That was vintage Sam Pittman football at the end.
After Cincinnati made it a one-possession game in Fayetteville on Saturday afternoon, the Razorback offense kept the ball on the ground and ran the final 5:49 off the clock.
Run it down their throats. Out-physical them, as coaches like to say.
And thus for the first time since 1974, a ranked Arkansas team has defeated a ranked opponent in a season-opening game. In 1974, it was No. 5 USC that lost at War Memorial Stadium.
The final statistics were close. Arkansas outgained Cincinnati 447-436. Both teams had 23 first downs.
You had to know it was going to be a tough test. Cincinnati is 22-3 since 2020. The three losses have come against Southeastern Conference teams.
Bumper Poole led the Arkansas defense with 13 tackles. He’s now eighth in school history with 362 tackles, and that number should soar in the weeks ahead.
Now, the SEC season starts for Arkansas.
We were 10-0 on the picks opening week. We’ll try to be perfect again this week, though the schedule is more challenging.
Arkansas’ six Great American Conference teams went 5-1 against Oklahoma foes. Arkansas Tech was the lone loser, but it took double overtime for Southeastern Oklahoma to overcome the Wonder Boys.
Arkansas State and UAPB took care of business at home with the Red Wolves easily defeating Grambling (at least the visitors brought their world-class band to Jonesboro) and the Golden Lions overcoming Lane College.
As expected, Bobby Petrino’s nationally ranked Missouri State Bears were too much for the UCA Bears to handle in Conway.
Let’s get to the picks for Week 2:
Arkansas 28, South Carolina 20 — The SEC flexed its muscles opening week, going 13-1 against nonconference foes. If LSU knew how to block for field goals and extra points, it might have been 14-0. South Carolina didn’t have nearly the challenge that Arkansas overcame. The Gamecocks rolled 35-14 against an outmanned Georgia State squad. Arkansas should win this game at home, but in the SEC it’s foolish to take anyone for granted. Pittman doesn’t strike us as the kind of coach who will allow a team to take a win for granted. Expect South Carolina to stay close.
Ohio State 47, Arkansas State 19 — The Red Wolves had jumped out to a 30-0 lead by the second quarter against Grambling. Quarterback James Blackman finished 15 of 20 passing for 210 yards with two passing scores and two rushing scores. Blackman led touchdown drives on four of the first five series. Anyone who saw Ohio State’s victory over Notre Dame knows what to expect in Columbus this Saturday. The key for the Red Wolves is to avoid injuries and make sure to collect that big check. A close game isn’t in the cards.
Ole Miss 41, UCA 17 — The Bears must have the same goals as the Red Wolves: Avoid injuries and make sure to collect the check. After a scoreless first quarter last Thursday night in Conway, Missouri State outscored UCA 17-0 in the second quarter. The UCA secondary gave up 266 yards through the air. It might be 400 yards this week. Ole Miss had a decent first half in a 28-10 season-opening victory over Troy. Our advice to UCA fans: Get there early, crash a party or two in the Grove, take in the scene (which is truly like none other) and have fun.
UAPB 29, North American 22 — The Golden Lions opened the season against much smaller Lane and still struggled before escaping with a 48-41 victory. UAPB had defeated Lane 34-16 last year to start the season. Sophomore running back Kayvon Britten had 237 rushing yards and 297 total yards. He’s now second on the school’s all-time list for single-game yardage. North American is a tiny NAIA program from the Houston area that we’ve frankly never heard of. UAPB, unfortunately, has a way of keeping what should be blowout victories close, as evidenced by last week’s win.
Ouachita 49, Southern Nazarene 25 — The Tigers must find a way to rally following the unexpected death Sunday of senior defensive end Clark Yarbrough. Fortunately, they’re hosting one of the conference’s least talented teams. Southern Nazarene finished 1-10 in 2021. In the rain last Thursday at Shawnee, Ouachita overcame a slow first half to defeat Oklahoma Baptist, 42-32. The game really wasn’t that close as Ouachita had a 30-point lead before putting in the substitutes. The Tiger offense again this year will feature the one-two punch of tailbacks T.J. Cole and Kendel Givens. Cole rushed for 176 yards and two touchdowns. Givens rushed for 142 yards and two touchdowns. Ouachita had 406 rushing yards. Continue to pray for Yarbrough’s mother, other family members, teammates and friends.
Henderson 35, Northwestern Oklahoma 21 — The Reddies got off to a 1-0 start with a 30-13 victory over Southwestern Oklahoma. Sophomore quarterback Landon Ledbetter accounted for 319 yards — 179 passing and 140 rushing. It will be the longest road trip of the season for Henderson, but Northwestern is among the conference’s weakest squads. Southern Arkansas hung 62 points on the Rangers last week en route to a 62-31 victory. Look for Ledbetter to pile up even larger numbers this week. Northwestern finished 2-9 a year ago.
Harding 18, Southeastern Oklahoma 16 — Harding is the defending GAC champion, and the Bisons were picked by the conference’s coaches to repeat that feat. Last year, Southeastern was the only team to defeat both Harding and Ouachita. Harding finished the regular season 10-1. Ouachita finished 9-2. Southeastern again appears to be the best of the six Oklahoma schools in the GAC and could win this game in Searcy. Harding opened the season with a 29-12 victory over East Central Oklahoma as Cole Keylon completed three touchdown passes. We’ll go with Harding in a tight one, but don’t be surprised if Southeastern has Harding’s number for a second consecutive season.
Oklahoma Baptist 36, UAM 31 — Oklahoma Baptist has a freshman quarterback out of Moore, Okla., who piled up huge numbers as a prep athlete and looked good at times against Ouachita. Meanwhile, UAM won its opener by a final score of 49-26 against Southern Nazarene as quarterback Demilion Brown rushed for 149 yards and passed for 228 yards. Brown must have an even bigger night for UAM to defeat an Oklahoma Baptist squad that’s filled with young talent.
Arkansas Tech 27, East Central Oklahoma 24 — The Wonder Boys showed improvement in that 41-34 loss to Southeastern Oklahoma in two overtimes. It has been a long dry streak for the conference’s largest school based on enrollment. Tech was 4-7 in 2021. We think Tech is going to be much improved this year, and East Central may find that out the hard way Saturday night in Russellville.
Southern Arkansas 40, Southwestern Oklahoma 32 — The Muleriders have a new coach and seemingly new life after going 4-7 last season. The 62 points scored in that victory over Northwestern Oklahoma were the most points ever posted by a Mulerider team in a season opener. This week’s opponent went 0-11 a year ago. The Muleriders should be able to overcome the long trip to Weatherford and move to 2-0. A Sept. 17 showdown at Harding looms.