Arkansas Prepares To Take On Rocky Top

Arkansas offensive line coach Sam Pittman - a former Tennessee assistant - and Razorback tight end coach Barry Lunney both know what it takes to win at Tennessee's Neyland Stadium, a place none of their players have taken a snap heading into this Saturday's 6 p.m. contest.

Not one Arkansas player has played in a game at Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium so far in his career, but there are a couple of coaches on the Razorback staff who have been involved in wins there.

Arkansas offensive line coach Sam Pittman actually coached for the Vols for a year in 2012 while tight ends coach Barry Lunney led the Razorbacks to their only win back there in 1992 as a quarterback.

“I was really fortunate to have a chance to coach at Tennessee,” Pittman said. “It is a dynamic place and the people there were really good to me. I am really looking forward to taking our team in there and trying to handle the challenge of the crowd and the football team.

“When I interviewed and walked into the stadium, I was like, ‘whoa, they ain’t hiring me, this stadium in incredible,’” Pittman said. “The noise will be big time and it is just a big-time place. 

“There are several of them in the SEC that are big-time places, but Tennessee is as good as any of them. It is going to be a loud crowd and will be a lot of fun for us.”

Arkansas (1-3) will meet Tennessee (2-2) - who has lost two 10-point fourth-quarter leads in its losses - in a battle of two rebuilding programs that each went 7-6 last year and both expected better starts.

“I think we both are feeling the strain and the pressure of winning,” Pittman said. “Both of us need this game and both of us need it bad.

“Both of us have lost games in similar fashions so I am sure they will be ready. They have a really good coaching staff over there and good players and hopefully we will be to.”

Pittman knows the task will be easier if the Razorbacks can quit shooting themselves in the foot with penalties, as they did with 11 in last Saturday’s 28-21 loss to Texas A&M in overtime.

“The ones that certainly are fast-corrected are the jumping off-sides,” Pittman said. "We have done some things to change our silent snap count, our shotgun snap count a little bit so we don’t get caught in somebody simulating our snap count on defense or something like that.

“We are trying to change that up and get straight and after that, the holding calls - which seem like we have an abnormal number this year.

“In the first two years, we barely had any holding penalties and now we are getting at least two and sometimes three and sometimes four a game. We have addressed that and we have got to do a better job with our hands and feet.

“We are certainly getting more movement than we have ever got and that plays somewhat of a role into it as well."

Pittman feels like his offensive line is getting back to its DNA of being a power running offense.

“I will say this, I know there is a lot of negative things going around, but the last two weeks we have been a physical offensive line and one that I thought we would be throughout the year," he said.

“We have got a lot of work to do, but we are heading in the right direction I feel.”

But Pittman was clear about one thing - winning is the biggest thing.

"I think if we had won the game, it would have felt unbelievable because we did some nice things physically out there against A&M," Pittman said. "If you can line up and run an A gap play for 13 to 15 yards, it is a great feeling and if you do it consistently, it is an even greater feeling.

"But we have to finish games and we had the chance to finish the game and not give them the ball back and we couldn't do it. That has got to get better as well. Everybody knows that."

• • •

Lunney led Arkansas to a 25-24 win over No. 4 Tennessee at Neyland back in 1992 in his first game as a starting quarterback.

The Razorbacks trailed by eight points with three minutes left before rallying to win on Orlando Watters' 71-yard punt return and Todd Wright's 41-yard field goal - his fourth of the game.

Lunney converted a huge 3rd-and-16 on the final drive when he hit Tracy Caldwell for 21 yards and a first down.

"Obviously it was my first opportunity to start in a game when I was a true freshman," Lunney said. "I remember it was one of those 11:30 (a.m.) kickoffs which probably was one of the biggest reasons we were able to win that day.
"I just remember thinking that it was 90-something thousand at that time...and in pregame there was probably like 10,000 when we went on the field at 10 o'clock in the morning. I remember thinking 'this may not be this bad. It's really not as big as they are making it out to be.'

"But then we we came out of the tunnel, I was like 'oh, it is a little different when they all showed up.' But once the game started it was like any one of those other stadiums. They are all big and they can, not intimidating, but be vocal.

"If you are on the road in the league and teams don't want you to hear at the line of scrimmage or fans don't, you are not going to be able to hear very well and it doesn't matter what stadium you play at.

"It is a kind of big stacked on top of each other stadium so I am looking forward to getting back there."

• • •

Lunney's tight end group has five holding penalties so far this season.

"If you look at the ones that we have particulary gotten - and I think there are five - every one is kind of a little different," Lunney said. "Each situation has been a little bit different, but as a synopsis it is giving up the inside and the footwork hasn't been what it needs to be."

• • •

Arkansas starting quarterback Brandon Allen stood up and took the blame for Saturday night's loss, but has moved on to Tennessee.

“We are moving on, I’ve moved on from last week,” Allen said. “Obviously it is tough and you learn from the situations of the game, but, like I have said, I am my hardest critic and I watch how I play and I try to improve on everything that I am doing, step up and improve and help us win games.”

Allen has been very good in the first three quarters of all four games this season, but has struggled late in the fourth quarter.

"I have talked about it with (Arkansas offensive coordinator) Coach (Dan) Enos and how I can improve in the fourth quarter," Allen said "The biggest thing is there is a mindset in the fourth quarter that we have the lead and there is a don't lose mindset instead of a let's go win it mindset.

"The first three quarters we are just calling plays doing things in our system, calling great plays, moving the ball and not worried about wasting clock or any of that. I think we are going to have the same mindset that we have had in the first three quarters and moving the ball well and carry that into the fourth quarter instead of the let's not lose this mindset."

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