FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Sam Pittman has done in 12 games what the two previous football coaches at Arkansas couldn't in five seasons.
Last Saturday’s resounding 40-21 thumping of then-No. 15 Texas catapulted the Razorbacks (2-0) into the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time since the 2016 season. Arkansas leaped from unranked to No. 20 in the poll.
Pittman said his team must continue with the same effort against Georgia Southern (1-1) on Saturday. He said the Razorbacks didn't play well against Rice early in the season opener, and he doesn't want a repeat.
“We’ve looked back at that this week," Pittman said "I learned a lot from the Rice game and certainly hope that doesn’t happen Saturday. We want to go out and be the best team that we can be.”
Arkansas linebacker Bumper Pool said the Razorbacks need to put the emotion of beating Texas aside, and they can't afford to look ahead to the SEC opener against Texas A&M next week.
“It was a big win, but we have bigger goals," Pool said. "That was just one step. We have to put last week behind us and lock into this week. I think this team is excited about the challenge.”
Georgia Southern is working new quarterback Justin Tomlin into its triple-option attack. Pool said the Razorbacks spent some of the early fall workouts preparing for Georgia Southern's offense.
“I think that was one of the most important things we did,” he said. “We thought it was so far away, but we’re glad we did. We feel like we know what they are doing.”
Arkansas defensive back Joe Foucha said trying to defend an offense that is rarely seen in college football can be a tough assignment.
“As for the guys in the back end, we’ve got to be able to have eye discipline,” he said. “We have to make sure to fill the right gaps, keep our eyes in the right spot.”
Pittman said he is impressed with Georgia Southern’s offensive line, an experienced bunch with most starters back from last season.
“I like their offensive line," he said. "They fly off the football. These kids are tough. We know they will be a tough, physical, hard-playing team.”
Arkansas linebacker Hayden Henry was named the national Defensive Player of the Week after his 15-tackle perfornance against Texas. Henry also recorded 2.5 tackles for loss and was a huge reason the Razorbacks held Texas scoreless in the first half when Pool was sidelined until the start of the second half after being flagged for targeting in the opener against Rice.
EAGLES 1-13 VS. SEC
This is the first time these two schools have played, but Georgia Southern is familiar with taking on SEC opponents, albeit with not much success. Georgia Southern is 1-13 all-time against the SEC with the only win coming in 2013 against Florida in The Swamp.
SEVEN BETTER THAN THREE
Pittman said his team needed to find ways to get into the end zone after four drives against Texas resulted in field goals instead of touchdowns.
“Most of that was missed blocking assignments, whether it be the O-line or the wideouts,” he said. “We’ve got to clean that up. When we go out there and play an SEC team, we’ve got to get those seven points any time we get those opportunities.”
FORTY LOOKING GOOD
The 40 points scored against Texas were the most Arkansas has scored against a ranked opponent since scoring 41 in double-overtime against TCU in 2016. The last time Arkansas had scored 40 or more points in regulation came in 2011 against South Carolina.
Pittman said the Razorbacks did not practice well early in the week, perhaps some lingering hangover from the big win last week.
“Practice is hard," he said. "I showed them three different games of teams that won big games and lost to unranked opponents the next week. We've had a little succees because we roll up our sleeves and go to work. We did not do that to our standards (early this week).”