Pittman talks questionable 4th down play calling
For the third time in four games, the Arkansas Razorbacks (2-3, 0-2 SEC) elected to go for it on 4th-and-inches out of a shotgun formation Saturday against Texas A&M (4-1, 2-0 SEC) and they were once again stopped short of the line to gain.
Arkansas had the same 4th-and-short scenario from around midfield in the Kent State, BYU and Texas A&M games now, and all three have featured nearly the same play call. The Hogs have lined up 6-foot-3, 247-pound quarterback KJ Jefferson in the shotgun and handed it off to a running back.
With the ball at the Arkansas 40-yard line courtesy of an offsides by Texas A&M on a Razorback punt, head coach Sam Pittman called a timeout to reconsider punting with just under two minutes to play in the first half on Saturday. Jefferson handed off to a now healthy Rocket Sanders, who was stopped for a 1-yard loss.
"Well, it was six inches," head coach Sam Pittman said after the game. "Sometimes you make decisions on how everything is kind of feeling during the game and things of that nature. We hadn't stopped them. They missed a field goal, but we hadn't stopped them.
"No matter where the starting point was, we had three timeouts left. I thought if we made the first down right there that we could go down and either cut the lead to one or take the lead. We missed cutoff on the backside, and Rocket got hit on it."
Texas A&M took over at the Arkansas 39-yard line and scored a touchdown about 2.5 minutes later to take a 17-6 lead just before halftime.
"The worst thing that could happen off missing a 4th-and-inches, but that was the thought going into it," Pittman said. "We hadn't been able to stop them, and I thought we might could take a lead knowing they had the ball back as well. I know there's a risk too if you don't make it because you're sitting there at the 40. I just felt very confident about our short-yardage. We had a nice game plan. I thought we'd make it, we just didn't."
On a week that featured the Philadelphia Eagles headlining plenty of national sports shows for their "tush push" quarterback sneak play that is nearly unstoppable, Arkansas fans were left wondering why their team can't also put their big quarterback under center and push for a yard or two.
"I mean, once he gets under center the front on the defense is certainly going to change," Pittman said. "Honestly, if we felt better about him sneaking, we would do that. But, no, not really. Just the fact they're going to have five guys within the A and B gap. This week I felt really good we were going to get the first down. It looked good in practice and this, that and the other. Just didn't happen."
The play that was called might've looked good in practice, but it didn't look good when a similar play was called in the same scenario in two other games. One has to wonder why the Razorbacks don't feel better about Jefferson sneaking it. Is it the offensive line? Is it his comfortability under center?
As a whole, the Arkansas offense had an extremely poor game against the Aggies. The Hogs totaled 174 yards of offense and averaged 3.1 yards per play. Jefferson was sacked seven times and the Aggies had 15 tackles for loss in the game.
While the offense wasn't doing much scoring anyways, the fourth down play call just highlighted another questionable game plan for the Razorbacks, who have now lost three straight.
Up next, the Razorbacks will travel to Oxford, Mississippi, for a meeting with the Ole Miss Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The game is set for a 6:30 p.m. CT kickoff on the SEC Network.