At least a segment of the Florida football fan base is hoping history repeats itself when it comes to Arkansas football coach Sam Pittman.
With the Gators experiencing some of the same struggles in the trenches as the Razorbacks ahead of Saturday’s Arkansas vs Florida showdown, some fans in Gainesville would like to fire offensive line coaches Rob Sale and Darnell Stapleton. (Yes, they have two.)
Their dream scenario, it seems, would be to then replace them with Pittman — assuming things continue going south and Arkansas decides to move on from him following the season. Or at least that’s the talk on the message boards.
“Florida fans have been trying to fire their two offensive live coaches and hoping that Sam Pittman gets fired,” Florida beat writer Nick de la Torre said on this week’s episode of the Stadium and Gale podcast. “That’s been in the works in the Florida fan base for like a month now.”
Interestingly, Pittman has actually left Arkansas to replace Sale in the past, albeit in much different circumstances.
After three seasons as the Razorbacks’ offensive line coach, he took the same position at Georgia on Kirby Smart’s staff following the 2015 season. He inherited a room coached by Sale, who was part of Mark Richt’s staff.
“It was uncomfortable for him, really it was uncomfortable for me, too, but he handled it like a champion,” Pittman said on Wednesday. “Kirby asked us to go in there and watch them during their bowl prep for Penn State that year and we went in there and obviously he was the coach and we were professional and talked and he told me about his guys there.”
Considering Pittman’s bonafides as one of the best offensive line coaches in the country who has produced numerous NFL Draft picks, it shouldn’t be surprising that Florida isn’t the only SEC school hoping to scoop him up if he isn’t back at Arkansas in 2024.
In late October, a writer for USA Today’s Aggies Wire even published a story stating Texas A&M “should” pursue him to be its next offensive line coach — which would be pretty wild considering the Aggies already have one former Arkansas football head coach on its staff in offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino.”
“We have yet to determine how things will unfold in the coming months regarding his future with the Razorbacks, but if things do indeed go south, Jimbo needs to pick up the phone,” Cameron Ohnysty wrote.
|Stat||Arkansas (rank)||Florida (rank)||Texas A&M (rank)|
|Total Yards/Play||4.71 (123rd)||6.15 (45th)||5.90 (57th)|
|Rush Yards/Carry||2.93 (126th)||4.11 (t-81st)||3.86 (96th)|
|Sacks Allowed/Game||3.88 (t-124th)||2.88 (t-111th)||2.13 (t-74th)|
|Red Zone TD%||66.7% (t-36th)||69.7% (27th)||51.4% (t-112th)|
Of course, Arkansas football fans would probably prefer neither of those fantasies come true. They’d rather the renowned OL coach-turned-head coach figure out the Razorbacks’ unit and win a few games down the stretch.
That starts with Saturday’s trip to Gainesville, Fla., for an 11 a.m. CT kickoff at The Swamp. You can watch the game on ESPN2 and follow along below for updates from Arkansas vs Florida…
LIVE UPDATES — Arkansas vs Florida
Florida’s leading tackler, linebacker Shemar James, will miss the Arkansas vs Florida game and the rest of the season because of a dislocated kneecap that required season-ending surgery.
The Gators will also be without a pair of starters on their defensive line — defensive tackle Cam Jackson and defensive end Tyreak Sapp.
Sam Pittman provided an encouraging update on running back Rocket Sanders on Wednesday, indicating that he should be able to play Saturday. He has missed the last two games after missing three games earlier in the year. Pittman also recently said that backup quarterback Jacolby Criswell has been getting extra reps in practice.
According to Tom Murphy of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Sanders made the trip to Gainesville and should be available. However, the Razorbacks will be without running back Rashod Dubinion, who is attending his grandmother’s funeral.
Arkansas is still the underdog, but the spread has fallen all the way to 2.5 points on BetSaracen. It opened at 6.5 earlier this week and has steadily dropped.
12:06, 1Q – Arkansas 7, Florida 0
On his first drive as the offensive coordinator, Kenny Guiton guided Arkansas 75 yards down the field on just seven plays. It was capped by an 8-yard touchdown pass from KJ Jefferson to AJ Green.
11:54, 1Q – Arkansas 14, Florida 0
Florida completed a pass for 9 yards on its first play, but Jaylon Braxton stripped it and took it 34 yards to the house.
5:33, 1Q – Arkansas 14, Florida 7
Three-and-outs by both teams resulted in Florida getting some excellent field position, as Isaiah Sategna let the punt bounce past him and then Florida’s returner got to the ARK33. It took the Gators six plays to cover those 33 yards, capped by a 19-yard touchdown pass from Graham Mertz to Eugene Wilson III on third down out of a timeout.
2:04, 1Q – Arkansas 14, Florida 14
A 40-yard punt return by Ricky Pearsall once again set up the Gators in Arkansas territory. This time, Florida covered 42 yards in four plays. Mertz actually threw a pair of touchdowns to Wilson to cap the drive, but the first was wiped out because of offsetting penalties. The second was a 6-yard score to tie it up.
END of 1Q – Arkansas 14, Florida 14
4:39, 2Q – Arkansas 17, Florida 14
KJ Jefferson hit Andrew Armstrong on a deep ball to gain 45 yards, but Arkansas’ drive stalled in the red zone. It had to settle for a 37-yard field goal by Cam Little to regain the lead.
0:29, 2Q – Arkansas 17, Florida 17
The Razorbacks gave up a third-down conversion to keep the drive alive for Florida, but did get a stop to limit the Gators to a 47-yard field goal.
HALF – Arkansas 17, Florida 17
10:34, 3Q – Arkansas 20, Florida 17
A big 48-yard catch and run by Andrew Armstrong eventually set up a 41-yard field goal by Cam Little to put the Hogs back on top.
1:38, 3Q – Florida 23, Arkansas 20
The Razorbacks had some momentum, but AJ Green fumbled it away and Florida scored on the very next play. It was a 32-yard touchdown pass from Mertz to Pearsall. The Gators botched the PAT, though.
END of 3Q – Florida 23, Arkansas 20
12:54, 4Q – Florida 23, Arkansas 23
The Razorbacks got inside the 10 before stalling out and settling for a 22-yard field goal by Little. That ties the game again.
7:58, 4Q – Florida 26, Arkansas 23
Florida got into the red zone, but Arkansas’ defense stiffened and limited the damage to a 34-yard field goal.
4:26, 4Q – Arkansas 30, Florida 26
KJ Jefferson did a lot of damage with his legs on this drive, capped by a 25-yard touchdown scamper. That puts the Hogs up by four.
3:02, 4Q – Florida 33, Arkansas 30
The Gators needed only three plays to cover 72 yards and go back on top. Trevor Etienne scored on a 26-yard run after picking up 41 yards on a short pass.
0:44, 4Q – Florida 33, Arkansas 33
Penalties cost Arkansas a chance at a go-ahead touchdown, but Cam Little was able to boot a 49-yard field goal to at least tie it up.
END of 4Q – Florida 33, Arkansas 33
Florida missed a potential game-winning 44-yard field goal in the closing seconds, sending the game to overtime.
OT1 – Florida 36, Arkansas 33
The Gators failed to move the chains, but did get a 39-yard field goal. Now Arkansas will get a chance to either win or force a second overtime.
FINAL – Arkansas 39, Florida 36 (OT)
KJ Jefferson hit Tyrone Broden for a 4-yard touchdown to win the game.
How to Watch Arkansas vs Florida
Date: Saturday, Nov. 4
Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (Gainesville, Fla.)
Kickoff Time and TV Schedule: 11 a.m. CT (ESPN2)
Announcers: Roy Philpott (play-by-play), Roddy Jones (color analyst), Taylor McGregor (sideline reporter)
Arkansas’ Rankings: NR (AP) | NR (Coaches) | No. 48 (SP+) | No. 34 (FPI)
ESPN FPI: Florida has an 51.6% chance to win
SP+ Projection: Florida has a 63% chance to win, favored by 5.8 (proj. score: 30-24)
Odds/Betting Line: Florida, -5.5 | O/U 50.5 (BetSaracen)
For talk of some Florida football fans who dislike Billy Napier wanting Arkansas to win, start watching at 31:15 here:
More coverage of Arkansas football from BoAS…