FAYETTEVILLE — During his postgame press conference Saturday, Sam Pittman’s disappointment with what had just unfolded was evident on his face and with his comments, which included an interesting admission.
It was obvious to everyone who watched Arkansas’ 21-19 loss to Liberty that the team seemed out of sync and didn’t get things together until it was too late. Asked about the leadership, the third-year coach told reporters that this year’s team was different than last year’s 9-4 squad that won the Outback Bowl and finished ranked No. 21.
Unlike the 2021 group, which had a large group of traditional and super seniors thanks to the NCAA’s pandemic-related eligibility relief, Pittman said the current Razorbacks haven’t had strong leadership and it’s contributed to close wins turning into close losses in 2022.
With a chance to sleep on it a couple of days, he came back Monday for his weekly interview with the media and said that a couple of reasons may be the fact that their “leadership is more by committee and not necessarily by one or two guys,” plus the top ones have been hurt much of the season.
“When you have a committee of leaders, you may not have the Grant Morgan,” Pittman said. “I think everybody knows Pool’s a leader for us, but he’s been hurt. … KJ is a leader for us, but he’s been hurt. So sometimes you lose your confidence in speaking out when in your mind, you’re looking and going, ‘They know I’m hurt. They know I’m not playing as well as I did.’
“They’ve gotta get over it and know that people look at them as leaders regardless of their playing status or anything like that. We need to develop more of that.”
Pittman also said the coaching staff did everything they could to motivate the team in the week leading up to Saturday’s matchup with the Flames. He repeatedly brought up the fact that they were ranked No. 23 in the AP Poll and a two-point conversion against Wake Forest away from being undefeated.
On top of that, it was homecoming and the Razorbacks were playing to get bowl eligible, so they “had all kids of reasons to win,” Pittman said. Ultimately, though, it didn’t seem to work as they dug themselves a 21-0 hole.
That proved to be too much to overcome Saturday, unlike the 17-0 deficit against Missouri State earlier this year and the 17-7 deficit against Rice last year, indicating to Pittman that the issue might be motivation for non-Power Five opponents.
“We woke up against Missouri State late,” Pittman said. “We never really woke up Saturday. It shouldn’t be that way. Those type teams, we’ve got to have a hunger. I respect all of them. Heck, the one Saturday beat us.
“We were trying to simulate it in practice with the fast starts and all these type things. I don’t know why, but it was flat and you could feel it. And we couldn’t get it turned around fast enough, to be honest with you.”
Arkansas Football’s Weekly Press Conference
Here are several other updates from the third-year coach’s weekly Monday press conference, in which he previewed the Arkansas vs LSU matchup, gave some injury updates, took a final look back at the Liberty loss and more…
- On what he saw on film from the Liberty game: In pass protection, they bulled us. The pocket was getting collapsed back on KJ and they were taking away passes down the field. We had to throw underneath. We struggled snapping the ball. Defensively, I thought our D-line played pretty well. Bumper came back and hit guys and they went backwards, which he hadn’t been able to do. Still too many open guys in the secondary.
- On the offensive line’s struggles: It’s hard to put a finger on it because all five of them have to play in sync, especially when you’re getting twists and movement games. When we’d go out to a potential blitzer, the looper would come back in the A-gap. We got caught a couple of times with that. We just haven’t had that. We weren’t ready enough for the movement.
- On LSU, the next opponent: They’re really good. Their quarterback makes them go. They have a big, physical line. They have a couple of freshmen at tackle who are good players. Boutte and that group of wideouts are really good. They’re a physical, down-hill running offense. Daniel can get outside and he’s hard to bring down.
- On quarterback KJ Jefferson’s health: He feels better now than he did last week. I expect him to throw at practice today, so he should be fine Saturday.
- On asking Kendal Briles if they should sub in Malik Hornsby against Liberty: That was about KJ’s health and not based on how he was playing. It was about whether he was healthy enough to play and the answer was yet. There was never a thought about pulling him because of performance.
- On LSU head coach Brian Kelly: I think he’s done an outstanding job. They lost to Florida State and everyone was talking about how terrible he is. Obviously he’s not. He’s had a lot of success everywhere he’s been. He’s a really good coach and good man.
- On facing an LSU team fresh off beating Alabama: We lost and we better have a chip on our shoulder ourselves. That was a big game for them. Some claim you can’t get up in back-to-back weeks, but they’ve had some success in back-to-back games.
- On whether or not LSU does similar twists and defensive line movement that Liberty used: I told the offensive staff that we better get ready for it. They’ve shown it a couple of times. It’s not their main thing, but they saw the tape. They’re going to test us.
- On the cornerback battle between Malik Chavis and Quincey McAdoo: There’s always a competition going on, but I think McAdoo played really, really well – especially for his first real time out there.
- On whether, in retrospect, it would have been better to put in Malik Hornsby: I don’t think so. I think it’s true that if you don’t practice in entirety, you’re not going to play as well. That’s proved the test of time. At the same time, when KJ said he was ready and wanted to go, I believe that most people would say ‘Okay, let’s go.’ I know I did.
- On the discipline for Myles Slusher and Anthony Brown: They’ve both been suspended for at least one week. They have morning runs. They’ll practice on the scout team. It’s unfortunate, but not acceptable. It’s our job to teach these kids and hopefully we’ll do that.
- On LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels: I think he understands the offense. They’ve played good teams and good coordinators and they’ve schemed up some nice plays and had him dead to rights, but they don’t touch him. He’s always been an outstanding runner, but I think his throw game (has improved). His wideouts can go up and catch a contested ball. He seems to be paying more confidently.
- On facing former Arkansas and now LSU defensive backs Greg Brooks Jr. and Joe Foucha: They did everything they possibly could for Arkansas and I’m glad they’re both playing and having success at LSU. It will be, obviously, different because last time I saw them on the field was for us against Penn State. They’re doing well, playing well and it seems to have worked out for them. (on Brooks/Foucha)
- On facing former Arkansas and now LSU offensive line coach Brad Davis: Technique-wise, they look like what an offensive line is supposed to do. Brad has done a really good job and he’s had to play multiple looks. That’s another sign of a good coach.
- On former LSU and now Arkansas defensive end Landon Jackson: I’ve really liked his addition. He didn’t play as much last week, but he’s been a really good addition to us. Gives us a little bit of a pass-rush threat. He came off that knee and is getting better each week. Glad we have him.
Watch Sam Pittman’s full interview here:
Arkansas Football Injury Report
Here’s the latest on various Arkansas football players dealing with injuries…
- QB KJ Jefferson (shoulder): Pittman said he’s feeling better than he was last week and should be able to throw at Monday’s practice
- TE Nathan Bax (undisclosed): Dressed out and went through pregame warmups, but did not play against Liberty… Got injured in Wednesday’s practice, but Pittman didn’t reveal any details
- DT Taurean Carter (knee): Been out since getting hurt in the Spring Showcase… Pittman is hopeful he might be able to return for the final two games of the regular season, or for the bowl game at the latest
- RB Dominique Johnson (ACL): Out for the year
- QB Kade Renfro (ACL): Out for the year
- CB LaDarrius Bishop (knee): Out for the year
- S Jalen Catalon (shoulder): Out for the year
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.)
|QB||KJ Jefferson||Malik Hornsby||Cade Fortin|
|RB||Rocket Sanders||AJ Green||Rashod Dubinion|
|TE||Trey Knox||Nathan Bax||Hudson Henry|
|WR||Ketron Jackson Jr.||Warren Thompson|
|WR||Jadon Haselwood||Bryce Stephens|
|WR||Matt Landers||Jaedon Wilson|
|LT||Luke Jones||Andrew Chamblee|
|LG||Brady Latham||Jalen St. John|
|C||Ricky Stromberg||Patrick Kutas|
|RG||Beaux Limmer||E’Marion Harris|
|RT||Dalton Wagner||Ty’Kieast Crawford|
- The only change is that Dominique Johnson is no longer listed after Pittman revealed he tore his ACL again. He had been listed as the fourth-team running back.
- Despite being listed as the third-team tight end, Henry was the only tight end other than Knox who played on offense against Liberty. That came a week after he and Bax played almost the exact same number of snaps against Auburn, so it appears Henry has moved ahead of Bax. Plus, Bax is dealing with an undisclosed injury that kept him off the field against Liberty.
|DE||Landon Jackson||Jashaud Stewart|
|DT||Terry Hampton||Eric Gregory|
|DT||Isaiah Nichols||Cam Ball|
|DE||Eric Gregory||Zach Williams -OR-||Jordan Domineck|
|MLB||Drew Sanders||Chris Paul Jr.|
|WLB||Bumper Pool||Jordan Crook||Jackson Woodard|
|NB||Myles Slusher||Jayden Johnson||Trent Gordon|
|CB||Dwight McGlothern||Keuan Parker|
|S||Latavious Brini -AND-||Hudson Clark||Khari Johnson|
|S||Simeon Blair||Jayden Johnson|
|CB||Malik Chavis||Quincey McAdoo|
- The only changes to the depth chart are in the secondary. First, Brini, Blair and Clark are all listed as starters at safety. All three of them are starters in the Razorbacks’ dime package. When they go to the nickel, Clark shifts over to cornerback.
- Another change is that Chavis is listed as a starter at cornerback, with McAdoo listed as his backup. Last week, Chavis and Clark were listed with an “or” and Chavis started. He was eventually replaced by McAdoo.
|P||Reid Bauer||Max Fletcher|
|LS||Eli Stein||John Oehrlein -OR-||Francisco Castro|
|KOR||AJ Green||Rashod Dubinion||Harper Cole|
|PR||Bryce Stephens||Harper Cole|
- There are no changes on the special teams depth chart.
How to Watch Arkansas vs LSU
Date: Saturday, Nov. 12
Location: Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium (Fayetteville, Ark.)
Kickoff Time and TV Schedule: 11 a.m. CT (ESPN)
Announcers: Joe Tessitore (play-by-play), Greg McElroy (analyst), Katie George (sideline reporter)
Arkansas’ Rankings: NR (AP) | NR (Coaches) | No. 31 (SP+) | No. 47 (FPI)
ESPN FPI: Arkansas has a 27.6% chance to win (down 18.2 percentage points from preseason projection)
Odds/Betting Line: LSU, -3 | O/U 62.5 (FanDuel)
More coverage of Arkansas football from BoAS…