Razorback football report:

Recourse unavailable for Jalen Catalon

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Tuesday, November 24, 2020
Arkansas defensive back Jalen Catalon (1) tackles LSU receiver Kayshon Boutte (1) during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020, in Fayetteville, Ark. Catalon was called for targeting on the play and ejected from the game. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)
Arkansas defensive back Jalen Catalon (1) tackles LSU receiver Kayshon Boutte (1) during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020, in Fayetteville, Ark. Catalon was called for targeting on the play and ejected from the game. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)

FAYETTEVILLE — The frustration in University of Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman’s voice seemed apparent Monday.

The status of top playmaker Jalen Catalon had not changed two days after the star safety was ejected for targeting in Saturday’s 27-24 loss against LSU.

Catalon’s ejection in the fourth quarter was upheld by SEC video review official Ken Switzer, carrying with it an automatic disqualification for the first half of the Razorbacks’ next game. Arkansas (3-5) was scheduled to face Missouri (3-3) on Saturday in Columbia, Mo., but that game was postponed on Monday due to covid-19 issues in the Arkansas program.

Arkansas Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek said via a social media post on Saturday he would work with the appropriate SEC officials to try to reinstate Catalon. However, an SEC official said in an email exchange with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Monday there is no appeals process once targeting has been determined by video review.

“This is an NCAA rule, but it cannot be appealed at either the SEC or NCAA level,” wrote Herb Vincent, SEC associate commissioner for communications.

Pittman said the same on his weekly video conference.

“You can’t review those,” Pittman said. “Once it goes under review, if you have the appropriate amount of tape for their reviewing then whatever their call is, then it stands.

“And you can’t petition that. You just live with it. That’s what we were told. And, you know, video review should be able to get those calls correct. And so that was the feeling of video review that they had ample time to make the correct call on the field.”

Pittman said he spoke to Catalon in the locker room and had a text exchange with him Saturday night.

“He’s fine,” Pittman said. “You know, I think in his mind he did 100% everything correct on the play. So that’s got to be hard, when you’re trying to do the right thing and you’re ejected out of the game, especially at that critical time, and you miss the first half of another game.

“It’s got to be very difficult on him. We just want him to know we support him in every possible way that we can.”

Yurachek and many Arkansas fans were incensed the targeting call on the field — on a flag that came in a few seconds after Catalon collided with LSU receiver Kayshon Boutte — was upheld on review.

Replays showed Catalon clearly did not lead with his helmet nor launch into the collision, and he clearly twisted his upper body around to hit Boutte with his mid-arm and side rather than a lowered shoulder.

Boutte was a “defenseless player” at the time of the hit, but in that case, the impact must be in the head or neck area to confirm a targeting call. It appeared Catalon made simultaneous contact with Boutte all across the front of his body from the abdomen up to the face mask.

“I don’t know what else a defender can do right there,” SEC Network analyst Matt Stinchcomb said on the broadcast.

“He turned his whole body,” added play-by-play man Taylor Zarzour.

Progress stalled

Sam Pittman said the Hogs’ running game took a step back in the loss to LSU.

The Razorbacks managed just 104 rushing yards on 27 carries against the Tigers, and 29 of them came on one run by T.J. Hammonds early in the fourth quarter.

While Arkansas still outgained the Tigers 443-419 — thanks to a season-high 339 passing yards from Feleipe Franks — LSU was able to control the game’s tempo by limiting the Hogs on the ground and producing 148 rushing yards of its own.

The Razorbacks were without standout tailback Rakeem Boyd, who was caught up like many of his teammates in covid-19 testing and tracing last week.

Heading into the game, Pittman praised the Arkansas offense and the running game for showing steady improvement through the season.

Arkansas had averaged 194.5 rushing yards in its prior four games against Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Tennessee and Florida. In its first three games, the run offense managed 86 yards per game against Georgia, Mississippi State and Auburn.

“They did not play particularly well on Saturday,” Pittman said of the offensive line after acknowledging its recent strides. “LSU did a nice job of rotating safeties and they basically had a safety to the point of attack outside and … basically everything had to be stuffed back inside.

“They were doing [stunts] inside, and we were getting picked or we were on the edge too much. We got whipped. Before that game, I thought we were progressing. And we’ll come back. But no, it wasn’t one of our better games up front.”

Standing up

Coach Sam Pittman took issue on social media Monday when he felt an Arkansas fan seemed to suggest he wasn’t taking up for safety Jalen Catalon, who was ejected on a controversial targeting penalty in the second half against LSU.

The Tigers completed a touchdown drive eight plays after Catalon’s ejection to take a 27-24 lead that would hold up.

Someone who identified himself as an Arkansas fan had this to say in response to a media member’s Twitter post quoting Pittman as saying Catalon would have to miss the first half and there was no way to overturn the ruling: “I get it Coach Pittman is a great guy but sometimes for the long term betterment for your program you got to stand up and call it/who for what it is!”

Pittman did not like what he felt was the implied meaning of the post, that he felt Pittman wasn’t standing up for Catalon by not calling out the SEC.

“Twitter gives guys like you opportunities to set behind a cell phone and tweet out random things that you have NO idea what you’re talking about,” Pittman replied. “I can take a lot of remarks but for you to say I don’t take up for my players is as far from being correct as you possibly can be.”

FG block

The Razorbacks were playing for a tying 44-yard field goal try from A.J. Reed with 1:24 remaining on Saturday when defensive back Jay Ward circled Arkansas’ left end and just got a hand on Reed’s kick.

Even after the deflection, the kick was still on line with a forward trajectory but it came up about 10 yards short, landing in the middle of the end zone.

“On the blocked field goal, we stepped inside,” Coach Sam Pittman said. “We hinged. We don’t teach that, and we did it for whatever reason and the guy came off and he tipped the ball.”

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