FAYETTEVILLE — This has been a season that has seen Sam Pittman’s team snap long losing streaks such as the last SEC win and home conference victory.
Now they will try to snap another losing streak. Arkansas hasn’t beaten Texas A&M since Oct. 1, 2011. John L. Smith was 0-1 against the Aggies, Bret Bielema 0-5 and Chad Morris 0-2. Pittman was here for three of the games with Bielema as he was the offensive line coach. He recalled those games on Monday.
“Well, I just remember the last two,” Pittman said. “I remember when Johnny Manziel came in here and he was running all over the place. And then we sent it to Dallas and I remember the two games. I think both of them went into overtime if I’m correct. I think we were ahead most of the game in both of them but we got beat late. I believe it was both in overtime. But it was a great atmosphere in Mr. Jones’ stadium. And I’ve been to College Station before but it’s been awhile. I know they have a great place over there. Just remember the disappointment of losing those two close games.”
In 2014, A&M beat the Hogs 35-28 in overtime. Then in Pittman’s final season at Arkansas in 2015 the Aggies defeated the Razorbacks 28-21 in overtime. Texas A&M also beat Bielema’s final team at Arkansas 50-43 in overtime in 2017. While Morris was 0-2 against the Aggies, his teams fell 24-17 and 31-27 in games that both could have gone Arkansas’ way.
The game against Texas A&M is also more than just an SEC battle, it’s also big for recruiting purposes.
“Well, location wise, A&M would recruit a lot of the same players that we do or vice versa, however you want to say it,” Pittman said. “Obviously they have great facilities and a very fine football staff. So we have to recruit against them obviously quite often. And they’re a physical football team on both sides of the ball. They’re an SEC football team on the offensive and defensive lines. Very big, very powerful and fast. They have a lot of returning starters on the offensive side of the ball and the O-line. They’ve got a great back in (Isaiah) Spiller, who is also a very physical guy. When you look at them and watch them play, you see a big, physical SEC type football team.”
Obviously Arkansas has several players from the state of Texas on its roster. What will going to The Lone Star State to play on Saturday mean to them?
“”I really don’t know,” Pittman said. “I would assume that it’d be exciting for them. Especially maybe if A&M didn’t offer them a scholarship or something. Maybe its like anything where you have something to prove or something of that nature. I would imagine maybe mom and dad can get there a little easier, so things of that nature. Obviously when your family is in the stands you tend to play a little better, a little harder and things of that nature. I think they’re probably really looking forward to going down there and playing them.”
Quarterback Kellen Mond has only been sacked twice this season. Pittman talked about should the credit for that go to Mond or A&M’s offensive line?
“I think it’s a little bit of both,” Pittman said. “He has a really good offensive line in front of him. Best one I’ve seen in awhile at A&M. So they’re protecting him well, but he’s still Kellen Mond. He can get out of problems. He’s staying in the pocket better than I’ve ever seen him. He’s making plays. I think he’s playing really well. He’s comfortable back there. I think he’s getting rid of the ball faster than maybe he has in the past. I just think he’s a lot better quarterback than he’s ever been just obviously with reps and years, but I also give that offensive line a lot of credit. So a little bit of both, but a lot more this year of throwing the ball a little faster.”
The game this season will be played in College Station instead of AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
“We expect at least 50,000 people, probably,” Pittman said Monday. “We are cranking up the volume and we are going inside today. As far as past that, I don’t know. But we can still crank up the volume outside, as well. But we’re going to go inside today and crank it up.
“It’s a neat stadium. It’s a huge stadium. Obviously it won’t be packed like normally they do down there, but it’s a venue, a great opportunity. We’re excited to go down there and be a part of that day. But in the SEC, most teams have really cool stadiums and I think theirs is a really neat place to play.”
Pittman also praised the A&M defense.
“They’re big,” Pittman said. “Their front guys are quick, they plug a lot of linebackers. They’re not going to sit there and be stagnant. They think you’re a big zone team, they’re going to twist on you. If they think you’re a gap scheme then they’re going to slant and angle. It just depends on what their game plan coming in is, but they’re very, very physical, very big and very aggressive at the safeties. I mean, very aggressive. Their safeties are almost like outside/inside linebackers coming down to the ball. They’ve got them playing really well and with a lot of confidence. You can just feel it watching tape on them. They’ve really been doing a good job. They’re a big, physical team that can run.”
Pittman speculated on where he thinks the A&M rivalry ranks for Arkansas’ fans and also what it means the Hogs haven’t beaten them since they joined the SEC.
“Well I think they must have played a lot better than us in every game they beat us in I would assume,” Pittman said. “That’s a pretty good record, 100 percent. I think that if I was guessing I’d say A&M is probably two in the list of rivalries behind Texas. I don’t know. That’s kind of the feel you get.
“I wish I could say something different, but it’s not any different than playing whomever else we play in the SEC to me. We’re trying to win the football game. It doesn’t matter the team. Would I feel any better if we beat A&M versus Ole Miss? Not at all. I’m just trying to get our team ready to win every one of them, get them prepared as well as we possibly can. But A&M’s got a good team, so it would be fun if we did win, but it’s kind of [just] another game, honestly.”
Arkansas and Texas A&M will kickoff at 6:30 p.m. on the SEC Network this Saturday.