By Jason Pattyson
FAYETTEVILLE — The Razorback defense entered the game Saturday night, giving up just one touchdown through the first two games of the season.
This, to say the least, has been a great start, even though the Kent St. game was closer than expected. Jaheim Thomas led the team in tackles entering the contest against BYU, and the team had five interceptions, nine sacks, and 21 tackles for loss.
No matter how sound or efficient the coverage is, you always have to cover the back end of the line of scrimmage. The Hogs got caught sleeping on a double pass back across the field by Parker Kingston for 37 yards when he hit an uncovered Dieon Smith for the score. He was not even accounted for as he slipped by the defense and walked into the endzone.
The penalties on both sides of the ball were the real difference maker that dictated the final score. 14 penalties for 124 yards will not win you any ball games and will keep you behind the 8-ball until they are cleaned up and Sam Pittman felt that this was something that was a large part of the outcome.
“I told the team at halftime, thank the Lord for adversity because we had it in the first half,” Pittman said. “We came back and went up 3. BYU played a really good game; they played a physical game on us. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but they did a better job than we did. They were in it too. They were down 14, down 10, all this kind of stuff, and came back and won the game. But I thought at halftime we were in good shape and came out. Three and out went and scored, stopped them.”
The penalties didn’t help on the defensive side of the ball; there were a couple of missed calls that aided the Cougars in their third score in the second quarter. There was a missed illegal pick call on a screen that wasn’t called on BYU that continued the drive, and a few plays later, they punched it in from a yard out.
“If I’m being honest, when they got the ball, it kind of seemed like they wanted it a little bit more,” Chris (Pooh) Paul Jr. said. “I’m just being honest; they wanted it a little more than us, and they capitalized. But like I said, it’s on to the next. We know what we did, we know what we need to work on, and come Monday, we’re back on it”
The turnover machine kept on moving and popped up late in the second quarter, Dwight “Noodie” McGlothern punched the ball out of Chase Roberts hands, and Hudson Clark picked it up.
Redshirt junior Jaheim Thomas led the way in the tackle department for the Razorbacks, with nine (six solo) and a quarterback hurry. Transfer cornerback Lorando (Snaxx) Johnson and freshman Jalen Braxton got the start tonight, and coach Pittman thought they were ready for tonight. He felt like they needed more production at those spots and made the change this week.
“I just thought they practiced the best. We didn’t practice well at corner on Tuesday. We made the decision that we needed to be a little bit better there. Braxton had earned that right. We thought we might be a little better with Snaxx at corner and Hud at safety and Hog.”
Despite the adversity on the field, both Paul and defensive end Landon Jackson feel like the locker room isn’t lost and the morale is still in a good place.
“I just think we’ve been pretty positive in there,” Jackson said. “We’ve got guys like me, Pooh, KJ, everybody walking around like, hey, we’re good. We can’t let this affect the rest of our season. We’ve got to bounce back. One game doesn’t define the SEC. We go into Death Valley next week to play a really solid LSU team. We’ve got to have a great week of practice and bounce back.”
“We just learn from this experience right here. We just move on,” Paul said. “We take the loss and move on. We didn’t play our brand (of football) like I said earlier, but we’re on to LSU, and that’s our top priority now. We need to get ready for that this Saturday in Baton Rouge.”
The Razorbacks move on to a 5-week absence from home and play four straight games on the road and the first test in Death Valley in Baton Rouge. The game will broadcast on ESPN at 6 p.m.