Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman Sees BYU As Better Team Than Last Year
Sep 11, 2023, 5:10 PM
(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
PROVO, Utah – BYU football’s first road game comes against a familiar foe to Kalani Sitake, Sam Pittman and the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Last year, Arkansas rolled into Provo for the first time in its history, cruising to a 52-35 victory. It was a day of little pushback for Arkansas as BYU’s defense hit a low point last season, giving up 644 yards to the Hogs.
The high level of play from the Arkansas offense was probably well-received by the strong contingent of Razorback fans as they enjoyed their free ice cream handed out by BYU’s volunteers.
BYU travels to Arkansas for the first time
Kalani Sitake downplayed any suggestion of revenge against Arkansas this week, saying, “Revenge can only get you so far.” But he made sure to praise Pittman, who enters his fourth year as the Head Hog.
“I’m really excited about the matchup. I think Sam Pittman is an amazing person, a great mentor, and a great coach,” said Sitake. “I like being around him. I’m looking forward to talking with before and after the game. I think in terms of coaching, I just really admire what he’s done and the way he leads.”
BYU and Arkansas come into Saturday night’s matchup with perfect 2-0 records. Neither team has faced a tough schedule to this point, so it will be the stiffest challenge to date for both.
Sam Pittman weighs in on BYU
“Anybody who’s undefeated –including us– they’re hard to beat. They haven’t learned how to lose yet in that season. That group of guys that’s played together haven’t been beat, so they don’t know how to lose,” said Arkansas coach Sam Pittman on BYU. “I think the tape, to be perfectly honest with you, they play extremely hard. They do, they did last year. I think they’re a better football team than they were last year.”
Each team had stretches where they underperformed in games against inferior opponents to open the season. Last week, BYU started slowly against FCS Southern Utah before QB Kedon Slovis found its groove in the passing game.
Two teams looking for answers on offense
Arkansas experienced a similar slow start, leading Kent State 14-6 at the half. The Golden Flashes didn’t score in the second half as Arkansas rolled to a 28-6 win behind 184 all-purpose yards from star QB KJ Jefferson.
“Two teams that remind me a little bit of each other. I think their defense is playing outstanding. Their offense is playing well, but their defense, to me, is really playing well like ours. So it’s a good matchup. They are a big, physical football team.”
Sam Pittman recognizes the changes to BYU’s defense
Pittman knows BYU has few parallels with the defensive scheme this year compared to the one Arkansas faced last year in Provo.
“They’re totally different on defense than they were last year and got a guy from Weber State (Jay Hill) in and they are multiple, multiple, now” Pittman said. “Against us, because we’re not having success running the ball, I’m sure we’re gonna see a tremendous amount of looks. They move pre-snap, some things we’ve got to get ready for. But they ran odd pressure, they are a fire zone team, which we have not seen this year either. So they’re gonna cause us some problems because they move so much. They blitz quite a little bit.”
Sometimes, non-conference games for teams that aren’t viewed as threats for the College Football Playoff or New Year’s Six, you wonder what the motivation is for a game that doesn’t impact a conference race. But Pittman senses the urgency from his team to perform coming up on Saturday against BYU.
“I know this: last year, BYU was an urgent game. It was a must-win for us and all those types of things. So it is [urgent] now,” said Pittman. “Again, like I say, it’s hard to beat a team that hasn’t lost and both of us haven’t. Someone’s going to have to. But I think our kids will understand the urgency of this game.”
BYU vs. Arkansas
Date: Saturday, September 16, 2023
Location: Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium (Fayetteville, Arkansas)
Kickoff: 5:30 p.m.
Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM) — Extended pregame coverage begins at Noon
Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on X (Twitter) and Threads: @Mitch_Harper.
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