K.J.’s Halftime Adjustment; How Ed O’s QB Plan Backfired & An Odd Feature Outside Bryant-Denny Stadium

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Q. Our first question this week is from Lynda Roberts who asks: I saw your prediction that Arkansas would beat LSU but did you really believe that? I sometimes think ya’ll make those game day predictions just so you won’t make fans mad.

A. Believe me, our predictions are real. In those years after Petrino was fired and the wheels came off I predicted plenty of losses. Tera, Alyssa, Nick, CJ & DJ, we’re trying to out predict each other. It’s a competition. That’s why we show the scores each week and by the way I’m still in front for this year.

I thought Arkansas would beat LSU by 10 points or more. First I believed that LSU had put everything it had into that Alabama game. It was the players one last chance to make a big splash. With the loss LSU dropped to the bottom of the SEC west. Arkansas moved up to sixth with the win over Mississippi State. I suspected that the Tigers would be bummed out going into the Arkansas game.

Also, much like Arkansas coaching staff, I believed that the special defense LSU used against Alabama was pretty much a one time thing. They’d go back to what they were familiar with against the Hogs. I was dead wrong about that and that defense is what almost gave the Tigers a win. But I also thought that Ed Orgeron’s announced decision to used the game as quarterback tryout between Max Johnson, their starter, and freshman Garrett Nussmeier, was a stupid idea and it would backfire on them. I was right about that. It’s one of the reasons why they they lost.

Q. @mousetown says: You really went after LSU’s head coach for playing two QBs against Arkansas. Why was that a dumb idea?

A. Playing two quarterbacks wasn’t a dumb idea. Taking a proven starter like Max Johnson who had thrown 22 touchdown passes and putting the job up for grabs because the father of rookie Garrett Nussmeier, who had thrown one touchdown pass, said it was time for his son to play…that made no sense to me.

It made no sense for Orgeron to admit publicly that the rookie’s dad, who is the quarterback coach for the Cowboys, called him and said, Give my son a chance at the job and you agreed to do that.

If you do, keep it private. It makes you sound like a weak coach who lets parents decide who to play.

Also the only other time I remember an announced open competition for QB job to be decided during a game was years ago and involved two Arkansas quarterbacks. Neither one of them played very well. Arkansas lost the game and one of the quarterbacks told me later that it was like he was competing against his own teammate instead of the team he was playing against.

Garrett Nussmeier threw two interceptions in that game including one in overtime that set up the winning field goal. It was a rookie mistake. The receiver was fully covered and Nussmeier threw the ball right to Monteric Brown. It was a gift from Ed Orgeron and all Razorback fans should thank him.

This should also be a lesson for athletic directors who fire coaches before the end of the season. Don’t let them continue to coach. Pay them and say bye. Name an interim to finish out the season or better yet, wait until the end of the season to tell them they’re fired.

Q. Lanny says: Talk about the halftime adjustments against LSU. Whatever Briles decided, it seemed to work.

A. Obviously I wasn’t there and we don’t talk to assistant coaches. I didn’t notice much difference in the play calling. To me the difference was K.J. Jefferson. He looked confused and even passive in the first half. In the second half he was more aggressive. It looked like he decided that he wasn’t going to let LSU’s blitzes get to him. He turned that pressure into several positive yardage plays. The biggest was a 42 yard touchdown pass to Dominique Johnson. LSU had KJ sacked. He escaped and when that many players on defense are coming after the quarterback and they don’t get him down, somebody is going to be wide open and that somebody was Johnson. KJ is finding ways to beat teams this year. It’s been fun to watch him.

Q. BloodRedHog asks: Are we really one failed 2-point conversion from playing for the West lead next week against Alabama? It’s hard to believe what Pittman has accomplished.

A. Unfortunately we can’t do anything about that two point play that didn’t work against Ole Miss. But check out this possible scenario for the final two weeks of the regular season.

Let’s say Arkansas beats Alabama and Mizzou. Arkansas ends up 5-3 in the West.

Alabama loses to Arkansas and to Auburn in the Iron Bowl and ends up 5-3 in the West.

Auburn beats South Carolina and beats Alabama in the Iron bowl and ends up 5-3 in the West.

Ole Miss beats Vandy but loses to Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl and ends up 5-3 in the West.

Mississippi State beats Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl and ends up 5-3 in the West.

A&M beats LSU and ends up 5-3 in the West.

If all of that happens this is what we end up with:

Six of the 7 SEC West teams… tied for the division title. Now what’s the tie breaker for that? Which team plays Georgia in the SEC Championship game? In a six way tie it would be Auburn. If Auburn loses to South Carolina but beats Alabama in the Iron Bowl then Arkansas enters the picture. Hey the odds of all of this happening probably like 10 thousand to one but there is a chance.

A more likely opportunity is for Arkansas to beat Alabama and Missouri while Mississippi State beats Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl. Arkansas would finish
in a tie for second in the West.

Q. Razorboo says: KJ is a baller and continues to improve each week. Why do the announcers continue to treat him like he’s just lucky that he can even call plays? What is his ceiling before he hangs up his Razorback jersey for the last time?

A. I haven’t noticed that. Most announcers seem to be impressed with his skillset. If he struggles they’ll say so but they do that with most quarterbacks. We got a question about his ceiling last week. My answer is still the same. He’s growing with every game. He got a new defense thrown at him on Saturday and he kept plugging away until he made enough things happen to put the Hogs in front. As I said last week, the only thing that could hold him back that I see is injuries. That could have happened in Baton Rouge Saturday night. It was an extremely physical game and he ran into a pile of tacklers several times and moved the pile. You can get hurt doing stuff like that but he made it out of the game okay.

Q. Stu says: Pittman talks a lot about shells and spiders. Can you explain?

A. Shells refers to helmets and shoulder pads. The players wear shorts and tee shirts instead of jerseys and pants with full pads. This is usually done when it’s hot or in the in first few days of practice in August. A spider is a wheel-shaped football training device that features a high-density foam core and durable PVC outer shell. It allows coaches to teach proper fundamentals without unnecessary player-on-player contact. It helps prevent injuries in practice.

Q. To basketball where Pork Soda says: After the Mercer game, Mussleman said he was not going to rotate 9 guys again. He said he was going to move to an 8 man rotation. Seems like last year he settled on a 7 man rotation. Who do you think will be the odd man out?

A. Well in game two against Gardner-Webb he played eight guys 14 minutes or more. If you go by that you could take your pick from among the two Robinson’s, Jaxon and KK but I still think KK is going to get playing time as a point guard. Kamani Johnson, the Arkansas-LR transfer might be on that list but he’s a physical inside player and Muss likes that. Some would probably say Connor Vanover, since it appears that Muss doesn’t think he matches up well against certain opponents but Connor lead all Arkansas scorers in game two with 19 points in 17 minutes. He also had seven boards, three blocks and two assists and he was perfect from the free throw line. If he keeps that up it’s hard to predict that he will be outside the rotation.
What’s more likely is that the eight man rotation will rotate from game to game depending on how certain players practice and how well they match up against a specific opponent

Q. diehardrbackfan wants to know: In all your years covering Razorback athletics do you remember a female athlete in any sport with a height and athleticism combination like #24 on the women’s basketball team?

A. Jersey Wolfenbarger does appear to be a an imposing athlete. A 6-5 guard. You don’t see that much in women’s basketball. But she’s just getting started. Through three games she’s averaging 8.5 points, four
rebounds and one assist per game. Against No. 2 UCONN, she did not score, had four rebounds, no assists, one block, one steal and one turnover. She’s going to go through a learning curve. Let her do that. Don’t try to make a superstar out of her just yet.

Back to football… Oklahawg says: Discuss Dowell Loggains and his coaching this fall.

A. Honestly I wish they’d use the tight ends more but I don’t think that has anything to do with Loggains. Kendal Briles runs the offense and with the RPO’s KJ Jefferson has a lot to do with getting the ball to the tight ends. The opening drive against LSU had a nice throw to Blake Kern.

Loggains is Briles eyes up in the booth so he doesn’t have have to face interaction with his tight ends during games.

Some say Loggains is studying Briles offense, and learning about it with the interaction between the two on the headsets. Supposedly he will be the next offensive coordinator when Briles leaves.

He’s also off to a solid start as a recruiter and Pittman likes Loggains because… as a former walk on player here…. he bleeds Razorback red.

Q. pghawg1 says: We sure need a good crowd at the Mizzou game, if you ever communicate with HY will you see if he has any plans of opening up the student section to the general public? We need Razorback Stadium rocking that day. The more people in the seats the better.

A. The attendance issue for that game is not going to be selling student tickets. It’s going to be selling the other seats and getting fans who have tickets to show up. Yes it’s a big game for Arkansas. It might be the difference between a ho hum bowl and a bowl in Florida. But Mizzou is not the rival game that the SEC office tried to make it. Yes Hog fans want to win it but it’s not earth shattering for them. Plus Missouri is just 5-5 on the season and 2-4 in SEC play. Fans who have out of town Thanksgiving plans might not stay for it. I’m gonna predict a crowd of 60,000 but it could be below that. Obviously a win over Alabama would make a difference.

Q. PennHOG says: I’ve seen some bowl projections where Arkansas plays Penn State. Many of my friends here in Pennsylvania are die hard Penn State fans. Has Arkansas ever played Penn State in football and if so who won? Taking that question one step farther, what is Arkansas’s record against big 10 schools in football?

A. You might not want to share the answer with your friends. No, Arkansas and Penn State have never played in football but Arkansas is 1-5 against Big Ten schools. Let’s take a look.

Arkansas first met a Big 10 school in 1912.
Wisconsin won that game 64-7 in Madison.

Thirteen years later the Hogs traveled to Iowa City where there were shut out 26-0.

Jump forward to 1981. Northwestern traveled to Little Rock where Lou Holtz’ Hogs won 38-7.

1998 in Orlando… Houston Nutt’s Hogs faced Michigan in the Florida Citrus Bowl. Clint Stoerner vs. Tom Brady. The Wolverines prevailed 45-31.In 2002 the Hogs faced Minnesota in the Music City bowl. Arkansas had the early lead but Matt Jones had a bad second half and the Golden Gophers won 29-14.

And finally, for the second time in school history, the Hogs faced Wisconsin. This time in Orlando at the Capital One Bowl. A closer score than in 1912 but Bret Bielema’s Badgers won it 17-14 over a team quarterbacked by Casey Dick and Mitch Mustain.

And by the way…Arkansas did play Rutgers in 2013, Bret Bielema’s first season at Arkansas but that was Rutgers last season in the Big East.

Q. Alex4Hogs88 says: You’ll have to go back a ways for this one but… what are some of your favorite wins and memories vs Bama? The 2010 game was awesome but oh the heartbreak!

A. The best win had to be the 95 game in Tuscaloosa. Barry Lunney’s winning touchdown throw at the goal line to J.J. Meadors with six seconds left stunned Alabama fans. To this day they claim it was not a catch. They are sore losers. It was. It also had to irk Tide fans that Danny Ford, a former Alabama player, was the head coach at Arkansas. It was the Hogs first SWC win over Alabama in four tries. They also beat them again two years later in Tuscaloosa. Obviously all of that changed when Nick Saban was hired. Arkansas has never beaten him at Alabama.

My best memory is a funny bone and a weird one. The first time I saw Bryant Denny Stadium I could not believe what I was looking at. There’s a big graveyard just beyond the south end zone. I can’t figure out why anybody would build a stadium next to a cemetery unless maybe they were trying to scare opponents. Like, you’re next.

One one side of the stadium is a big walkway lined with bronze statues of great Alabama coaches of the past. Now that’s cool. Arkansas has two statues, one of Frank and one of John McDonnell. Alabama has several Including Nick Saban who, in bronze, is wearing Nike sneakers. I love that.

Q. And finally…whippersnapper has a question for me. He asks: Tera….do you know if ESPN does something to your voice? You sound like you have a deeper tone of voice every time you are work games for the SEC Network.

A. Tera says: I naturally alter my voice a bit when doing sideline duty on SEC Network games. It’s a little deeper and more commanding.

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