Razorback report: Pittman talks 4th-down decision

By: Bob Holt Bob Holt's Twitter account , Tom Murphy Tom Murphy's Twitter account
Published: Tuesday, September 12, 2023
Arkansas coach Sam Pittman has a word with an official on the sideline during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Kent State on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)
Arkansas coach Sam Pittman has a word with an official on the sideline during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Kent State on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Sam Pittman was hard on himself several times last Saturday for trying a fourth-and-1 play from the Hogs’ 34 to open the third quarter.

Kent State sent linebacker CJ Harris into a gap and stopped Dominique Johnson on a run-pass-option handoff from a Shogtun set for a 2-yard loss.

“I can tell you the analytics say to go for it,” Pittman said. “The Sam-alytics says don’t. And I went for it. Now, we went for it on fourth-and-4 too, and we ended up scoring. You know what I mean? I told the team I thought we were going to make it.

“But, I’m not doing the analytics. … Now I do got a guy up there and I asked him. That was kind of dumb.”

Pittman kept on dogging himself.

“Going for it on fourth-and-1 from your own 34, I don’t care what the book says,” Pittman said. “Lane [Kiffin] does it all the time. Guys do it all the time. Hell, I don’t. And I did. Not smart.”

On Monday, Pittman was asked about still having an open mind about a call like that.

“I do,” he said. “I mean, as you saw, I went for it on fourth-and-4. I’ve gone for it more on fourth down this year than I have in my entire time here, I think. And we’ve scored points off of it.

“I’ve become a believer of it a little bit more, but not in that situation.”

Sitake on Pittman, Hogs

BYU Coach Kalani Sitake on Monday, as he did before last year’s game, spoke highly of Pittman, clearly respecting the dues Pittman paid as a long-time offensive line coach.

“I’m really excited about the matchup,” Sitake said at his weekly video conference. “Sam Pittman is an amazing person and a great mentor and a great coach. I like being around him.

“I’m looking forward to talking to him before and after the game.

Sitake added that he admires the job Pittman has done at Arkansas and the way he leads his program.

“He obviously has the background of an O-line guy, so I know they’ll be really physical,” he added. “We played against them last year and they put up a lot of points on us.”

The Razorbacks won 52-35 last year in Provo, Utah, in the first meeting between the programs.

Tube talk

The Razorbacks’ SEC opener at LSU on Sept. 23 will kick off at 6 p.m. from Tiger Stadium and be shown on ESPN.

Arkansas will be seeking back-to-back wins in Baton Rouge, La., after downing the Tigers 16-13 in overtime in 2021. LSU won 13-10 at Razorback Stadium under first-year Coach Brian Kelly last year to improve its lead in the series to 43-23-2.

Jeffcoat honored

Senior Trajan Jeffcoat shared the SEC defensive lineman of the week honors on Monday with Missouri’s Nyles Gaddy.

Jeffcoat, a product of Columbia, S.C., notched 3 tackles, 2 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in the Razorbacks’ 28-6 win over Kent State. He was part of a front that allowed 26 rushing yards, the fewest by Arkansas since New Mexico State managed 11 yards in 2017.

“He showed up,” Pittman said. “He didn’t really have any production in the first week. I think that probably drove him a little bit as well.”

Sack’s a sack

Arkansas had three sacks of the non-typical variety out of its seven against Kent State.

On the first, Trajan Jeffcoat was credited with a 5-yard sack as the defender who caused quarterback Mike Alaimo to run out of bounds on a third-and-8 play on the Flashes’ first possession.

In the second quarter, John Morgan III broke into the backfield by blowing up his blocker. As Alaimo tried to maneuver out of his way, he fell face down for a 6-yard sack.

On a third-and-11 snap from the Arkansas 33, Landon Jackson was credited with a sack for forcing an intentional grounding penalty for a 15-yard loss.

‘Stew’ cooking

Defensive end Jashaud Stewart made his return from a heel injury against Kent State and chipped in a pair of tackles, including a stop for a 3-yard loss on a third-and-4 on the first snap of the second quarter.

He impressed Pittman and likely increased his playing time at a deep position.

“Now Stew came in, he didn’t have that many [reps], but he was very disruptive,” Pittman said. “It’s good to have him back as well. He was knocking people at the line of scrimmage back.

“That’s going to cut into someone’s reps.”

Bucknam on football

Arkansas men’s track Coach Chris Bucknam visited Monday’s practice.

“I just stopped by to get my football vibe in. I love watching football practice,” Bucknam said. “I love everything about it.

“The thing I love about the football mentality is obviously the physicalness of it. It’s also the players’ ability to take constructive criticism all the time. I think it’s a huge compliment to them. I’d like to bring that aspect to our sport a little bit more.”

Redshirt freshman receiver Isaiah Sategna also plans to compete in track as a hurdler and long jumper. Through two games, Sategna has 2 receptions for 14 yards and is averaging 19.7 yards on 3 punt returns and 21.0 yards on kickoff returns.

“Isaiah is doing a great job,” Bucknam said. “How could he not in this environment? I look forward to a lot of years of success for him in football and track. Excelling in one sport is awesome. Excelling in two is icing on the cake.”


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