With a chance to complete a breakthrough season, Arkansas coach Sam Pittman does not want to see his team let up after a tough loss last weekend.
The No. 25 Razorbacks conclude the 2021 campaign against cross-divisional rival Missouri in a Friday afternoon Southeastern Conference contest in Fayetteville, Ark.
A victory Saturday would mark the first time the Razorbacks have won eight regular-season games since Bobby Petrino’s 2011 squad went 10-2.
While Pittman’s business at hand is getting ready for the Tigers (6-5, 3-4 SEC), thoughts of last week’s tight 42-35 road loss to No. 2 Alabama still linger.
“I thought we were pretty good in the game making adjustments,” Pittman said. “I thought it was two really good football teams with two really good game plans. We just ended up seven (points) short.”
The offense got hefty production from quarterback KJ Jefferson (326 passing yards, three touchdowns) and receiver Treylon Burks (eight catches for 179 yards, two scores).
Arkansas (7-4, 3-4) has a chance to put together a strong season in Pittman’s second year after the former University of Georgia offensive line coach’s squad went 3-7 in an all-SEC schedule in 2020.
After starting 4-0 and being ranked as high as No. 8 following a 20-10 win over Texas A&M on Sept. 25, the Razorbacks have a chance to win eight games and appear in a New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day bowl game.
Their 222.3 rushing yards per game ranks 14th in the country, and they are second in runs of 10-or-more yards.
Trelon Smith tops Arkansas with 555 yards rushing on 111 carries.
The Tigers have been much better against the run after being thrashed earlier this season and have used their own running game as a strength.
The Tigers rank ninth in the SEC in rushing — 172.4 yards per game — and Tyler Badie leads the conference with 1,393 yards on 227 attempts (6.1 per carry) and has 13 rushing TDs.
Badie also tops the team with 53 catches and four touchdown receptions.
“They’re a hot team right now, having won their last two games, and have a really good offensive line,” Pittman said. “Badie is not only their leading rusher but leading receiver by a long ways.”
Missouri holds a 9-3 overall edge in the series, including a 6-1 mark since joining the SEC, and have been victorious in the last five meetings.
Coach Eli Drinkwitz made a bold call in overtime, and the Tigers became bowl-eligible Saturday in their thrilling 24-23 home win over Florida, getting Connor Bazelak’s two-point floater to Daniel Parker Jr. for the walk-off victory.
After sitting at 3-4 following a 35-14 loss to Texas A&M on Oct. 16, the Tigers’ staff decided to change the team’s approach.
“We weren’t improving at the rate we needed to. We had to rededicate ourselves to how are we were going to focus on improvement of individual player development and commitment to the team,” Drinkwitz said.
The Tigers will have to prepare for a tough combo in Jefferson and Burks.
“Jefferson is really having a remarkable season,” said the second-year Tigers coach. “He’s really difficult to tackle and does a good job of creating time and space in the pocket and delivers the ball downfield.
“Burks is one of the top two wide receivers in the league. That would be a great contest between him and (Bama’s) Jameson Williams. Treylon is very special.”