Razorback Report: Players say they have moved on from officiating mistake

By: Bob Holt , Tom Murphy
Published: Wednesday, October 13, 2021
Auburn kicker Anders Carlson (26) kicks the game-winning field goal during a game against Arkansas on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020, in Auburn, Ala.
( Walt Beazley, Arkansas Razorbacks )
Auburn kicker Anders Carlson (26) kicks the game-winning field goal during a game against Arkansas on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020, in Auburn, Ala.

FAYETTEVILLE — The Arkansas Razorbacks say the botched officiating at the end of last year’s 30-28 loss at No. 13 Auburn isn’t occupying their time as they prepare for Saturday’s 11 a.m. rematch with the Tigers, but it clearly still stings.

“I mean, yeah, you think about it when you think about last year’s game, but it’s all about this year,” senior center Ty Clary said. “You’ve just got to win this year, you know?”

Said linebacker Grant Morgan: “It went on our record as a loss. That’s what it was. We’re not an excuse team. … If the fans want to use it as motivation, saying they stole a game from us, then go for it. Use it as motivation. But we’re here trying to win every game that we can this year.”

The officiating crew headed by Jason Autrey denied Arkansas a potential fumble recovery with the Tigers in field-goal range after quarterback Bo Nix dropped a snap and then spiked the ball backward, creating what should have been a live-ball fumble. Arkansas safety Joe Foucha recovered it with whistles blaring and it was determined the recovery did not take place in the continuing immediate action, SEC supervisor of officials John McDaid told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette the following Monday.

On the play after the incident, Auburn’s Anders Carlson made a 39-yard field goal, giving the Tigers a 30-28 victory

“I couldn’t control what they called, so really it’s over now,” Arkansas nickel back Greg Brooks Jr. said. “We’re just worried about getting this win the weekend and focusing on this game right here.”

Morgan gave an account of what he saw on the play.

“I saw them fumble the snap, so I didn’t stop and ran after it,” Morgan said. “Then I saw him [Nix] spike it backwards, and we all saw him spike it backwards, I was getting held by No. 71 as I was going to the ball. I figured that was going to be a flag at least.

“Then I heard whistles blowing all over, so I started yelling at the refs, saying ‘Hey, that’s a fumble.’ Joe was still going towards it. Joe never stopped going towards it. They had a receiver that never stopped towards it and thought it was a fumble.

“So, from my point of view, I thought it was a fumble. I thought it could have been turned the other way, but it didn’t. We can’t go back and look at it. We can go back and say it, and that’s kind of my viewpoint, but it didn’t change anything. Wish it would’ve, but it doesn’t matter about this game.”

Waving the fans

Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman is being pro-active at trying to drum up some intensity for Saturday’s 11 a.m. kickoff against Auburn.

Pittman posted an invitation on social media to UA students Tuesday morning.

“Calling all University of Arkansas rowdy, loyal, wonderful students!” Pittman wrote. “I’ll be coming out to see you at the 55 minute mark on the clock before the game. Going to be great weather, get some sleep Friday night and come help us! Thank you in advance! #gohogs #turnthatdamnjukeboxon.”

Personnel report

Safety Jalen Catalon and tight end Trey Knox were not in sight during the media viewing portion of Tuesday’s work in full pads in comfortable weather on the outdoor practice fields.

Catalon has been playing with a broken hand for a couple of weeks, Coach Sam Pittman disclosed Monday. Knox limped off in the fourth quarter against Ole Miss, appearing to favor an ankle, but returned to have two catches on the Razorbacks’ final touchdown drive.

Sophomore Myles Slusher worked with the first defense in Catalon’s spot.

Defensive end Dorian Gerald attended the practice with his injured foot propped up on a scooter.

‘Laid out’

Arkansas tailback Dominique Johnson had one of the best blocks of last week’s game, pancaking Ole Miss linebacker Mark Robinson on an 11-yard run by KJ Jefferson just after Robinson had been flagged for a horse collar tackle on Jefferson.

“I told him in the game and I’ll say it again, if I watch a running back go out and just lay somebody out like that I’m going to want to block for him even more, because he’s helping us out with every block he gets like that,” Arkansas lineman Ty Clary said..

“If it’s a D-lineman and he pops him and lays him out, that D-lineman is going to be thinking about it the next time he has a pass rush. I mean, that’s something I feel like you don’t see a lot out of running backs and it’s just, at O-line you love that. You love physical people and he’s been really physical this year laying people out.”

Jefferson scored on a 10-yard keeper on the next snap to pull Arkansas into a 45-45 tie with 1:22 left in the game.

O-line shuffle

Luke Jones went through the Razorbacks’ “fastball” start at first-team left guard as Brady Latham moved to that spot to play right tackle. Normal starting right tackle Dalton Wagner, who is out for an extended time after suffering a dislocated finger that required surgery, had been replaced by senior Ty Clary, who was not available during the start.

Jalen St. John, who has been working at guard since last week, returned to reserve tackle on Tuesday.

Fastball starts

KJ Jefferson’s deep-ball touchdown to Ketron Jackson Jr. highlighted the first unit’s three plays of “fastball” starts.

Jefferson completed a screen pass to tight end Blake Kern on the first rep, then kept the ball on his second snap.

On the third play, Jackson ran a post pattern from the right edge and got past LaDarrius Bishop for the long-ball score.

Rebels down

Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman was asked about the number of times Ole Miss defensive linemen went down to the grass last Saturday.

“They came back, though,” Pittman said. “They were healthy enough to get back in there.”

Pittman said NCAA rules officials need to take a look at the tactic of feigning injury to slow hurry-up offenses.

“And I’m not saying the guys weren’t hurt,” Pittman said. “They may have been hurt. I’m not a medical doctor, so there are a lot of them cramped up or whatever happened to them.

“No, I think the rules committee has got to look at that. They wait every two years to do it. I’m on the board of trustees, too. I think they really have to look at that, you know? That’s the first time that many injuries have happened in a game this year, and last year it happened to us a few times.

“Again, I’m not saying they were hurt or weren’t hurt or whatever. Just there were a whole bunch of them.”

Pinwheel drill

Coach Sam Pittman had some fun on Monday talking about KJ Jefferson’s 6-yard touchdown run against Ole Miss on Saturday in which he pinwheeled over defenders and landed on his shoulder and helmet in the end zone in the third quarter.

“I didn’t think he’d ever use it, but I taught him that where he launched from the 5 and scored,” Pittman said. “I didn’t think he’d ever use it, but he came over and thanked me for teaching him that.”

Airborne KJ

Arkansas men’s cross country Coach Chris Bucknam, who is preparing his team for the Pre-Nationals Invitational on Friday in Tallahassee, Fla., said he showed a photo of quarterback KJ Jefferson’s diving touchdown to illustrate how he’d like his team to compete.

“That’s the kind of effort we’re going to need to be a great team,” Bucknam said. “We’re going to have to go airborne. We’re going to have to be able to take a hit and get into the end zone. That picture was a perfect example of competing.”

Bucknam said he was inspired when he saw the photo on Twitter.

“To me, it was just an incredible photo. It just showed that will to win,” Bucknam said. “It struck me immediately — there’s somebody that smells the finish line. I showed the team and said, ‘Hey, this is the way I want you to attack that last kilometer. This is what it’s about.’ It was pretty awesome. You’re always trying to find something that will click with your team.”

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