Saturday’s disappointing 21-19 loss to Liberty is a black eye for Sam Pittman’s tenure in Arkansas. There is no other way to rotate it.
The Arkansas team we watched Saturday wasn’t ready to play, and the only person to blame is the head coach. Everything we’ve learned about Arkansas football up to this point in the season has been discarded.
The high-profile attacker never made it out of bed on Saturday morning. The defense actually played well enough to win but didn’t get any help from offense until it was too late. Special teams were strong even with a blocked punt safety, but again the offense couldn’t do anything.
It was worrying to see the team come out with that kind of effort as there was still a lot to play this season.
It was homecoming, they hadn’t played Razorback Stadium in five weeks and they had a chance to qualify for the Bowl.
Rather than achieving bowl eligibility, Arkansas’ road to bowl season only got exponentially more difficult. One word sums up Saturday’s defeat and the season as a whole: disappointing.
What we learned
● MISSING: Arkansas Offense
Arkansas started Saturday as the country’s sixth in rushing offense and 13th in overall offense. This high-octane offensive attack, led by KJ Jefferson, who scored 52 and 41 points in back-to-back games, was nowhere to be found for most of the game. Part of that is due to Jefferson getting hurt, but that apology can only go so far.
The entire offensive seemed emotionless and lethargic right in front of the gates. The Liberty defense mouthed the Hogs for the first few offensive possessions, and instead of waking up, they took it for three more quarters.
Saturday’s game reminded me of a scene in the 1999 film college blues about a fictional high school football team in Texas. In the film, some of the football team’s key players stay up all night before celebrating a big game. Needless to say, the team played their worst game of the season, losing 20-3.
This is what it felt like to watch three quarters of the Arkansas offense.
Arkansas’ offensive line is one of the most experienced in the country and has been solid all season. On Saturday, however, they looked like shells of themselves.
Liberty had four sacks and 14 tackles for the loss. FOURTEEN.
They were unable to generate a charge and let a less talented defense live in backcourt for three quarters. On one occasion, Rocket Sanders had nine carries for -16 yards.
Overall it was a miserable performance offensively, but offensive line play was probably the most disappointing.
● Quincey McAdoo shines
My player of the match easily goes to freshman cornerback Quincey McAdoo.
He made two crucial plays that single-handedly put the Hogs in position to level the game late in the fourth quarter.
The first play he made came in the third quarter with 5:37 to go when Liberty was forced to punt at her own seven-yard line. McAdoo came flying off the ledge unblocked and blocked the Liberty punt to safety from the back of the end zone. That cut Liberty’s lead to 21-5, making it a two-possession game.
The next play McAdoo would make came a few possessions later when he was at cornerback and jumped a route for an interception at 12:49 in the game. Arkansas would score on the following drive thanks to McAdoo’s incredible defensive play to set up that drive.
Without the cornerback-turned freshman receiver making those two games, Arkansas doesn’t even have a chance to end the game tying. I really hope we see more from McAdoo in the future.
● Special teams stay special!
One area that hasn’t garnered much attention this season is the special teams playing for the Hogs this year.
Bryce Stephen’s punt return for a touchdown against Missouri State took the spotlight earlier this season, but the special teams’ game has been really solid all year. Give credit again to special teams coach Scott Fountain for bringing the house at the right time against Liberty, allowing McAdoo to get the block for a safety.
Cam Little has been automatic since his tough game against Texas A&M and there have been no mistakes in this group all season. Special teams are usually used when there is a negative light, but I thought I would put a positive light on this group this week.
They’ve been solid all season and I really hope we continue to see them play at key moments.
The best way to shake off the pain of Saturday’s loss to Liberty would be to upset the 7th-ranked LSU Tigers and keep “The Boot” in Fayetteville. LSU pulled off a big win against Alabama last Saturday, which leaves them somewhat of a disappointment.
Kickoff is scheduled for another early 11:00 a.m. CT and will be broadcast on ESPN.