FAYETTEVILLE — No. 25 Arkansas has brought the Southwest Classic Trophy from Arlington and the Boot from Baton Rouge and now will try to secure the Battle Line Trophy.
Arkansas and Missouri will close out the regular season on Friday in Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Arkansas is playing for the best bowl game possible, end a losing streak to Missouri and send the seniors out the right way in addition to the trophy.
The Hogs are 7-4 on the season and 3-4 in the SEC. A win over Missouri might be enough to land them in a bowl game in Florida. The last win by Arkansas in this series was Nov. 27, 2015, when the Hogs took a 28-3 victory in Fayetteville.
“We’re excited to play Missouri,” Pittman said. “We’re excited that we have an opportunity to play here in our home stadium. They’re a hot team right now, they’ve won their last two games. They have a really good offensive line, they run the stretch play as good as anybody out there. Tyler Badie is tearing it up. He’s not only their leading rusher, but leading pass receiver by a long ways.
“Defensively, (Trajan) Jeffcoat is a guy we have to be aware of, a very, very good player. (Akial) Byers is a really nice inside player, then number 1 — I think his name is Carlisle (Jaylon Carlies) — is a really good safety, he makes a lot of plays. They’re coming in here I’m sure with a lot of confidence, and we’re excited to have a big crowd here. I’m hearing estimates of 65-70,000. We certainly hope that’s the case, because Razorback nation helped us win the Mississippi State game. We’re encouraging everybody to have a whole lot of turkey and come out and help us win on Friday.”
Badie has carried it 227 times for 1,385 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also has caught 53 passes for 335 yards and four touchdowns. Pittman went into more detail on Badie.
“He’s really good, he’s shifty, fast, sees the field really well,” Pittman said. “He’ll cut back on you. He stays on track on that stretch play they run. He stays on track until the last minute. It doesn’t seem like he ever has a bad read. His offensive linemen are really good at this, they’re going to turn and run. Any type of movement doesn’t hurt them because they’re running pretty flat as they run out there. He’s also exceptional, they use him a lot throwing the ball to him. He’s got a really good receiving ability. Just a tough kid and really having a great year.”
Hayden Henry is one of Arkansas’ three talented senior linebackers and has a lot of respect for Badie.
“Well he’s really explosive,” Henry said. “I think the thing that’s really different about him is he’s a really big threat in their passing game, as well as their run game. They like to get him the ball any way they can. We’re going to need to have eyes on him at all times. He’s a very explosive player.”
Safety Joe Foucha also talked about Badie.
“He’s very explosive,” Foucha said. “Like he said, they use him a lot in the passing game. He’s a twitchy back. He runs behind his pads and he gets good yards, so the key thing is slowing him down and I feel that will slow the rest of their offense down.”
Byers and wide receiver Barrett Banister are both from Fayetteville High School. Byers has 21 tackles, including 15 solo, and 1.5 sacks. Banister has 24 receptions for 160 yards and a touchdown.
“They’re good players,” Pittman said. “I can’t really speak on what happened in recruiting when I wasn’t here, but we don’t want to let our good ones leave the state and go play for, especially a team that we would consider a rival game for us.”
Missouri kicker Harrison Mevis has been outstanding again this season. He has been perfect on 40 point after touchdowns. He has been successful on 17 of 19 field goals including hitting all three over 50 yards including a long of 56. Both his misses were between 40-49 yard attempts.
“I think he’s really good,” Pittman said. “I think he made five maybe against us last year. So they’ve got a good one there.”
Against Arkansas in 2020 in Columbia, Mevis hit field goals of 51, 29, 37, 40 and then the game-winning 32-yard one with 43 seconds remaining in the contest. Missouri was struggling earlier in the season against the run, but has been more successful in recent games.
“They’re moving more up front than over the last couple of weeks,” Pittman said. “They’re bringing a lot of edge pressure, depending on what your formation is where they’re bringing it from. To me, they’ve always played hard, but to me, it’s just about the movement and depending on if you have a running quarterback or not, some things that they’ve taken advantage of, certainly, on their defense.”
Henry is one of the super seniors on Arkansas’ squad. He was asked if winning all three trophies was why he came back?
“I wouldn’t say that’s one of the reasons I came back,” Henry said. “I mean, we took a lot of our momentum from last season winning a couple games and just kept it rolling with it. I think we beat Texas and Texas A&M, and it really gave us a lot of confidence in what we could be as a team and this style of ball we’re trying to play, so it gave us a lot of confidence.”
Super senior left tackle Myron Cunningham talked about how much Arkansas has left in the tank after a very physical 42-35 loss to then No. 2 Alabama this past Saturday.
“I think after the Alabama game it was a tough loss,” Cunningham said. “But I think everyone that stepped out on that field left everything out there and gave it their all. But this is another week so we just have to bounce back and get ready for our next opponent and that’s Mizzou this week. So we’ve got to take care of business.”
Arkansas and Missouri will kickoff at 2:30 p.m. on Friday in Reynolds Razorback Stadium. The game will be televised on CBS.