With new coach Sam Pittman on board this season, Razorback fans were hopeful but a bit jaded with the series of coaches coming to Arkansas this past several years only to see disappointing results. Indeed, the Hogs had not won a conference game since 2017.
That was until the Hogs upset the No. 16 Mississippi State Bulldogs on the road last week. They fought No. 1 Georgia to a standstill in the first half of their seasons opener before wilting in the second.
Then they went on the road again to the plains of southern Alabama and the campus of Auburn University. Since former Arkansas coach Gus Mahlzahn has taken over the reins at Auburn, the Hogs have lost three games at Auburn by a nearly a five touchdown average margin (33 points per game). The Hogs were heavy underdogs Saturday.
However, the Hogs should have won this game after they made a strong comeback, trailing 17-0 in the second quarter. They rallied and scored their first touchdown on a Felipe Franks to Mike Woods touchdown pass but the kick was missed, leaving the score 17-6. Franks threw another TD pass then went for a the 2-point conversion, but failed leaving the score 17-12.
Auburn got to within the 10-yard line but the defense held for the Hogs so the home boys settled for a field goal and a 20-12 lead. The Razorbacks scored early in the third quarter but failed again on the 2-point conversion, trailing 20-18.
The Tigers scored on the first play of the fourth quarter to get ahead 27-18. The Hogs then went down the field and kicked a field goal to get the lead down to 27-21. After holding Auburn again, Franks hit DeVion Warren for a 30-yard touchdown pass and tyed the score at 27-27. This time, they made the kick and the Hogs took the lead.
Auburn tried a field goal on the ensuing possession but the kick was errant. Shortly afterward, the Hogs were stopped and they turned the ball back over to the Tigers. Tank Bigsby gof off three big runs to move Auburn to the Arkansas 20.
Then the play of the game, or rather, the ball call of the game, came and ended the Hogs' chance of a HUGE upset. The Tigers fumbled the snap on third down, with the Auburn quarterback throwing a pass backwards to stop the play.
The problem with that pass, was that it was not a forward pass, but a backward lateral, and hence... a live ball. A Razorback defensive player covered the ball and it should have given Arkansas possession with just a few seconds left in the game, and thus a victory.
However, the officials ruled it intentional grounding and gave the ball back to Auburn, allowing it to kick a field goal on the next play and win the game. Analysts and writers across the board roundly condemned the terrible ruling that handed an undeserved victory to Auburn.
A similar thing happened to Pea Ridge at last year's championship game at Shiloh. The Shiloh quarterback threw a backwards pass which the receiver did not catch but a Blackhawk player picked it up and ran it in for the score. The officials ruled it an incomplete pass, apparently unaware that a pass has to go forward to get to BE a pass.
The same thing happened again against Lonoke when the opposing quarterback threw a pass directly backwards which hit the ground deep behind the line of scrimmage with the Hawk defense burying the the receiver who caught it on a bounce. The officials intervened there, ruling it an incomplete pass, and moving the ball 15 yards back upfield to the original line of scrimmage.
There seems to be a hole in referees' knowledge in what constitutes a forward pass in football, and that lack of knowledge has proven to be the difference in important games, giving victories to teams that should not have won.
At least we know that the Razorbacks are for real. They looked good against Georgia for awhile before getting blown out. Then they beat a Mississippi State team that had just smacked down LSU. Auburn knew Arkansas was better than the general consensus and they were ready for them.
Arkansas is scheduled to play Mississippi this week at home, one of only two unranked teams they will play in their 10-game schedule. The game should be a good one.
The 'Backs are back.
5A West football
4. Pea Ridge^1-1
MaxPreps/CBS State 5A
As fluid as last week's ratings were, this week is the opposite with half of the ranked teams in exactly the same ranking as a week ago.
Undefeated Texarkana made the biggest jump from eighth to fourth in the overall. Magnolia made the biggest drop going from sixth to 11th. Eight schools were flipped from either the place right above them, or the place right below them.
One of the reasons for the static rankings was that so many of the teams were idle due to covid-19 concerns. Beebe, Little Rock Christian, Jacksonville, Maumelle, Pea Ridge and Vilonia were all sidelined last week.
This week, at last report, Greenbrier, Pea Ridge, Maumelle, Pulaski, Gravette and Berryville will all be idle due to cancellations. The list could grow by this Friday.
2. Little Rock Christian^4-1^NC
7. Watson Chapel^4-1^NC
8. Hot Springs Lakeside^3-3^+1
12. Batesville^4-2 ^+1
13. White Hall^3-3^-1
15. Valley View^4-2^NC
16. Greene County Tech^4-2^NC
18. Hot Springs^3-2^+1
24. Pea Ridge^1-4^NC
27. Little Rock Hall^1-5^+2
29. Forrest City^1-4^-1
4A Northwest volleyball
3. Pea Ridge^8-3
6. Prairie Grove^5-9
CBS 4A State poll
2. Valley View^17-0^NC
3. Fountain Lake^9-2^+1
5. Batesville Southside^13-1^+2
10. Harrison^11-4 NC
11. Pea Ridge^9-5^NC
23. Prairie Grove^7-9^-1
27. Little Rock Mills^0-3^+3
29. Forrest City^0-5^-2
32. Heber Springs^0-4^-4
Editor's note: John McGee, an award-winning columnist, sports writer and art teacher at Pea Ridge elementary schools, writes a regular sports column for The Times. The opinions expressed are those of the writer. He can be contacted through The Times at [email protected]