGlothern: He really baited that throw the other day. It was really cool. Then he made a nice return on it. Nudie is very conscious about route progression for the offense. He’s very rarely out of position. When he’s in zone, he’s very savvy. So is Hudson Clark.
- On Max Fletcher: I think our special teams performed as good as we have in our first game. I was really pleased with Max and pleased with how high he kicked the ball. He kicked the ball fairly consistent.
- On Kee’yon Stewart, who was arrested last Friday: He’s back. He’s got some things… He’s got five events that he needs to go to, community service-wise. We suspended him for Saturday’s game, but he’s back.
Watch Arkansas football coach Sam Pittman’s full press conference ahead of Arkansas vs Kent State here:
Arkansas Football Injury Report
Here’s the latest on various Arkansas football players dealing with injuries…
- LG Brady Latham (concussion): Missed the Western Carolina game… Pittman didn’t specify the injury, but insinuated it’s a concussion… Hopeful he returns this week… Participated in Monday’s practice in a green non-contact jersey
- DE Jashaud Stewart (heel): Missed the Western Carolina game… No update from Pittman
- S Malik Chavis (hand/wrist): Missed the Western Carolina game… No update from Pittman
- RB Rashod Dubinion (back): Got dinged up in the Western Carolina game, but not believed to be serious
- DE Quincy Rhodes Jr. (head): Had to be helped off the field during the Western Carolina game… Pittman said his head hit the turf, likely meaning he has a concussion
- RB Rocket Sanders & CB Jaheim Singletary (undisclosed): According to HawgBeat, the two starters were at practice, but neither participated during the portion open to the media
- LB Antonio Grier (pulled quad): Dressed out, but did not participate in the Western Carolina game… No update from Pittman
- CB Quincey McAdoo (neck): Out for the season
- OL Terry Wells (torn pec): Out for the season
- WR Sam Mbake (knee): Out for the season
Arkansas Football Depth Chart
The following depth chart was released to the media by the UA in its weekly game notes…
(NOTE: It’s important to remember that this depth chart is essentially worthless, as has been proved time and time again.)
|Nathan Bax -OR-
Var’keyes Gumms -OR-
|Isaiah Sategna -OR-
|Andrew Chamblee -OR-
- There are no changes to the offensive depth chart.
- However, Wilson and Chamblee to the start at the two “or” positions against Western Carolina. Wilson will likely remain the starter, but left tackle could be in flux, as Chamblee got the nod largely because he stayed healthy throughout fall camp.
|John Morgan III
|Anthony Booker Jr.
|Chris Paul Jr. -OR-
|LaDarrius Bishop -OR-
|Hudson Clark -OR-
|Jaylon Braxton -OR-
- Just like on offense, there were no changes to the defensive depth chart.
- There is still an “or” between Paul and Thomas at linebacker, but Thomas got the start against Western Carolina and will start again this week because Paul is serving a first-half suspension for targeting.
- As expected, Johnson got the start over Clark at the second safety spot, but still played a lot and Pittman said he is essentially a starter even if he isn’t out there for the first snap.
- There are no changes to the special teams depth chart for Arkansas vs Kent State.
How to Watch Arkansas vs Kent State
Date: Saturday, Sept. 9
Location: Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium (Fayetteville, Ark.)
Kickoff Time and TV Schedule: 3 p.m. CT (SEC Network)
Announcers: Dave Neal (play-by-play), Derek Mason (analyst), Taylor Davis (reporter)
Kent State’s Rankings: NR (AP) | NR (Coaches) | N/A (SP+) | No. 129 (FPI)
Arkansas’ Rankings: RV (AP) | RV (Coaches) | N/A (SP+) | No. 35 (FPI)
ESPN FPI: Arkansas has a 94.7% chance to win
SP+ Projection: N/A
Odds/Betting Line: Arkansas, -38.5 | O/U 58.5 (BetSaracen)
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