Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a member and past president of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year 10 times and has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Like It Is:
New-attitude Hogs motivated for bowl game
Arkansas coach Sam Pittman is shown with the Liberty Bowl trophy during a news conference Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2022, in Memphis, Tenn.
MEMPHIS — It was a simple question that came from watching the Arkansas Razorback players at Monday’s news conference when they were loose and laughing.
Has the attitude in the locker room improved?
“Yes,” head football coach Sam Pittman said loudly and with force.
He wouldn’t elaborate, but there have been changes in staff and players since the regular season ended.
There apparently is no doubt everyone is on the same page. It has been addition by subtraction.
As with all college football coaches, Pittman addressed the transfer portal and the loss of players who are not here for the Liberty Bowl.
Several times he said, “No excuses,” about what happens this afternoon against Kansas, and he said the Hogs have some transfer portal scholarships to fill and they are studying that every day.
Expect to see some new faces but not a new team.
They are the Arkansas Razorbacks, one team playing for each other and their coaches.
Pittman passed out numerous kudos to Kansas and Coach Lance Leipold, who has led the Jayhawks out of the outhouse, maybe not to the penthouse, but into the main house of college football.
The last time the Jayhawks were in a bowl was 2008 and since then four head coaches were unable to get a winning record. In fact, Kansas was 26-125 from that last bowl until this season.
This season, the Jayhawks shocked the world of perspiring arts by winning their first five games. Although they managed only a win over Oklahoma State after that, all six losses were to teams who made bowl games.
Pittman, who obviously likes and respects Leipold, who paid a lot of dues coaching at Wisconsin-Whitewater and Buffalo before getting to a Power 5 school, talked about some of the things the Jayhawks do on offense. He said he was so impressed the Hogs might steal some of the plays.
Pittman and his wife Jamie spent Christmas in her hometown of Pittsburg, Kan., just 140 miles from Lawrence, and he took some good-natured ribbing, which led him to say he was already motivated about the game.
They were there less than 24 hours, so he didn’t have much time to discuss the game with a lot of the Kansas graduates in the house.
Mostly, though, he talked about his football team.
Not only because of a new-and-improved attitude, but the willingness of the players to change positions or work at a position that they haven’t played on the field in more than a year.
When asked about how so many new faces could affect special teams or fourth-quarter fatigue, Pittman explained that some starters would see more time on special teams and basically he was not concerned about depth.
“This is our team, the Arkansas Razorbacks, that will take the field,” he said.
If anyone doubts he is embracing the challenges, they can stop.
As it has almost daily since the matchups were announced, the subject of Kansas being motivated since it is its first bowl in 14 years and the Razorbacks may not be as motivated since they were in a major bowl last season, he quickly closed the subject with:
“Hell, two teams can be excited.”
It was obvious watching the players on Monday and listening to Pittman on Tuesday, the excitement of getting to play another game is as real as the new locker room attitude.
. . .
In my Christmas column, I gave a shout out to my friend and former pastor Robert Lewis and then promptly gave the wrong address for his website.
It is BetterMan.com and all of his manhood resources are there and are free.
It is a great site.
Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.