FAYETTEVILLE — The University of Arkansas saw a 7-5 halftime lead evaporate in the second half in a 37-10 loss to No. 4 Georgia in Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Barry Odom’s defense held the Bulldogs to 177 yards of total offense in the first with much of that coming on the last drive that resulted in a field goal on the last play before intermission.
“I want to congratulate their football team,” Pittman said. “They wore us down in the second half on the defensive line. But obviously we gave up the ball three times and had a blocked punt and interception for a touchdown that really turned the momentum of the game. But I was really proud of our defense. Very proud of our defense. Proud of them at halftime and the entire game. Down toward the end of the game Georgia kicked a field goal. Then they stopped them and Georgia had to punt. Coach Odom had a great game plan and I thought our kids especially on the defensive side of the ball played well. But congratulations to Georgia they’ve got a really good football team and a really good defense.”
Pittman was asked if the Bulldogs switching to junior quarterback Stetson Bennett in the second half provided the difference?
“Stetson has been there,” Pittman said. “He was there, left, came back last year so Stetson has been waiting his turn. When he was down on scout team he would have a great success running the Georgia scout team. I think they were trying to find a way to move the football. First thing they did with him is they let him use his feet. Then he was very, very accurate. He was 20-29. He was very accurate sitting back there and we were only able to sack him one time. Certainly we wish we had gotten more pressure on him.”
Bennett finished the game with 211 yards passing and two touchdowns with no interceptions.
What were you doing in the first half that limited the Bulldogs and held them to five points?
“What were we doing?,” Pittman said. “We were running our defense, playing hard and playing fast. Not sure we didn’t get wore out in the second half some. Those plays we were making in the first half seemed like we might have been a half-step behind in the second half. I think they got a little bit stronger and were breaking some tackles.
“What I think happened though Georgia loosened up the game plan and started throwing the ball outside and throwing it down the middle. They protected well. I’m not sure we changed a lot of things, but they got one open and he made a big play to get them right back in the game right before. The first drive we had we were down there on the 2- or 3-yard line and couldn’t get it in. That would have been a big score for us. I just think our defense played hard and it looked to me like we need to sub a little bit more. We didn’t have enough juice to finish the game.”
Feleipe Franks completed 19 of 36 passes for 200 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. He also rushed five times for 13 yards. Pittman talked about his senior quarterback’s play in the game.
“He has to be more conscience with the football,” Pittman said. “He has got to take care of the football. We were right in the game. He threw a pick-six and part of that was the receivers ran into each other. I thought we were very sloppy with formations, alignments on offense. We’ve got to get that fixed. Feleipe has to take care of the football. I thought he played hard and those things. We’ve got to help him a little bit more as well.”
One area that Arkansas thought it would be in the opener was special teams. AJ Reed did kick a 25-yard field goal and made his only point after touchdown. But George Caratan had a punt blocked and the kickoff coverage had some busts when it wasn’t kicked out of the end zone.
“No, we didn’t play well,” Pittman said. “Going into the game I felt like we could hold our own and possibly win that battle. But they had so many YAC yards on kickoff, on punt. They blocked a punt. So many big plays and you would think we would get the field flipped. They would get it back out to the 45 or 50 on us and again we played in a hole the entire first half. So I elected to take the wind to start the third quarter and it seemed to workout early because we had a good drive going down there. I was concerned about kicking off and not getting the ball in the end zone and then we kicked off and the ball was three feet off the air and the guy returned it 45-50 yards. We’ve got to do a better job, all of us myself included, coaching that and we’ve got to do a better job executing it. Coach (Scott) Fountain had a great game plan going into it. We’ve just got to coach better and execute better.”
Arkansas will travel to Starkville next weekend to face Mississippi State who beat defending national champion LSU 44-34 in Baton Rouge today. The kickoff next Saturday will be 6:30 p.m. CT.