Arkansas’ defense making strides to improve

By Otis Kirk
on 2023-10-04 07:35 AM

FAYETTEVILLE — Sam Pittman has seen his offense struggle in some of the games and still has several problems to solve, but the defense seems to be improving.

On Monday, Pittman talked about the defense and improvement it seems to be making.

“They’re getting them to play sound football and hard football,” Pittman said. “We’re giving less and less explosives. We’re where we’re supposed to be.

“I think our guys are really taking to the fellas and believe in them, and things of that nature. I just think they’re playing hard, and they’re playing sound football. We have a few more players depth-wise than we had last year that are allowing us to do that, I think.”

The second half of the LSU game was an exception to this. LSU scored each time it had the football from the final series of the first half through the remainder of the game. Texas A&M started out having success on offense as well, but Arkansas’ defense did play much better in the second half. Can Arkansas limit the explosive plays though against Jaxson Dart and Ole Miss this weekend?

‘Yes, I am against a really good offensive team and that may be limiting it to 5, might be limiting it to 3,” Pittman said. “They’re going to get some. You know it, I know it; everybody knows it. You know what I mean? It can’t be 10, can’t be 12,. Can’t let them get behind us, LSU obviously did. To answer your question, yes. I am confident in our defense, and I think they are making huge strides as the season’s gone on.”

The assignment this week for Arkansas’ defense is to slow down an Ole Miss team that had over 700 yards of total offense against LSU last week, rushed and passed for over 300 yards each and scored 55 points. Defensive tackle Cam Ball knows the Hogs defense has a challenge ahead.

“I think they have a pretty good running game,” Ball said. “They have two phenomenal backs and they do have a mobile quarterback. But I think the game plan that we’re implementing this week will mainly focus on stopping those guys.”

Quinshon Judkins has rushed 90 times for 378 yards and five touchdowns thus far this season. Arkansas safety Jayden Johnson talked about Judkins.

“Judkins is a very physical runner,” Johnson said. “He runs behind his pads. He can get out and catch the ball in space, make you miss. We’ll be ready for that.”

What does Ole Miss do to put so much stress on opposing defenses.

“They do a lot of different things,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot of RPO and fast pace. They do a lot of tempo. I feel like that’s what puts stress on the defense, is the tempo that they have.”

Ball also talked about the pressure Ole Miss’ offense, particularly quarterback Jaxson Dart, puts on a defense.

“Jaxson Dart, he’s a good quarterback,” Ball said. “He’s a mobile quarterback. He has a mix of pass and run. I think he’s probably one of the best runners we’ve seen thus far, so we mainly have to contain him on the pocket.”

Arkansas and Ole Miss have produced some outstanding games since Pittman and Lane Kiffin were hired in 2020. Ball talked about the games.

“It’s always back and forth,” Ball said. “I know that last year we got off to a very good start. We still won the game last year, but we didn’t put all four quarters together how we were supposed to, and I know that’s the big emphasis not only on this game, but throughout the rest of the season. We have to put four pretty good quarters together on both sides of the ball.”

Arkansas has lost three games in a row this season after starting 2-0. Johnson talked about how the team is handling it.

“My freshman year we lost three games in a row and we ended the season 9-4,” Johnson said. “So we’re just taking it one game at a time and trying to get back on that run and finish off with a bang.”

Ole Miss’ offense is high tempo with a very fast pace. Is that hard on bigger linemen trying to defend it?

“I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily tough; it is a challenge,” Ball said. “Basically, my whole mindset is after we make plays, we don’t have time to get up and celebrate. We’ve got to run back up to the ball. They have a high-tempo offense, so the main thing is just getting the call (and) making sure we’re lined up in the right gaps so we can keep playing ball.”

Arkansas did make a goal-line stand in the closing seconds of the Texas A&M game to keep them out of the end zone. It may have seemed insignificant at the time, but Arkansas denied A&M from scoring.

“It felt good, even with the loss just to man up and buckle down,” Ball said. “Just to show that no matter if it’s 0 seconds left on the clock or 15, we’ll never give up, we’ll never stop fighting, we’ll never give up, we’ll never quit.”

Arkansas and Ole Miss are going to kickoff at 6:30 p.m. Saturday night on the SEC Network.

(Last updated: 2023-10-04 07:35 AM)