Arkansas football: Hogs figure to end skid against UAPB, but other goals can be reached, too
The importance of Saturday’s game won’t entirely be captured on the scoreboard. The Hogs take on the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff at 11 a.m. local time in War Memorial Stadium at Little Rock. The Razorbacks (4-3) look to stop a 3-game slide while UAPB (1-5) is mired in a 5-game skid. It’ll be the first meeting between the schools.
The Razorbacks are scheduled to take on the Golden Lions again in 2024 and also Arkansas State in 2025. Both games are also slated to be played in Little Rock.
By that time Pittman said he feels the Razorbacks program should be strong enough to handle it.
“For years they say it’s not good for the University of Arkansas (to play in-state rivals) but at that point in time, if we haven’t turned our program enough to do well in these type games, then there’ll probably be a new guy talking about it,” Pittman said.
“I think it’s exciting for the state.”
The Golden Lions have lost 5 straight after opening the season with a 34-16 victory over Lane College. But you can bet that in their collective minds, they’ll think of the game on Saturday as their Super Bowl.
Pittman noted that UAPB played in the SWAC championship game last year but for some reason haven’t been able to duplicate that success this season.
“They’ll be jacked up and ready to go,” he said.
But Pittman’s objective is twofold Saturday. Win and stay healthy. Seven games into the season and the bumps and bruises are beginning to pile up and have an effect.
Normally the team practices in shells on Monday. It didn’t do that this week.
“We’re just too beat up right now,” Pittman said. “We’ve got to get some players back.”
Pittman reduced practice time and the Hogs hit less than they would have to prepare for a regular SEC foe. That has to do as much with the mounting bumps and bruises as it does with the opponent.
“We just don’t have enough depth to do that right now,” Pittman said. “That’s not being soft, that’s being smart.”
But Pittman isn’t going to allow his team to be complacent.
“I don’t think we’ll have a problem being ready,” he said. “A lot of times when you have injuries, the new guy coming in he certainly doesn’t have a problem getting ready because it’s his opportunity. So, I think we’ll be fine there.”
Has quarterback KJ Jefferson hit the wall? Pittman said he thinks his sophomore standout just may have. Jefferson has taken an incredible number of hits this season. That’s just how the offense runs. Those knocks are adding up.
“He wasn’t as crisp throwing the football,” Pittman said of Jefferson’s performance in a 38-23 loss to Auburn. “I don’t think he was as crisp running the football. I don’t think he was as crisp running the offense, to be honest.”
It’s Jefferson’s first season as the full-time starter. He’s certainly not used to taking this kind of punishment. He could use a rest and it’ll be interesting to see how much he plays Saturday leading into the bye week.
But Jefferson is not the only one who could use a break. The Hogs just aren’t there yet depth wise and the more the backups are called upon to play and make plays, the more that is evident.
“That’s why we’ve got to get healthy,” Pittman said. “We throw our 1s out there and we’ve got a really good football team.”
The Hogs opened the season with 4 consecutive victories, do they have another similar run left in them over the final 4 games in 2021? Healing those bumps and bruises will go a long way in deciding that. Pittman said that during the bye week there would be no hitting at all with the more veteran players.
“I think we can make a run, and I think we will,” he said. “But we’ve got to get healthy starting today.”