The entire Arkansas football faithful drew a collective gasp of horror on Saturday against Texas A&M. The Hogs were near midfield and facing a fourth-and-1, with time winding down in the first half.
They go for it. Guts poker. By golly, it was time to impose their will on the Aggies – from the shotgun…..
I don’t know if Sam Pittman or Dan Enos go to Vegas much, but if they do, I wouldn’t be surprised if they ask the dealer for a hit when they’ve got a 10 showing and a two underneath.
After having tried this maneuver just two weeks before in a home loss to BYU and subsequently suffering the wrath of not only commentators on TV and in print, but of nearly the entire fan base, it’s unconscionable that Pittman and Enos tried it again, against a much better defense no less.
Were they trying to flip the bird to all who had questioned the questionable call? Even if it had worked and they’d extended the middle finger to all of humankind, it was still a bad call, especially when your quarterback weighs 247 pounds and is strong as an ox, which should dictate that a QB sneak works better for this team than most.
Naturally, of course, Arkansas got stopped short. Texas A&M, in turn, scored. The Aggies went into halftime leading 17-6, instead of 10-6, and they got a helluva lot of momentum to crush the Hogs in the second half.
Sam Pittman on the Hot Seat?
The Hogs now have seven games to win four and gain bowl eligibility. With road games at Ole Miss and Alabama on tap, saying the road ahead is bumpy is like saying Walmart is a big retailer.
And yes, Sam Pittman’s future is now officially in question.
After rescuing the Chad Morris Hogs from below the cellar of the SEC, it looked like Pittman had this program headed in the right direction. However, if the world ends tomorrow, the pinnacle of the Pittman era will have been a 9-4 finish including a win over Penn State in the Outback Bowl in 2021.
(Incidentally, while in scoring position, the Hogs took a knee at the end of that game, unlike Jimbo Fisher/Bobby Petrino on Saturday, which qualifies as one of the most classless moves in recent SEC memory, but I digress….)
The 2021 Arkansas football season gave way to a 6-6 regular season last year with a Liberty Bowl win over Kansas, a university whose sports highlights are almost solely confined to the hardwood.
Now, at 2-3, the question is how hot should Sam Pittman’s seat be?
In this humble writer’s opinion, I’d say it’s right there in the fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk range.
Arkansas Offense Sputters Under Dan Enos
A big reason for that is how constipated the Arkansas offense looks so far. I’ve made my thoughts on offensive coordinator Dan Enos known to the world since he inked his deal in January. Unfortunately, I was more correct than I thought I would be. To a large degree, Pittman’s posterior has Enos to thank for its temperature.
Without going into all the details, I’ll just say (again) that an average Dan Enos offense puts up about 28 points per game. The only team in the SEC that finished with a winning record while averaging less than 30 last year was Kentucky at 7-6.
And I have to throw in one more thing about the alleged quarterback whisperer. He’s coached something like 857 current NFL quarterbacks, but if he’s improved KJ Jefferson’s NFL draft stock, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle. In fact, from where I sit, Dan Enos has taken a great quarterback and made him average.
However, Pittman’s problems extend beyond Enos. According to HawgSports’ Danny West, “No one in the SEC has had more 10-penalty games than Arkansas over the last three years.” This includes a portion of the Sam Pittman/Kendal Briles tenure.
A huge chunk of the penalties have been offensive line-related, which lays at the feet of that position’s coach, Cody Kennedy. Kennedy is in his third season with Arkansas.
There’s a concept known as the “common denominator.” It’s a really good way to determine who the rotten egg is and could be more than applicable in sussing out issues behind not only these penalties, but also Arkansas’ inability to move the pile in short-yardage situations.
The coaches responsible for moving said pile are the offensive line coach, the offensive coordinator and the head coach, and Pittman also happens to be a former offensive line coach.
Whether all, or any, of the blame for the so far unimpressive 2023 Hogs can be laid at the Pittman/Enos or Pittman/Kennedy combinations is an open question. Certainly, it’s more complex than that, but the same problems persist this year with different players. What does that tell us about the coaches who were coaching the 2022 and 2023 teams?
The Solid Arkansas Football Hires by Pittman
It’s also important to consider some of Sam Pittman’s replacement hires on the Arkansas football staff look very promising. Take Travis Williams, the defensive coordinator, for instance. He, along with new assistants Deron Wilson and Marcus Woodson, have Arkansas’ defense ranked in the top 50 among FBS teams.
The last time Arkansas finished among the top 50 defenses was 2014. If this squad can cut down on the big plays it gives up going forward, it can go down as the Hogs’ best defense of the last decade.
There’s also Morgan Turner, the tight ends coach who had freshman Luke Hasz looking like an All-SEC player before Hasz’s injury on Saturday. Fortunately, Turner recruited well out of the portal and developed depth with the likes of Var’keyes Gumms.
Those itching to fire Sam Pittman this season should take into account what would happen with these standout hires since most new head coaches clean house and bring in whole new staffs, especially at the coordinator positions. That’s something Pig Trail Nation’s Mike Irwin relayed on the most recent “Ask Mike.”
“I’ve been reading a lot of comments today from people on Twitter who have pointed out something I think that is very significant,” he said. “If you fire Sam Pittman, you probably lose Travis Williams, and they like him. They don’t want him gone.”
“Yes!” co-host Courney Mims jumped in. “That was my point. You might even lose a guy like Morgan Turner as well.”
Mike Irwin responded, “Do you think they want to lose that guy? He’s one of the best tight end coaches in the country.”
It’s also worth noting running backs coach Jimmy Smith. Smith, who’s been with Pittman at Arkansas since that first 2020 season, isn’t a new hire, but it would seem likely that the Georgia native would be gone as well if Pittman were let go.
Yes, it seemed like going to LSU at night and losing by a field goal made it look like the train had been placed back on the tracks. But losing to BYU at home after putting up just 21 offensive points in a meager win against lowly Kent State and now an embarrassing loss against Texas A&M have Hog fans rightly wondering how competitive their team can be for the rest of the season and if their Arkansas-loving, aw-shucks, Teddy Bear of a coach remains the right guy for the job. Even if deep down they know getting a better coach who could bring the same kind of jolt to the program Pittman did right out of the gate isn’t exactly as easy to getting a wire going at the best Bank Transfer Casino Sites.
No one will doubt his high school or transfer portal recruiting ability. And everyone agrees he’s got more talent on campus now than he’s had since he arrived on the Hill. However, at this point, do fans believe Sam Pittman can coach that talent into something worthy of taking the field in the SEC? After all, how do you take the most talented individuals you’ve ever had and coach them down to the worst performing team you’ve ever had?
In big-time sports, you are what your record says you are. The fluff and human interest stories are nice, but for many fans, all that matters is the win-loss record. It’s always important to consider what, exactly, other kinds of losses could entail if any premature firings are made.
Sam Pittman on Jimbo Fisher Trying to Score
On Wednesday, Pittman went more in depth into matters on a Wednesday press conference. Below are some excerpts, starting with the aforementioned attempt to score by Texas A&M on the last possession:
I really can’t say for why they tried to score there at the end. Maybe it’s the rivalry, I have no idea. I believe Jimbo and I are friends. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to beat me bad, you know. Make it look worse than what it is, but I don’t know. Thats probably a question you’ll have to ask him. Just because I take knees against those people, Ole miss my first year all that kind of stuff, doesn’t make it right for everybody to do that. Might just be a difference of philosophy or trying to get into the rankings or whatever that may be.
On experimenting with Dominique Johnson at TE:
We have some 20 package where we can have availability of him playing at the tight end position, but you are right, we experimented two or maybe three years ago and we got a running back hurt. He came in and did such a wonderful job. We are looking at that in some situations. I just want to make sure that we all know that he hasn’t moved to TE permanently. We are looking in some 20 package where he could be in a TE position, if that makes sense.
On Devon Manuel’s health:
He’ll be fine. We’re going to rest him. Yes, to answer your questions has he been dealing with injuries, yeah, all year. But we’re going to rest him a little bit just to have him available for Saturday. We may rest him today and practice him tomorrow, but we need him available. So, we’re going to try to do the best we can to get him there.”
Matt Besser on Best Choice as New Arkansas Coach
The No. 1 Hogs fan comedian has decided that “we, social media, collectively, Hog Nation will be the new coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks” given our knowledge of what Pittman and Enos should and shouldn’t have done. “Congratulations to all of us. I think we can find a way to share a home on Lake Hamilton. That’s what it’s really about.”
The joy of such arrangement is that plays could just be called in directly from Twitter.
“On, third down, WooPigPoopiePie says, ‘Sategna, no duh.’ And if it’s fourth and one, Elon Musk – Yeah, the Elon Musk – says, ‘Jet sweep.'”
“I’d go under center, but it is Elon Musk, and he’s kind of the head coach of Twitter. And then the next play, if we get a first down ChurchofWooPig says, ‘Bring back Lou Holtz.’ Okay, that’s not really a play.”
Make sure to hear the rest of Besser’s bit on the state of Arkansas football here:
More from Mike Irwin and Courtney Mims here:
More coverage of Arkansas football from BoAS…