Razorbacks Want to Get Improved Passing Game, Freshman RB May See Action, Kickoffs and Much More

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas will play another old Southwest Conference foe on Saturday night in Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

The Razorbacks rushed for 245 yards against the Owls, but only passed for 128. Sam Pittman is looking for more balance in his offense on Saturday against Texas.

“I hope it’s much better,” Pittman said. “We certainly have worked on it. We need our good players to play good. That’s just any team, but I think our receivers will show up better. Obviously with KJ (Jefferson) we had three or four drops and we had a penalty on a lineman down field that negated a big gain for us. We’ve got to get away from those things. We’ve got to quit hurting ourselves and dropping passes and having penalties. That’s coaching as well. Certainly all of us in the building have tried to figure out that situation. I think we’ll be much better Saturday.”

Jefferson was 12 of 21 for 128 yards, an interception and one touchdown. Jefferson also had nine carries for 89 yards and two touchdowns. On Saturday, true freshman Ketron Jackson caught one pass for 16 yards. Jackson was the victim of a questionable holding call that negated a long touchdown run by Jefferson. Pittman likes how Jackson plays with physicality.

“I believe it can,” Pittman said. “I really like him. He made a nice catch in the game. He’s big, he’s physical. He can run, too. I think he’s just only to get better each and every week. I believe in him. I trust him. Certainly on the touchdown run of KJ’s, that was a bang-bang call. But he was out there fighting and doing what he was coached. He tried to keep his hands inside and those things. But he’s a physical guy.”

Vito Does His Job

Sophomore kicker Vito Calvaruso kicked off seven times with six touchbacks. He seemed to pick up just where he left off last season. Pittman feels it will be important for that to continue against Texas on Saturday.

“Really, really important for him to kick the ball like he has,” Pittman said. “I think he’s averaging about seven yards deep. I think he kicked one through the goalpost the other night. Very, very valuable. They have a very strong return game, both kickoff and punt returns, big wall return team. We have to kick it in the right spot, punt it in the right spot and also get guys in the wall.”

He’s Back

Senior transfer John Ridgeway missed the Rice game following an appendectomy the previous week. But by all accounts he is back for the Texas game.

“Well, he’s looked great,” Pittman said. “He practiced Monday. He practiced Tuesday. I’m not a doctor, so I don’t really know how long it takes to come back from that surgery. I do know we were anticipating two weeks, and it’s going to be one week. He’s a tough guy and doesn’t seem to be having any pain from it at all after practice.”

Pittman said it will be good to have the 6-foot-6, 320-pound Illinois State transfer back and talked about what he’s like off the field.

“He’s hilarious,” Pittman said. “I mean, he’s got a great sense of humor. The kids love him. He’s a hard-working kid. You know, he was a state championship wrestler, so you know, those guys that wrestle, they’re tough and physical guys. He’s a great addition to the team both on and off the field. He’s got that quick twitch, I’m going to say, from his wrestling background. He’s a big guy and very-well liked by me, the staff and the team.”

May Make Debut

Freshman running back AJ Green was one of the headliners of Arkansas’ recruiting class last year out of Tulsa (Okla.) Union. He battled injuries in the preseason and didn’t play against Rice, but that could change this week.

“Well, we certainly have tried to ramp up AJ Green’s reps this week,” Pittman said. “He offers something, a little bit of a combination of all the guys. He has good speed. He’s a 200-pound guy. We have tried to amp him up a little bit, but other than that we have a punting battle with (Reid) Bauer and (Sam) Loy. Other than that, I really can’t think of anybody new that you’d be going, ‘OK, let’s look out for him.’ Not that I can think of off the top of my head.”

Bauer punted five times against Rice averaging 38 yards with a long of 45. He placed one inside the 20 and also had a punt blocked. Pittman talked about the blocked punt.

“I think we have to simplify and make sure we all know what we’re doing,” Pittman said. “That’s not the problem, we just didn’t block out on a guy. We read the demeanor of the guy instead of making sure that we blocked him until we were sure that he wasn’t. They weren’t trying to block the punt, or anything. We just let a guy go. So, that’s something that certainly is an easy fix and should have been fixed before and it was fixed every time we went in practice. All I asked Scott (Fountain) to do is make sure we’re simple enough to where the kids know how to execute it, and I believe that plan is there. We have to win special teams, and you talk about it all the time, but we really haven’t done it. We came in and (Cam) Little tied the game with a field goal. We did have a 42-yard kick return. But you can’t win games getting punts blocked usually.”

Arkansas will return to the practice fields today. The Hogs and Texas will meet at 6 p.m. on Saturday night before a sold-out crowd and televised on ESPN.

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