FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas won Saturday night, but it was not pretty or close to dominating, which is what is supposed to happen when you are playing a team that is 1-6 in Conference USA play.
It was indicative of a frustrating season that will end without a bowl or a winning record, not even in Fayetteville -- where the Razorbacks had lost three in a row and five of the previous eight games.
Take nothing away from gutsy Florida International. The Panthers tried and kept it interesting most of the way but fell 44-20, which will forever be the final score in a season that was puzzling.
The ESPNU broadcast team said before the game that Sam Pittman told them he had already been assured by Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek he would be back next season as the head coach.
Apparently the conversation between Yurachek and Pittman was last Sunday and lasted two hours.
Pittman is currently 20-17 as the head coach, excluding his first season that was eliminated in contract negotiations, and if his record is above .500, he would receive 75% of the roughly $24 million left on his contract if he were terminated.
After next season, he would have $18 million remaining and if his record was below .500, the buyout would be $9 million. That's based on the overall record, not just SEC games.
It appeared early that Arkansas was going to pick up where it left off a week earlier, when it took its worst defeat of the season, 48-10 to Auburn, that led to much speculation about Pittman's future in Fayetteville.
The Panthers scored touchdowns on their second and fourth possessions to take a 13-7 first-quarter lead. The Razorbacks only had to drive 32 yards for their first score after FIU unwisely went for it on fourth and 3 from its 22 on its first possession and turned the ball over on an incompletion.
On Arkansas' fifth play of the game, KJ Jefferson became Arkansas' all-time leading passer for touchdowns with 65 on a 10-yard touchdown pass to Jaedon Wilson. By the time the game ended, the redshirt senior also owned the record for most yards passing.
The Panthers showed a lot speed and desire in gaining the lead. But it was a day when the ups and downs of the Razorbacks' season were almost replayed when Brigham Young looked poised to beat Oklahoma. But the team that started the Hogs' slide on Sept. 16 came up short and fell 31-24 and needs to win at Oklahoma State to get bowl-eligible.
The crowning blow of the day came when Auburn, clearly dominant against the Hogs at Fayetteville, were dominated by New Mexico State on the Plains, falling 31-10. The Aggies are part of Conference USA, too.
At times Arkansas has looked good enough to have won some close games, but like BYU, gave it away 38-31 letting the Cougars score 17 unanswered points.
The Razorbacks were out of the game with the Tigers in the first quarter when they fell behind 21-0.
On Saturday, two things keyed the Hogs to a 24-0 run and 31-13 halftime lead.
It started when Alfahiym Walcott got a pick-six when a pass rolled off the receiver's shoulder pads and he grabbed it and raced 33 yards for a 21-13 lead. He got a second pick in the second half.
Momentum swung on the Panthers' first play on the ensuing possession when an 18-yard run was wiped about by a penalty and FIU went flat for the remainder of the first half.
Arkansas added a Cam Little field goal and Dominique Johnson got free up the middle for 31 yards and a touchdown when the Panthers blitzed.
The Razorbacks won, but it wasn't anything to call the Hogs about.