FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas lost to No. 11 Alabama 24-21 on Saturday and some have questioned Arkansas’ play calling as too conservative at times.
On Monday, Sam Pittman was asked about the play calling and obviously defended Dan Enos.
“I thought we called a great game,” Pittman said. “I didn’t feel like we were too conservative at all. I don’t know what that would mean if we handed the ball off on third down, but it ended up being good for us just like it was for Mississippi State when they did it before when they played Alabama. We were just calling plays trying to make the most yards we can where our matchups are. So, I don’t know. People are always going to complain about something.”
One change to the offense is Pittman expects more up-tempo offense now that the team is back home.
“Great point,” Pittman said. “Because it’s going to be easier without noise. I mean, it’s going to be easier. It worked, so yes. I mean obviously if it doesn’t work, the answer is no, we’re probably not going to do it anymore. But it worked and I’m not saying that it…It just made them line up faster. We had a little success on some plays. Because right now without that, what’s happening is we’re standing up there and they’re looking over getting their calls. Obviously you guys know we’re more of a pro-style offense, so we need them to line up so we can identify the MIKE and all this kind of stuff.”
Arkansas finished the game with 250 yards of offense. Arkansas finished with 250 yards of total offense rushing for 100. One player missing was running back Raheim “Rocket” Sanders who missed his fourth game of the season. Is he out for the season?
“I don’t know,” Pittman said. “I really don’t. He’s not going to play Saturday. I really don’t know. It just depends on how he feels and the progression of his rehab.”
In Sanders’ absence this season, Arkansas has used Rashod Dubinion, AJ Green and Dominique Johnson. Green leads the team in rushing with 38 carries for 239 yards and two touchdowns. On Saturday, Green led the team with six carries for 44 yards. Pittman was asked on Monday why Green doesn’t get more carries?
“Well, I mean, um, obviously we have belief in him and R-Dub (Rashod Dubinion) and Dommo (Dominique Johnson),” Pittman said. “We felt like [R-Dub] could get the tough inside yards a little bit more, so that’s where we were going there. Excuse me, did I say R-Dub or Dommo. I meant R-Dub. He had 14 carries for 28 yards and then caught a pass out of the backfield.
“And then AJ complemented that and averaged about 7 yards a carry or something like that. Some of his were what you’re talking about on third down. Some of those were third down runs. But we believe in both of them and we’ll probably split the difference this week with them.”
After four weeks of playing road games in the SEC, how the team’s mindset coming home to face Mississippi State?
“I haven’t been in there yet, but I’m sure I will feel the excitement from the guys at our team meeting today,” Pittman said. “Man, because they love the fans. Everybody does. So I think, and from what I understand we’re almost full. Which is really something to be said about the state of Arkansas, especially where we’re sitting right now. But they come out, support the kids and that’s what it’s all about. We got to give them a reason as well. We need to come out and play well but we’re really appreciative of that.”
Landon Jackson was honored by the SEC for his play against Alabama. He had 11 tackles, 3.5 for loss and 3.5 sacks. Pittman talked about Jackson dominating against the Tide.
“What he’s doing now better than he has before is he’s turning the corner.” Pittman said. “In other words, he’s on the edge of the tackle, but he hasn’t always been able…and it might be because of his injury in the past. He always hasn’t been able to plant and get under and turn the edge. Right now, he’s turning the edge really, really well. He’s not a lot different. He’s a little better with his clubs, his rips, his swims, but the key is when he turns, he’s turning now. He’s not wasting movement. Once he turns, he’s getting straight to the quarterback.”
Arkansas and Mississippi State will kickoff at 11 a.m. Saturday morning on ESPN.