Although the ending would be a happy one for Hog fans, the first half of Arkansas-Tennessee was not a thing of beauty.
Tennessee got up to 13-0 lead late in the second quarter, using a nearly 2-to-1 advantage in ball possession to grind the game away while racking up 135 yards.
Arkansas wasn’t too far behind in total yards, but had trouble stalling out on multiple drives, one of which ended with a 21-yard field goal miss by A.J. Reed. The Hogs also caught a bad case of Chad Morrisitis and tried too many trick plays.
However, in the last couple of minutes of the first half, Arkansas grabbed the momentum with two big plays by De’Vion Warren. They were starting to run Kendal Briles’ quick tempo offense and had the ball near midfield when a Tennessee linebacker decided that the Hogs were going a little too fast for his taste.
Tennessee’s Deandre Johnson wasn’t able to get into position in time, so instead of risking a penalty, he decided to fall down and fake some kind of leg injury.
The SEC Network broadcasters paid lip service to the slim possibility that the injury was real, but also made it clear they knew Johnson was almost certainly faking for Tennessee’s benefit.
That’s patently obvious in the clip below:
Prayers for him and his family. Let’s hope he’s ok. https://t.co/CE7hvDTuIF— John R Nabors ?????? (@BuzzJohnNabors) November 8, 2020
This isn’t even good acting, folks.
And it’s not even particularly original, of course. It happens all across the nation.
The most famous example by an Arkansas college player was Arkansas State’s infamous “fainting goat” play in 2014. And the Razorbacks suffered a similar fate at the hands of wily Gus Malzahn back in 2015:
So Deandre Johnson knew he’d have no problem hacking the system. There’s no way to prove with certainty what he did was malingering, except to watch the replay and have a working brain.
Unfortunately, though, replay reviews aren’t allowed on such plays.
Sam Pittman was none too pleased with how this went down:
Sam Pittman is NOT happy after it appeared Tennessee faked an injury. pic.twitter.com/WnrrSSNYlo— Connor O’Gara (@cjogara) November 8, 2020
Pittman’s explosion likely helped light a fire under the Hogs’ offense at halftime. “I’ve been coaching a long time. 13 points? It’s not like we’re down 50,” Pittman said after the game. “Our locker room felt a little down, and I told them we were going to get the football and go score. Keep the faith”
The faith was most assuredly kept. In the third quarter, Arkansas reeled off 24 unanswered points thanks to sublime passing and pocket presence by Feleipe Franks, and big-time caches from Treylon Burks and Mike Woods.
“We talked about we had to make some explosive plays, we had to get our engine revved up,” Pittman said. Overall, Franks threw 12-15 for three 3 touchdowns and 178 yards in the second half.
In the fourth quarter, the Hogs’ offense went cold again, at one point reeling off five straight negative yard plays. And the offensive players lost a total of four fumbles, but were able to recover them all. Fortunately, the Hogs’ defense kept playing lights out and didn’t let the Vols score at all in that half.
In fact, the defense forced five straight five and outs.
In all, the Razorbacks’ defense held Tennessee to:
- Just 107 yards passing
- Under 300 total yards
- 5/15 on third downs
Arkansas won 23-14 to pick up the third official win of the season. They should have four wins, if not for an egregious missed call against Auburn.
With a 3-3 record, Arkansas is looking stronger than it has in at least four years this late in the season.
You can see how much this means to the players and fans in the below video taken by Arkansas receiver Mike Woods. You’ll love the part at 2:00 where he walks out on the field and shares a moment with the fans:
Grant Morgan’s just a little geeked about the win, too. Check out his backflip at the end of this: