FAYETTEVILLE — Redshirt freshman safety Jalen Catalon got his first start as a Razorback and made the most of it in a 37-10 loss to No. 4 Georgia.
Catalon finished with nine tackles, forced a fumble and broke up a pass. He was part of the defense that held Georgia to five points in the first half.
“In the first half, I think we strained really well,” Catalon said. “The whole game I think we strained really well. First half, we caught them off guard with how fast and how well we were getting to the ball, but I think at the end of the day they just made the plays they needed and they had good field position to make the plays they needed to win the game, you know? I’m proud of my defense for straining, not quitting, fighting the whole game. I think it’s definitely a step forward. We’ll never accept losing. Losing is not what we’re wanting to do. We’re trying to change the culture around here. I think the defense definitely made a statement that it’s not like how it was before. It’s different now. I’m just proud of them for fighting no matter what the score was. They were just fighting, and I’m real proud of them.”
Was that performance in the first half an indication of how good this defense can be?
“The sky is the limit, you know?,” Catalon said. “Our coaches coach us like we’re the best defense in the country. If we don’t have that mindset, they don’t want us in here. They don’t want us on the defense if we don’t believe we can be the best. In the first half, it showed that. I think, like I said, we made stops we needed, we got the turnovers and even when we had bad field position, Coach Odom always says, ‘Give us a place to stand and let’s just play football.’ I think that’s what we did, and it showed. Like I said, we need to go in the film and find out the mistakes we made in the game and fix it. But, like I said, I thought the defense stepped up and showed that we can be something special for sure.”
Georgia switched quarterbacks in the second half going with Stetson Bennett and seemed to give themselves a spark?
“I think our defense was set for whatever quarterback was coming in, but I mean, they’re two different types of quarterbacks, so the first quarterback I don’t think got in his groove like he wanted to,” Catalon said. “The guy who came in, Bennett, I just think he just ran the offense really well and he just made the plays needed to put their offense in the best position. That showed. Like I said, we had a couple mistakes in our back end that helped them out. I’ve got respect for both quarterbacks regardless of what they did because he came in and did his job. You’ve got to give him props, but we’ve just got to go in the film room and figure out what we did wrong and get ready for Mississippi State.”
Simeon Blair is a sophomore from Pine Bluff who was recently awarded a scholarship by Sam Pittman. He started at the safety opposite Catalon.
“I’m so proud of him,” Catalon said. “I just saw — I know the story and how far he’s come, and for him to get the opportunity and make the most of it, and the plays that he made today, I’m so proud of him. We had other guys step up, too, like Myles Slusher stepped in and he had that fumble recovery today. It’s things like that; Coach stressed that everybody has to be able to step in and do their job. I think today you saw that. Like I said, I’m proud of Blair for stepping in, last minute, finding out he was going to start, and making the most of it, and making the plays that he did. I’m proud of him.”
The crowd was 16,500 with no cheerleaders and a much different atmosphere. What did you think of it?
“It definitely was a transition,” Catalon said. “Definitely a different environment, but the fans did a great job. The stadium was loud regardless of who was there. It felt like a normal game in some cases because of how loud some of the fans that were there. I think at the end of the day we were so focused on our mission to try and beat Georgia, I think that kind, it didn’t set in my mind or anything like that. So, but, I mean, it was definitely a change, but for the most part I thought it was pretty unique how fans came in and kept it loud. The stadium did their audio thing on the noise and stuff like that, but it was definitely a good environment to play in and fans able to come out and watch us. And we’re going to bounce back and get ready for next week.”
Arkansas will travel to Starkville next week to face Mississippi State who beat the defending national champions LSU in Baton Rouge today.
“Same mindset we had this first week,” Catalon said. “It doesn’t matter who we play. We’ve got to come out and we have to respect our opponent regardless of who we play. I mean, them beating LSU, that just shows they’re a really good football team. And it’s the SEC. You never know who is going to get beat, so you have to be on your toes and ready to go. I know we’re going to come back in the film room, figure out what we did wrong and move on to Mississippi State and getting ready. I know Coach Odom is going to have a good game plan for our defense going into that game, so I’m excited to bounce back next week.”