When he successfully converted a fake field goal Saturday night against LSU, Max Fletcher’s celebration continued well onto the Arkansas football sideline.
It was a big play, as his 8-yard run moved the chains and gave the Razorbacks a fresh set of downs at the 11, but the raw display of emotion likely had a lot to do with what he went through during the week leading up to what was ultimately a 34-31 loss to the Tigers.
Fans came after the sophomore punter from Australia after a pair of shanks against BYU, including a 10-yarder that led to the Cougars’ first score in a game they won 38-31.
“Fletcher was at practice on Monday (and) he’s lower than low,” head coach Sam Pittman said. “I walk by him, I said, ‘Hey Max, what’s wrong with you?’ (He said) ‘Social media.’”
He may not have responded to any of them, but Fletcher certainly saw what fans were saying on Twitter.
Went to Australia to get a 10-yard punter.
Why’d you go all that way to get a guy that can’t kick?
Of course, Pittman knew that was the reason, so he had a light-hearted response ready for him.
“I said, ‘Max, they didn’t say I’m fat on there, did they?’” Pittman recounted. “He said, ‘Yes sir.’ ‘What about my chest, did they say anything about that?’ He started smiling, he said ‘Yes sir.’ I said, ‘Was I supposed to get fired on Sunday?’ He said, ‘Yes sir.’ I said, ‘Well, I’m still here. They got two out of three right.’”
Those comments about his weight were also a big reason the fourth-year coach pulled the plug on his own Twitter account during the week, joining Alabama’s Nick Saban and Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher as the only SEC coaches not on the social media platform.
It’s nothing new for Pittman, but the wave of criticism likely reached a peak after the disappointing loss to BYU.
“I think everybody thinks it’s okay to bash public figures and people,” Pittman said. “That could be musicians, coaches, whatever it may be. I’ll be honest with you, I just got sick of it.
“I do not believe that you can hide behind a phone and address people as personally as what people do. I don’t think it’s fair. I don’t think it’s right. I don’t think it’s right for the kids.”
Whether or not he stays off Twitter remains to be seen, as he indicated that Kyle Parkinson — the UA’s associate athletics director for communications — has encouraged him to reactivate his account for publicity reasons, plus it’s a tool for recruiting.
Regardless of what Pittman decides to do, though, many of his players are still on Twitter and other social media platforms, so his role as a de facto counselor will continue.
He also reiterated the importance of mental health and even said some players have sought counseling, which is something they encourage.
“We need to help these kids,” Pittman said. “There’s a lot more going on in their life right now than possibly when I was a kid. And I think a lot of it has to do with this (holding up a smartphone). A lot of good about this, but…if you get pulled the wrong direction with it, it can spoil your day.”
It’s hard to know how much Pittman’s chat with his punter helped, but it couldn’t have hurt. In addition to pulling off the fake field goal, Fletcher also boomed a 53-yarder on his lone punt against LSU. That just so happened to increase his season average to 44.7 yards, which ranks second in the SEC and 13th nationally.
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 LSU loss, previewed the Arkansas vs Texas A&M matchup, gave some injury updates and more…
- On the hectic travel back to Fayetteville after the LSU game: We got here right around 7 (a.m. Sunday), might have been a little earlier, because of weather. We flew into Little Rock. Had a few options – none of them were very good. My biggest thing was the plane was really quiet, so our kids were sleeping on the plane. We pushed back yoga and things like that yesterday afternoon. I pushed our staff meetings back an hour, but we got the same amount of work in for A&M.
- On the Arkansas vs Texas A&M series: It’s a series where the game’s going to be close. Another trophy game. In all honesty, we’ve come up disappointed more times than not in close games. We’ve got to play with the same amount of passion as we did last week, but smarter in pre-snap penalties. We’ve got to get that out of us.
- On the left tackle spot, which has seen both Andrew Chamblee and Devon Manuel play: Game feel, matchups go into a lot of that. There’s still a major battle there. Devon has yet to put a full week of practice together healthy or with the strain that he needs because of injuries. Until that happens, I don’t know if we can do anything differently.
- On the health of running back AJ Green: He’ll be fine. He has a little soreness in that shoulder, but I think he’ll be fine.
- On the status of running back Rocket Sanders: I wish I knew. We’ll find out more at practice today. He did some stuff last week, but it wasn’t stop and starts. He’ll do as much as he can today and hopefully it goes well. To say if he’s going to play or not right now, I really don’t know. (on Rocket)
- On facing Bobby Petrino for a second straight year: He’s obviously a great coach. Watching them, I think there’s a lot of Coach Petrino. Heck, I see a lot of Jim Chaney in them. Obviously Coach Fisher has a lot to do with it, too. They’re still a very physical running team.
- On Texas A&M quarterback Max Johnson: I think he’s a really good player. They’ve done a nice job being able to keep him when he wasn’t named a starter. It looks like he believes he’s a starter. He’s fast, has a lot of speed. Great movement and thrower. They run a lot of nakeds, trying to move the pocket with him. He was very accurate and gave the team a spark last week.
- On burning all of their timeouts early in the second half: We’ve got to get set faster, get lined up faster, get the call in faster. We have to get better with that. We have to because I didn’t have any left there at the end.
- On running back Rashod Dubinion: Saturday was when he was what we thought he could be. He carried guys. Made guys miss in the open field. Hopefully that’s just the beginning of a whole bunch of great games for him. That’s what we see every day at practice.
- On cornerback Jaylon Braxton: He’s definitely pushing to be a starter.
- On addressing all of the penalties: Obviously what we did last week to address it didn’t work. All I know is you have to have a ball in everything you do on the D-line. You have to move all the time on the O-line. And you have to do it with noise. … Throughout the week, you just over-emphasize movement and move calls. Try to simulate it as much as you possibly can.
- On the defensive line: They play hard. At times we can get to the QB with a four-man rush and other times we can’t. Sometimes that’s just football. Our goal was to frustrate the quarterback and we did it early, but after that we didn’t as much. I think our D-line is playing well. We have to figure out our third-down package a little bit more. It’s not getting the pressure we want, so we might have to make some changes.
- On playing games at AT&T Stadium/War Memorial Stadium: I’d like to play in our stadium as much as we can.
Watch Arkansas football coach Sam Pittman’s full press conference ahead of Arkansas vs Texas A&M here:
Arkansas Football Injury Report
Here’s the latest on various Arkansas football players dealing with injuries…
- RB Rocket Sanders (knee): Status still uncertain for Arkansas vs Texas A&M… Not on the 70-man travel roster for the LSU game… “He ran and did some things last week, but it wasn’t stop and starts and things of that nature,” Pittman said. “He’s going to do some things today, as much as he possibly can. Hopefully it goes well. We need him.”
- DT Anthony Booker Jr. (knee): Traveled to Baton Rouge, but did not play vs. LSU… Pittman said he should be “ready to go” vs. Texas A&M
- OL Devon Manuel (stinger): Did not start, but ended up playing more snaps at left tackle than Andrew Chamblee… He had missed the BYU game with a stinger, but now appears healthy
- S Malik Chavis (hand/wrist): Has not played or dressed out for any of the first four games this season… Pittman said he thinks he could be back this week
- DE Quincy Rhodes Jr. (head): Did not travel to Baton Rouge… Has not played in the last three games… Had to be helped off the field during the Western Carolina game… Pittman said after that game that his head hit the turf, likely meaning he has a concussion
- OL Eli Henderson (undisclosed): Did not travel to Baton Rouge
- OL Luke Brown (undisclosed): Did not travel to Baton Rouge… Has not dressed out this season
- DT Marcus Miller (undisclosed): Did not travel to Baton Rouge… Has not dressed out this season
- DB Dallas Young (undisclosed): Did not travel to Baton Rouge… Has not dressed out this season
- 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…
For a breakdown of how the depth chart has evolved throughout the season, click here.
(NOTE: It’s important to remember that this depth chart is essentially worthless, as has been proved time and time again.)
|QB||KJ Jefferson||Jacolby Criswell|
|RB||Rocket Sanders||AJ Green||Rashod Dubinion|
|TE||Luke Hasz||Francis Sherman||Nathan Bax -OR-|
Var’keyes Gumms -OR-
|WR||Andrew Armstrong||Tyrone Broden|
|WR||Isaac TeSlaa||Davion Dozier||Dazmin James|
|WR||Jaedon Wilson||Isaiah Sategna||Bryce Stephens|
|LT||Andrew Chamblee -OR-||Devon Manuel|
|LG||Brady Latham||Josh Street|
|C||Beaux Limmer||Amaury Wiggins|
|RG||Joshua Braun||Ty’Kieast Crawford|
|RT||Patrick Kutas||E’Marion Harris|
- No changes were made to the offensive depth chart.
- Sanders is still listed as the starting running back, but he’s also been listed No. 1 the last three weeks when he’s been out with a knee injury.
- There is still an “or” between Chamblee and Manuel at left tackle, but Chamblee has started all four games this year. However, against LSU, Manuel played way more snaps than Chamblee.
- Despite being listed as a starter, Wilson came off the bench against LSU. The third starting wide receiver was actually Broden.
|DE||Landon Jackson||John Morgan III||Jashaud Stewart|
|DT||Taurean Carter||Keivie Rose|
|DT||Eric Gregory||Cam Ball||Anthony Booker Jr.|
|DE||Trajan Jeffcoat||Zach Williams|
|LB||Chris Paul Jr.||Antonio Grier -OR-||Brad Spence|
|LB||Jaheim Thomas||Jordan Crook|
|NB||Lorando Johnson||TJ Metcalf||Jaylen Lewis|
|CB||Dwight McGlothern||Kee’yon Stewart||LaDarrius Bishop|
|S||Alfahiym Walcott||Malik Chavis|
|S||Jayden Johnson||Hudson Clark|
|CB||Jaheim Singletary||Jaylon Braxton||LaDarrius Bishop|
- No changes were made to the defensive depth chart.
- Walcott is still listed as a starting safety, but Clark started in his place against LSU.
- Singletary and Braxton ended up splitting reps at cornerback against LSU.
|K/KO||Cam Little||Blake Ford|
|P||Max Fletcher||Devin Bale|
|LS||Eli Stein||Ashton Ngo|
|H||Max Fletcher||Devin Bale|
|KOR||Isaiah Sategna||AJ Green|
|PR||Isaiah Sategna||Bryce Stephens|
- No changes were made to the special teams depth chart.
How to Watch Arkansas vs Texas A&M
Date: Saturday, Sept. 30
Location: AT&T Stadium (Arlington, Texas)
Kickoff Time and TV Schedule: 11 a.m. CT (SEC Network)
Announcers: Dave Neal (play-by-play), Matt Stinchcomb (color analyst), Alyssa Lang (sideline reporter)
Arkansas’ Rankings: NR (AP) | NR (Coaches) | No. 36 (SP+) | No. 34 (FPI)
ESPN FPI: Texas A&M has an 73.0% chance to win
SP+ Projection: Texas A&M has a 74% chance to win, favored by 10.9 (proj. score: 33-22)
Odds/Betting Line: Texas A&M, -6.5 | O/U 55.5 (BetSaracen)
BONUS VIDEO: Jimbo Fisher Previews Arkansas vs Texas A&M
More coverage of Arkansas football from BoAS…