Arkansas football: Pittman puts faith in his team on the line
We knew Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman was a veteran leader who could recruit and motivate, attract solid coordinators and return a positive culture back to Fayetteville. We knew he was a lot of things when he became the Razorbacks’ top man. Add riverboat gambler to the mix.
With the Hogs matching touchdown for touchdown with Ole Miss, one of the top offenses in the country, Pittman decided to roll the dice on 1 play for the win. A very important win in a game that put the victor in the driver’s seat for a possible Sugar Bowl berth. Yes, there was a lot on the line in that 1 play.
To go for a 2-point conversion after a touchdown on the last play of regulation rather than kick the extra point and send the game to overtime at the end of a wildly entertaining game in which Arkansas and Ole Miss combined for 103 points, 1,287 total yards and 61 first downs, was certainly a bold move.
And why not? No defense was played in the 2nd half of Arkansas’ 52-51 loss at Ole Miss on Saturday. Definitely not in a half when a combined fuse-blowing 68 points lit up the scoreboard.
Why not say to your team that you believe it can get it done in 1 play? When you have a quarterback like KJ Jefferson, with the ability to run or pass for those couple of yards, the decision is made that much easier. Jefferson had already run and thrown for a total of 411 yards. What’s a couple more?
Still, it was a huge decision. Pittman wasn’t playing it safe there. He went for the win.
Make it, and you elevate your program into one that suddenly finds itself the hunted rather than the hunter. The talk was the winner of that game had the inside track to the Sugar Bowl. Who believed before the season started that that conversation would involve Arkansas?
Yet, there the Hogs were, just a few feet away from being that team — certainly close enough for Pittman to gamble on his offense gaining those few precious yards.
“I love the play call,” Pittman said after the game. “We had 3 options (pitch, pass or keep) there, and we just didn’t convert it. I wish the results were different, but I think I’d do it probably 100 percent in the situation that we were in.”
Jefferson said the Hogs were expecting Ole Miss to play man defense on the game’s final play, but the Rebels were in coverage and made things difficult for him.
“I just tried to throw it and let my guy make a play,” Jefferson said.
He added that the Ole Miss defense “muddied up” the chance for a pitch.
“I just brought it outside, tried to make a play,” Jefferson said.
Still, Pittman said he thought it was the right call at the right time.
“I like the play, I liked it all week,” he said. “Our offense was ready for it. We felt like the pitch was there. I don’t know if it was or not, I have to go back and look at the tape. We thought we could score just pitching the ball out there.
“Their end, or read, did not go out — he came straight up the field. So he got in our face a little bit. I’ll have to look at it and see if we should have pitched the ball or not on that.”
It was one of the few plays that didn’t work out for the Razorbacks, who rolled up 676 total yards of offense and 39 1st downs.
So it’s time to move on from the disappointment. Auburn comes to town next Saturday, and Pittman said he will emphasize the fact that the Hogs are still unbeaten at home and that continuing with that trend is a worthy goal.