Historic Game in the Rock Comes at a Good Time for Ailing Hogs

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Posted at 5:55 PM, Oct 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-22 18:55:54-04

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark — Three weeks ago, Arkansas had just knocked off Texas A&M to reach 4-0 on the season and held a #8 ranking. As expected, they were outmanned in Georgia, then the stinging OT loss on the road at Ole Miss on a failed two point conversion. Auburn should have been a chance to right the ship, but for the first time this season, the Hogs simply did not scheme or play well, and the loss of Jalen Catalon left a Razorback defense reeling. Arkansas was gashed on the ground, and the secondary allowed two long touchdowns on busted pass coverage. Sam Pittman, as usual, owned the loss, took responsibility, and explained the condition of the team. “We are a banged up football team.” Arkansas played without three key defensive starters, and it was announced following the game that DB Jalen Catalon, regarded as one of the top in the SEC, will miss the remainder of the season. Fortunately, the schedule will allow the Razorbacks to heal up and prepare for the final half of the brutal slate.

For the first time in 77 years, Arkansas will face an in-state school in football when they face Arkansas-Pine Bluff at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. The FCS Golden Lions are struggling this fall after playing their pandemic delayed season in the spring with some success. This matchup will feature a mobile quarterback, and likely two of them, as UAPB will still test the suddenly struggling Razorback front seven. The Golden Lions will also bring the pressure on special teams, another weakness for the Hogs this season.

Keys to the game:

  • Stay Healthy: The Razorbacks must focus on staying healthy and working out the bumps and bruises from the last few weeks. If they take care of business early, this would be a great opportunity for the Razorbacks to work in the underclassmen and get some experience to build depth at all positions. 
  • Play Clean on Special Teams: While they are not expected to be required to punt often, seeing
     the punt team face some pressure can only help. After a few close misses on field goals, Cam Little needs some success to build on. To his credit, his long misses have been close, including a 53 yard attempt that came up just short last week.
  • Malik Hornsby engaged in the passing game: Okay, this may seem insignificant, but in his time
    spelling KJ Jefferson, Hornsby has primarily been a runner. I would expect that Hornsby will play the most snaps of any QB in this game and needs to establish himself as a passing threat. With Jefferson featuring an aggressive running style, the backup QB
     is a vital contributor for this team. Hornsby has elite speed, and if he builds a relationship with the receivers, could see more featured sets as the season progresses, simply to keep Jefferson healthy.

This should be a game that is more about the historic significance and the battle of the bands at halftime. If this game is close, Arkansas will have a lot of issues simply becoming bowl eligible. Expect the Hogs to win handily, but not run up the score on UAPB. The Golden Lions are getting a significant sum to play the game, and has also reportedly received some of the locker room equipment from the recent remodel of the facilities.

Next week, Arkansas will have a bye week and can spend significant time in the training and film rooms as they prepare for the stretch run that will feature home games against Mississippi State and Missouri, with road games at LSU and Alabama in between. This team has shown they are capable of winning out, but have also shown signs they could struggle. A 4-1 record in their final five games would showcase the rebuilding of the program and land them in a quality bowl game. Expect Pittman to get the most out of this staff and this team as they get healthy and adjust to the players missing snaps from here on out.

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