Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a voter for the Heisman Trophy, has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame, and has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Offense goes from hammer down to slow down
Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman (left) and offensive coordinator Kendal Briles are shown during a game against Mississippi State on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020, in Starkville, Miss.
FAYETTEVILLE — Blessedly without “Hammer Down” slogans, Kendal Briles’ 2020 version of Arkansas uptempo offense otherwise opened resembling Chad Morris’ 2018 and 2019 uptempo attempts.
Seems for both Arkansas’ former head coach and Arkansas first-year Coach Sam Pittman’s play-calling offensive coordinator that the faster they operated their offense the faster they were punting their team’s overworked defense back to the field.
Morris’ “Hammer Down” ambitions inevitably slowed during the realities of two 2-10, 2-10 overall seasons with an SEC combined record of 0-16.
Pittman and Briles never endorsed all uptempo all the time.
With it nearly all defense keeping the Hogs up 10-5 midway through the third quarter of the season opener that Georgia’s renowned defense ultimately dominated, 37-10, Pittman the next week was asked: Why try much uptempo period?
“No, I don’t think we need to slow down,” Pittman replied. “This is what we do. I think we need to do what we do more effectively.”
You can’t improve it without the patience to keep trying it.
Pittman’s patience, Briles’ acumen and their new team’s willingness pays off.
The 3-4 Hogs recently jell uptempo.
Graduate transfer quarterback Feleipe Franks (138 of 202 for 1,678 yards and 16 touchdowns vs. 3 picks) continues passing effectively.
The running game with but 77, 63, and 119 net yards rushing Games 1-3, improves vastly.
Arkansas comes into Saturday’s game against LSU off netting 183, 222, 198 and 208 rushing yards against Ole Miss, No. 5 Texas A&M, Tennessee and No. 6 Florida.
Running back Trelon Smith was asked what’s the uptempo difference?
“Oh, man. I’d say practice,” Smith said. “Practice makes perfect. We started off slow early in the season mainly due to having a new offensive coaching staff and new offensive playbook and (not) getting the first first down. To get that first first down we were able to tempo which fatigues defenses. Man, we are doing way better now! The line is blocking better. The receivers are blocking on the outside better. Holes are starting to be created.”
And Franks finally finds all properly placed, Pittman professes.
“I don’t think we’re hurting ourselves as much as we did early in the year with alignments,” Pittman said. “I’m talking about pre-snap stuff, where we were having to flip a back or get a wideout on, or a wideout off. Maybe our splits weren’t correct. I think the quarterback has had to spend less time making sure everybody on the offense is aligned right where now he can look at the defense and have some things that are important to him pre-snap for his success. I think all those things together have helped us.”
“Certainly when we get into our tempo, we’ve played really well,” Pittman said.
“The team’s bought into, ‘Listen, we can’t really get into that until we get the first first down.’ After we get our first first down a lot of times you’ll see us have really good success as long as we stay penalty free.”
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