HOGS healing, await new schedule
FAYETTEVILLE - With Thanksgiving falling in the middle of Arkansas’ unexpected open date week, UA coach Sam Pittman allowed his Razorbacks to go home after Wednesday’s practice. They will reconvene Sunday.
By Friday, the Razorbacks will know if they play Alabama on Dec. 5 in Fayetteville, or Missouri, which was scheduled Saturday in Columbia, Mo., or will they be open again Dec. 5 and make up those two remaining games on the Dec. 12 and Dec. 19 dates? The SEC extended the regular season to play games that have been postponed because of rosters too decreased by positive covid-19 coronavirus tests and contact tracing quarantines.
Arkansas (3-5) played its first eight games on schedule but barely had enough to play in last week's 27-24 loss to LSU. The Hogs fell below the SEC’s healthy roster numbers Monday and had to postpone Saturday’s game with Missouri.
From Monday through Wednesday, the Razorbacks lifted weights, held team meetings and went through walkthroughs but not the normal practices.
“You can’t get a whole lot accomplished,” Pittman said Wednesday. “At least us. We’re beat up, and we didn’t have enough to play. Now you could develop, possibly some young kids, but we just didn’t have the numbers. So, we’ve met on Alabama and we’ve met on Missouri. We’ve had a couple of walk-throughs. We’re trying to get better on technical things and things of that nature, but we had physical practices this week.”
Under those circumstances, it was better for morale to allow all who could get home for Thanksgiving to leave town, Pittman said.
“Would we have normally given them Thursday?” Pittman said. “No. But, with it being Thanksgiving, we decided to add that day in there. Obviously, every decision we make is whether it is the best thing we can do to win. We can take a little bit of mental stress off these guys and let them come back and say, ‘Hey we've got two weeks left, let’s go get it.' That was our thinking in our coaching staff."
The Razorbacks reported no additional covid positives from Tuesday’s tests, Pittman said.
“We’re very positive we’ll be able to play next week, assuming the SEC, that’s what they do,” Pittman said. “Whether they give us a game next week or if we go on the 12th and 19th, whatever they decide to do. We just didn’t have the numbers to play (this Saturday in Columbia), and I’m thankful the criteria was set way before the season started. I’m thankful the SEC allows us to postpone our game and reschedule it.”
MAKING UP IS HARD TO DO
Missouri, scheduled to play Mississippi State on Dec. 5, had to postpone its Georgia and Vanderbilt games because of covid issues. Mizzou is making up its game against Vanderbilt on Saturday because Tennessee, Vandy’s originally scheduled opponent, had to postpone Saturday’s game because of its covid issues.
Alabama, playing Auburn Saturday, still has a game to make up against LSU.
As the lone SEC unbeaten, Alabama (7-0) likely plays as the SEC West champion against the SEC East champion in the Dec. 19 SEC Championship game in Atlanta. Florida (6-1) leads the East with a game to make up against LSU.
Mentally, Pittman expects the Razorbacks to be prepared either vs. No. 1 Alabama at home or Mizzou on the road.
“We’ve already watched film on both teams,” Pittman said. “So we’re prepared on whomever it may be.”
Displeased against LSU that punt returners Treylon Burks and then Nathan Parodi didn’t get to LSU punts before they hit the ground and rolled the Razorbacks into bad field position, Pittman says he'll look at others to return punts.
Burks and Parodi have combined this season for two returns for 3 yards. Burks fair catches most punts.
“We’ll look at some guys on punt return,” Pittman said. “Obviously some of the balls were kicked short and different things, but we’ll look at some guys, and we’ll get our best guy back there we feel could have some production.”