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OPINION | WALLY HALL: Similarities between Pittman, Hatfield exist

by Wally Hall | November 23, 2021 at 2:18 a.m.

Forget it.

The Arkansas Razorbacks have to forget the brilliance of their performance from Saturday or Missouri might win again.

The fans, though, should dwell on how far Arkansas has come in less than two years.

Alabama drove 98 yards to take a 10-0 lead, and most Razorback fans should have said or thought, "Here we go again."

Having seen the mean machine that is the Crimson Tide up close and personal in several lopsided losses it was understandable.

Only this Arkansas team is different.

Different coach.

Different mentality.

Different physicality.

This team is fearless, and in the face of the defending national champions, on the road, drove 75 yards twice for second-quarter touchdowns to trail 24-14 at the half. Not 24-0.

Alabama took the second-half kickoff and drove for a touchdown, and with a 31-14 lead, it is safe to say many said or thought, "Here we go again."

Not on Sam Pittman's watch. Not with a team who seems to have taken a vow to shock the SEC with all their might and fight.

KJ Jefferson teamed up with Treylon Burks to make it 31-21, and then the Hogs caught the Tide flat-footed when holder Reid Bauer threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Blake Kern.

Bama answered with its fifth touchdown pass of the game with 5;39 to play.

Even in its hurry-up offense it took the Razorbacks 4:37 to score, and Alabama ran out the clock and survived the wild Hogs.

It was a great performance by the Razorbacks.

Every time they could have quit, they bit down harder and banged the Tide with the chip on their shoulder.

Alabama, top to bottom, had more talent. The Tide roster is heavy with 5- and 4-star recruits.

Arkansas' roster is heavy with desire and mental toughness that came in Pittman's second year, about two years sooner than most expected.

On Monday listening to Ken Hatfield speak to the Little Rock Touchdown Club the similarities between Hatfield and Pittman were obvious.

Both want to be here.

Hatfield coached the Razorbacks for seven years and only left because he and Director of Athletics Frank Broyles were not on the same page.

From 1977 to 1985 Broyles wasn't around the Razorback football program on game days. He was the expert analyst on ABC's game of the week with Keith Jackson.

Hatfield went 17-6-1 his first two years and was building a team that went 10-2 each of his last two seasons and winners of the Southwest Conference.

In those last couple of years, Broyles decided Hatfield should upgrade his staff. Hatfield was happy with his assistants.

It started when Arkansas was in Hawaii for a game to end the 1987 regular season, and a headline and story with no byline in the old Arkansas Gazette claimed Broyles wasn't happy with Hatfield's staff.

Neither talked publicly, but it was obvious the battle of wills was on.

In February of 1990 Hatfield returned from a recruiting trip to learn the 77-year old Broyles had received a 5-year contract extension. The next day, Hatfield was headed to Clemson as its head coach.

When Hatfield retired he didn't just come home to Arkansas, he settled in the shadows of the UA. He and Broyles would talk privately, and Hatfield is a regular at anything to with the Razorbacks.

Pittman, who was raised in Oklahoma but just 70 miles from Razorback Stadium, has that same passion and commitment for Arkansas.

Pittman in short order has passed that on to his players who take real pride in wearing the Razorback uniform.

This week, they can't think about it, but what they did last Saturday spoke volumes about their character.

Print Headline: Similarities between Pittman, Hatfield exist


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