football Edit

Catalon to miss 1st half vs. Missouri

Jalen Catalon will miss the first half of Arkansas' game at Missouri because of a targeting foul called on him against LSU.
Jalen Catalon will miss the first half of Arkansas' game at Missouri because of a targeting foul called on him against LSU. (Arkansas Athletics)

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FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas will be without one of its best players for the first half of Saturday’s game at Missouri, head coach Sam Pittman confirmed Monday.

Safety Jalen Catalon will have to serve a first-half suspension as part of targeting foul he was called for in the fourth quarter against LSU. The penalty disqualified him from the rest of that game, plus - because it happened in the second half - carries over into the Razorbacks’ next game.

The flag was initially thrown on the field by a member of head referee Marc Curles’ crew and then confirmed following a replay review.

“Once it goes under review, if you have the appropriate amount of tape for their viewing, then whatever their call is then it stands and you can’t petition that,” Pittman said. “You just live with it is what we were told, so he’ll be out for the first half of the Missouri game.”

It was a controversial call, though. Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek tweeted shortly after the game that he would talk to the “appropriate SEC Officials” about the mandatory suspension because “my student-athletes deserve better.”

However, it is not an SEC rule, but rather an NCAA rule that requires a first-half suspension in the next game if a targeting foul is called after halftime. There is no appeals process.

The most likely candidates to fill in for Catalon against Missouri are true freshman Myles Slusher and junior Myles Mason. Redshirt sophomore Simeon Blair and fifth-year senior Micahh Smith would likely also be possibilities, but Blair - a former walk-on - missed the LSU game presumably because of COVID-19 protocols and could be out again this week, while Smith recently had season-ending surgery.

If the Razorbacks primarily run their dime defense with six defensive backs on the field, Mason typically already starts as the extra safety - alongside Catalon and Joe Foucha - so that means Slusher will probably get the extra snaps.

“You have to get somebody else ready and (Catalon) has to be ready, as well,” Pittman said. “Obviously we’re just going to play Slusher and Mason and whomever that we normally would. … So just knowing that he won’t be able to play in the first half, we’ll get them ready. Really not a whole lot of difference than what we normally do.”

Slusher played well on Saturday, finishing with five solo tackles, including a tackle for loss, plus forced a fumble and recovered a fumble. That earned him a team-high 78.1 grade from Pro Football Focus on 42 total snaps.

However, Catalon is undoubtedly the best option for the Razorbacks. He’s the third-highest graded safety in the SEC, according to PFF, and Pittman said after the game that his presence on the field might mean more than his physical abilities because of how much of a leader he is.

The first-year coach said he reached out to Catalon via text Saturday night and that he was doing well, but he wanted his star safety to know that they supported him.

“I sought him out in the locker room after the game, because I think in his mind, he did 100 percent everything correct on the play,” Pittman said. “So that's got to be hard, when you're trying to do the right thing and you're ejected out of the game, especially at that critical time, and you miss the first half of another game.”

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