Ask Mike: A Tough Day For Briles & Odom, Hornsby Drama & Will K.J. Play Against the Pirate?

By Mike Irwin
on 2022-10-03 19:33 PM

Q. Our first question is from Lanny who wants to know: Is KJ in or out of the Mississippi State game? Your best guess.

A. My guess is, he will play. Pittman was vague about the whole thing. Said KJ has a mild case of whatever he has. It could be four days or 28 days. I’d say that sounds like concussion protocol although Pittman refused to call it that. But if it’s mild I say he plays.

Q. Arkie Redneck asks: How can anyone possibly explain that mess of a football game. Terrible first half. A complete turnaround in the 3rd quarter and a stinko 4th quarter. The word dysfunctional comes to mind.

A. The first thing you need to understand about Arkansas defense is that those guys play better when the offense is working. For most of the first half the offense was going nowhere. There were too many low yardage running plays and the short passes Kendal Briles was dialing up didn’t work. K.J Jefferson overthrew some. Some were dropped.

Right before halftime Arkansas worked in a successful vertical pass and that triggered the running game. But the key to that drive was a six-yard TD pass on second down. They didn’t try to run it against a stacked defense. They threw it.

Arkansas came out in the 3rd quarter and added 10 more points. Guess what? The defense shut Alabama out during this time as the offense scored 24 unanswered points.

At that point Alabama’s offensive coordinator threw Arkansas a curveball. With the Hogs’ defense attacking on the edges the Tide starting going right up the middle with Bumper Pool virtually back there by himself. I don’t know why Barry Odom didn’t adjust to that but ‘Bama broke two more long runs like that and the game got lopsided all over again.

Alabama has better players than Arkansas but in this game Nick Saban’s coordinators out coached Arkansas coordinators. That why it ended up a blowout.

Q. John Dews says: If KJ hits open receivers it might have been a different half. He looked better in the scoring drive.

A. He had a couple of misses early but there were some dropped passes too. It wasn’t all on him. KJ had six completions for a total of 117 of his 155 yards passing. That means he got only 38 yards out of the other seven passes. That’s because they were dink passes. He had a couple of misfires in the first half but three were outright drops.

The real problem was play calling that did not play into his strengths. Briles didn’t have him going vertical enough. Some of that is probably on Jefferson. him. He was very successful last year by just looking for Treylon Burks and firing it up. Burks stretched the field for Arkansas all season long. Arkansas has really good receivers this season but Jefferson is airing it out less.

I thought Matt Landers struggled early in the Alabama game but came around before halftime.

KJ didn’t have a great first half but it wasn’t all on him. He had his moments.

Q. PatBoat says: We all know a Dual QB is important in the SEC. But do you feel K. J.’s style of play is holding this team back or is it the WR corp?

There’s nothing wrong with either IMO.
Pittman and Briles have to get together on this and start targeting guys like Landers, Jackson, Haselwood and Thompson more downfield. They are underused and it’s hurting the offense.

Q. Sharon Griffith says: Not surprised they lost. Alabama isn’t rated #2 for no reason. Still love my Hogs

A. Thankfully there were some comments like this on social media after the game. There’s nothing wrong with legitimate criticism of coaches and players but these guys also need fans who will stand by the them in tough times.

Q. Mike Cauthron says: A decimated secondary against a QB like young is a recipe for disaster, especially when you don’t have a particularly strong pass rush. The positives are, beautiful day, full stadium, great environment and OU & A&M got smoked in games they were picked to win.

A. I love this. He pretty much summed it up. Not sugar coating anything but he’s his own therapist. Finding things he can smile about.

Now look, all of these questions and comments are good ones. I’ve always defended the right of fans to decide for themselves how to react to losses like these last two.

But there is some stuff out there that’s over the top. Here is a very small sample of the reaction we got on our Pig Trail Nation Facebook site.

No names here. Just some comments.

“I would like to see a change in QB. I liked the one that came in late.”

The guy that came in late completed 40% of his passes and had one nine yard run against Alabama’s number two defense.

Jefferson didn’t have a great day but he completed 54% of his passes against Bama’s starting defense.

Arkansas scored 23 points with KJ in the game. Three with Fortin playing.

“Tell Jaden Haselwood he sucks worse now than when he was at Oklahoma.”

Must be an OU fan who is mad because Hazelwood transferred. Haselwood caught six passes against Bama. Two more than any other Hog receiver. He’s also leading the team in catches after five games. A dumb comment.

“20-63 since 2011 in the sec. Just make us a bball school.”

Lumping the failures of John L Smith, Bret Bielema and Chad Morris in with Sam Pittman and his staff is a ridiculous overreach.

So enough of that.

Q. RazorAlex88 says: It seems very possible that Hornsby is done at Arkansas. Saw some things on Twitter saying he was standoffish from other players. It seems he removed everything Arkansas related on his Instagram. It stinks things couldn’t work out with him but it is better that he just go.

A. Malik Hornsby has since sort of tweeted that he’s not leaving. I say sort of because he posted that he never said he was leaving that and that’s true. But he also didn’t make a definitive statement that he’s is not leaving.

If you combine what Sam Pittman said and what some of the players said about Cade Fortin, it sounds like a simple case of Malik Hornsby getting beat out at the backup QB position. Considering that he hit the portal after last season’s bowl game and changed his mind after the coaches came up with a package to get him on the field as a slot receiver, it’s hard to imagine that he will stick around and try win the job for next season.

Also I was told about a week ago that Pittman thinks Jefferson might return for his senior season. If that’s true it’s really hard to see Hornsby staying. But for now, there’s been nothing from him indicating that he’s leaving and in his Monday press conference Pittman made no reference to the depth chart at QB.

Q: Marty Byrde’s Proxy says: This team seems to play like their hair is on fire when it’s obvious they have to. Then take several plays or series off. We’ve seen this in every game. Is this a mental thing or is the opposition staffs making adjustments that that negate any momentum we have?

A. I think you always have to take adjustments by the opposing coaching staff into consideration. Also Arkansas is not the only team that is inconsistent. The Georgia-Mizzou game proved that.
I go back to my belief based on observation, that play calling is behind much of the inconsistencies of the offense and the defense is greatly affected by what the offense does or doesn’t do.

Q. LR Tackett says: Up till now I’ve been impressed with Barry Odom but this defense gives up more big plays than I ever thought possible. What’s going on?

A. Injuries have hampered the secondary, including the three best D-Backs, two of which are out for the years. Reacting to that Odom has been dialing up pressure on opposing quarterbacks help the secondary. He got burned doing that against Alabama. You have to believe that other teams will attack the middle of Arkansas defense if they continue to leave Drew Sanders out on the edge with Bumper Pool as the Lone Ranger in the middle. Maybe its time for Odom to start going with more zone coverages and rush with his D line.

Although this week the strategy will be different anyway as Arkansas tries to stop the Air Raid offense with its focus on short passes to the edges and multiple wideouts blocking for the receiver who is targeted with the pass.

Q. Edwardclutch says: It’s year 3 with the same coordinators. We have a high paid DC whose squad can’t properly tackle and is out of position quite a bit. On offense they can’t even get lined up right and this punter just isn’t very good. A am I unreasonable for expecting more than what we’ve seen?

A. If you’re talking about replacing the coordinators it’s too early to talk about something like that but I do remember Odom telling us right after this staff was put together that Pittman may come across like your favorite uncle or a great next door neighbor but when he has to make tough decisions he’ll do it. We saw him fire some assistant coaches because they weren’t carrying their weight in recruiting. Could he make a major change like with the coordinators? I don’t think it will happen unless the program starts going backwards.

Q.DoubleReedHawgCaller says: I guess the best way I can describe it is his situation just feels a lot like Mike Anderson’s. Mike pulled our basketball program out the dump but could never take it to that next level. This is the path I see Sam’s way going right now. Can it change? Only time will tell.

A. You answered your own question. We don’t know right now. We’re talking back-to-back losses. That’s happened before. Like last year and this team bounced back. What looks to be true one week might not be true the next week. All I know is, the schedule is brutal. Nobody is doing this man any favors and so far he’s handled it.

Q: Armon Abbe says: I know you can’t stand the Aggies. Did it make you feel any better when Mississippi State crushed them?

A. It didn’t make me feel any better about the Alabama loss but it did confirm what I’ve been saying since the Aggies bought their number one recruiting class with NIL money and their fans and media started popping off about winning the SEC this season and a national championship. They aren’t that good.

I’m counting the days until the Aggies go to Tuscaloosa.

Q. mousetown wants to know: Has Arkansas ever won wearing the white helmets? Seems like they are not good luck.

A. According to Andy Hodges who writes for SI .com., Arkansas is 2-10 in the all white look unveiled by Jeff Long in 2012. I wasn’t a Jeffie fan. He came up with some awful ideas like he dinosaur Hog forward facing Hog and those awful anthracite uni’s. But I’ve always liked the white with red trim look. I don’t believe in uniform jinxes. My guess is Arkansas will go with the mostly white look in the future if the players like it.

Q. TimTeNO says: Off the subject of football…The baseball team is taking on the Rangers instructional team on the 12th and 13th of this month.. what do you think we could learn from this game, and will it feel more like a college game or MLB game?

A. I’ve never seen Arkansas go up against a collection of Minor League guys. Longtime former Arkansas pitching coach Dave Jorn has a book out where he remembers pitching against the Razorbacks when he was with the Arkansas Travelers. I think he beat them and Norm DeBriyn eventually offered Jorn a job after injuries forced him out of baseball. So it’s not unprecedented but I’ve never seen such a matchup.

On the one hand a collection of guys who’ve been drafted, there’s no question the talent is there but I don’t believe they would play as a team the way a college club like Arkansas would.

It’s going to be interesting. I’m looking forward to seeing those games.

(Last updated: 2022-10-03 19:33 PM)