Razorback football notebook: Dubinion's winning play remembered

FAYETTEVILLE — University of Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman related an interesting story during his first Sam Pittman Live radio appearance of the season with Chuck Barrett on Wednesday.
Pittman said he and the staff decided they would take the option of going on offense first in the third overtime against Kansas in the Liberty Bowl with the score tied 53-53. At that point, the teams were forced to exchange two-point tries for the remainder of the game. Pittman said he thought converting their try first would put some pressure on the Jayhawks.
On the sideline, the offense determined they would call a wheel route throw to a back over the right side and quarterback KJ Jefferson chimed in with a suggestion.
“I’ll never forget this,” Pittman said. “KJ said, ‘Put ‘Dub’ in,’ ” referring to tailback Rashod Dubinion, who had already rushed for 112 yards and two touchdowns in the game.
Sure enough Dubinion, who caught a key wheel route touchdown just before halftime in the Hogs’ 52-35 win at BYU, broke open and hauled in the two-point try for a 55-53 lead.
The Hogs forced an incomplete pass from backup quarterback Jason Bean on the next play and left with a triple-overtime victory.
Arkansas improved to 9-1 in games that were decided in or beyond double overtime and 2-0 in overtime games under Pittman.
Georgia in mind
Associate head coach and running backs coach Jimmy Smith and Coach Sam Pittman have Georgia in their backgrounds, one of the key reasons why 12 players from the Peach State dot the Hogs’ roster.
Smith was a two-time state championship winning coach at Cedar Grove High in metro Atlanta, where he spent six years as athletic director and head coach in football and track.
Pittman was offensive line coach and a key recruiter for Georgia Coach Kirby Smart from 2016-19, helping pave the way for the Bulldogs’ back-to-back national championship runs.
Pittman was asked Thursday about Georgia being “more open” for the Razorbacks these days.
“Yeah, it really is. You know, we have that relationship in there,” Pittman said. “And Jimmy [Smith] is really the guy. Jimmy is like the godfather when he walks into schools over there, you know. Because everybody respects him. He had such a great career over there as a head coach. Both football and track. But, Georgia’s been good to us. And we’ll continue to recruit there.
Not my refs
Coach Sam Pittman took a light-hearted swipe at those who bet money on the Razorbacks in the Liberty Bowl, as well as the game officials during his talk to the Hawgs Illustrated Sports Club on Thursday.
Pittman told the audience how important it was to beat Kansas 55-53 in triple overtime to give the Razorbacks a winning record and to show the team could compete even with an abundance of backups filling roles of players who opted out of the game.
Then he added, “It’s not my fault if you bet on us and we won but we didn’t cover the spread,” Pittman said. “I didn’t place a bet but I got all the blame. I’m like … dang. I didn’t hire the officials.”
The Pac-12 officiating and replay crew made a number of controversial calls in the game. The most notable was ruling Matt Landers had fumbled when the Razorbacks were trying to ice the game with a 38-23 lead and just over three minutes remaining with the clock running. Replays appeared to show Landers’ elbow touched the ground before he lost the ball.
Additionally, the crew called a targeting foul on cornerback Quincey McAdoo on a failed two-point conversion run by quarterback Jalon Daniels in the second overtime. Given a second chance, the Jayhawks converted the try to tie the game at 53-53.
In the first half, the on-field referees didn’t call early contact by O.J. Burroughs against Isaiah Sategna on a throw into the end zone with Arkansas trying to add on to a 31-13 lead. Burroughs ran into Sategna then intercepted a KJ Jefferson pass with 20 seconds left in the second quarter.
Jayden’s jump
Coach Sam Pittman is high on the advancement of defensive back Jayden Johnson after the safety’s sophomore slump in 2022.
Speaking on his radio show Wednesday, Pittman said, “I’ll tell you a guy, and ‘most proud of’ is not the way to go, but I’d say a guy I’m really proud of is Jayden Johnson. He has done a fantastic job from last year to now.”
Johnson intercepted KJ Jefferson in fastball starts in the right flat this week, then had another couple of stops near the line of scrimmage on Thursday with the first unit.
State breakdown
The Razorbacks listed 126 players on their camp roster, the 125 allowed by the NCAA, plus cornerback Quincey McAdoo, who was not in camp as he continued to rehabilitate from the neck injury he suffered in a car crash on May 1.
There were 42 players on the roster from Arkansas — easily the most of any state — and 29 from Texas, a traditional stronghold for Razorback recruiting as it is for many other programs.
The state with the third-highest representation — Georgia — might be a surprise as it does not share a border with Arkansas. The Razorbacks had 12 players from Georgia on the camp roster.
The breakdown from there: Oklahoma 7, Florida 6, Tennessee 4, North Carolina and Ohio 3, Mississippi and South Carolina 2, Alabama, Missouri, Kansas, Michigan, California, Louisiana, Illinois, Maryland and Wisconsin. Then there’s the punter, Max Fletcher, who hails from Melbourne, Australia, as the lone representative from outside the United States.
Sherman’s reply
Transfer tight end Francis Sherman kept it simple when asked last week what made him come to Arkansas.
“I mean have you ever interacted with Coach [Sam] Pittman,” Sherman replied.
When the reporter replied that he had, Sherman shot back, “Yeah, there you go.”
QB commandments
Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Dan Enos said he went through his “quarterback commandments and our philosophy of playing the position” in his first meeting with new players last winter.
Enos discussed those commandments on Thursday.
“We’ve gotten them from different people,” Enos said. “Never make a premeditated decision, that’s one.
“Never throw the ball late over the middle. That’s one. Never make a blind throw.
“And then my last one is never throw on hope. Never throw and go, ‘Man, I hope that works out.’ That’s a bad deal. We say, ‘Be aggressive, not careless.’ ”
Drop 8 debate
The scheme the Razorbacks used to great effect to slow and befuddle both Mississippi State and Ole Miss during key wins in 2020 might not be as big a part of the plan with defensive coordinator Travis Williams calling the shots.
Arkansas schemed up a “Drop 8” plan in its first game against Mississippi State under Coach Sam Pittman and defensive coordinator Barry Odom and it messed with quarterback K.J. Costello, who had thrown for an SEC-record 623 yards the week before in a 44-34 upset at defending College Football Playoff champion LSU. Greg Brooks made a pick-six to open the scoring and the Hogs hung on to win 21-14.
The Razorbacks also snagged six interceptions, three of them by current senior Hudson Clark and two of them for pick-sixes, in a 33-21 win over Ole Miss in which Matt Corral was 20 of 38 for 200 yards.
Williams ran some cover 0 schemes at Central Florida, with every defensive back in man coverage, but he will probably have to tone that down some in the SEC. Still, he plans on using pressure packages to create mistakes.
“I don’t think we’re going to be dropping seven or eight a lot,” said Clark, now a safety. “He’s going to bring intensity to every meeting or practice on the field. I think scheme-wise, he’s going to do the exact same thing. For us, it’s harder covering, but it’s easier because we’re covering shorter.”

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