Arkansas football: Hogs are 2 terrible calls from 5-3
Once again, a late call affected the outcome of an Arkansas football game.
The Razorbacks held a 24-20 lead over LSU late in the 4th quarter Saturday, but the Tigers had the ball. As one of the SEC’s top 5 tacklers, safety Jalen Catalon set out to do what he does best. But he was ejected for targeting for the 2nd time this year.
The replay showed clearly how wrong of a call that was.
There was no helmet contact. Catalon even appeared to make an effort to turn his body and make the collision less dangerous. The consensus among football fans everywhere was that there was no targeting.
Arkansas' Jalen Catalon was called for targeting on this play…pic.twitter.com/IzRhoktXmD
— Unnecessary Roughness (@UnnecRoughness) November 21, 2020
The refs didn’t agree, however, and Catalon was forced to miss the rest of the game. Of equal importance, the penalty moved the ball to the Arkansas 36. LSU was in perfect scoring position.
You already know what happened. The Razorbacks defense, now down one of its best players, didn’t have enough in it to force a stop. The Tigers scored, then blocked an Arkansas field-goal attempt that would have tied the score to hold on for a 27-24 victory.
It was the 2nd time this season that a late call might have cost the Hogs a win. They also lost to Auburn after Bo Nix fumbled a snap trying to spike the ball. Instead, intentional grounding was called, and Auburn won the game on a late field goal.
Saturday’s targeting call against Catalon was so egregious that Arkansas athletic director Hunter Yurachek took to Twitter after the game. Players who are ejected for targeting in the 2nd half are forced to miss the entire next game, according to NCAA rules, but Yurachek wants to see an exception for Catalon.
I cannot change the outcome or any of the other missed calls, but I will work with the appropriate SEC Officials to make sure that this “targeting” call does not cost Jalen Catalon our next game. My student-athletes deserve better. pic.twitter.com/vGEd20u0FB
— Hunter Yurachek (@HunterYurachek) November 21, 2020
Whether he gets one or not, one thing is clear: Arkansas should probably be 5-3 instead of 3-5.
It’s always tough to pin an entire loss on 1 call or play. But both of those calls came on game-winning drives. An argument can be made that the Razorbacks would have come up with a stop if Catalon had stayed on the field.
In a normal year, this would be the unofficial end of Arkansas’ chances at a bowl game, as teams below .500 are not bowl-eligible. The Hogs have 2 games remaining but virtually no chance of beating Alabama on Dec. 5.
However, normal rules are out the window in 2020 as every FBS team is bowl-eligible.
The Razorbacks should have no trouble getting into a bowl this year at 4-6 or even 3-7. No team has been more surprising. If you take out these 2 losses, Arkansas has lost to only the following: Georgia, Florida and Texas A&M.
It should also be mentioned that starting running back Rakeem Boyd missed Saturday’s game. Without him, Feleipe Franks led the team in rushing with 43 yards.
The circumstances of these losses should definitely play a factor in the bowl selection process. Athlon Sports predicted the Razorbacks to land in the Outback Bowl this past week.
The result Saturday stung, but it is again a testament to how far Arkansas has come from last year.
Next week, the Hogs face Missouri, where defensive coordinator Barry Odom was the head coach just last year. If they win, we’ll likely be talking about how Sam Pittman turned around Arkansas in a season and how he deserves to win all the Coach of the Year awards.
And, how he took a team that failed to win an SEC game the 2 seasons before he showed up and somehow led them to what should have been a winning season.