FAYETTEVILLE – The last time Arkansas won a SEC home football game current Razorbacks quarterback Feleipe Franks was on the side as a Florida Gator.
Bret Bielema’s Razorbacks won 31-10 that Nov. 5, 2016 game at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Bielema, Chad Morris, interim coach Barry Lunney Jr. for two games and Sam Pittman for these current 1-2 Razorbacks have coached losing SEC home games since the Hogs flogged Florida back in 2016.
Having snapped a 20-game SEC skid winning two weeks ago at Mississippi State, they’ve get a chance to snap the skein in Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. SEC Network televised SEC West game against the Ole Miss Rebels, 1-2, at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
“I made that trip,” Franks recalled. “I remember like it was yesterday actually coming in here and playing.”
Franks became Florida starting quarterback in 2017 and 2018 and the first three games of 2019 until a broken ankle ended his Florida career and established Kyle Trask as the Gators quarterbacked and caused Franks to come to Arkansas.
Winning in Fayetteville is the next streak to break for Pittman’s Hogs.
Pittman, offensive coordinator Kendal Briles and defensive coordinator Barry Odom have all stressed winning at home.
“Coach Briles says it every week defend your house,” Arkansas junior right offensive tackle Dalton Wagner said. “No matter who rolls in there, we expect to defend our field. Winning at home is always a big thing because, like, it’s home, you know? You have your fans there, you’re in a positive environment instead of a negative environment being on the road. It means a lot to be able to play in there.”
Wagner said against the explosive Rebels scoring 125 points in three games, the Hogs offensively can ill afford their sluggish down 17-0 start before roaring back to lead the Auburn Tigers, 28-27 last Saturday only to lose, 30-28 in a controversial finish aided by an official’s call allowing an apparent Auburn lateral recovered by Arkansas to be ruled an incomplete pass.
“We shoot ourselves in the foot sometimes, but this offense has cleaned up itself every week,” Wagner said. “Coach Briles does an excellent job with his play-calling and making sure, especially during the week, that everybody is in the right spots and that we clean up our errors. He really does a good job hammering home – and all the position coaches, too – and making sure everybody is in the right frame of mind and just ready for the week.”
Wagner came off the bench against Auburn with starting right tackle Noah Gatlin injured on the game’s first series.
Arkansas senior Ty Clary, last year’s starting center set back this season by illness and injury, also came off the bench at Auburn to play at left guard.
“It felt great to be back in there,” Wagner said. “It felt good to help out the team in any way we could. Me and Ty were happy to get a shot, assist the team. When your number is called, your number is called. You get up in there and you do your job, and that’s what we did, and we moved the ball. We were happy to do that.”
Arkansas hadn’t heard of Hudson Clark Hudson Clark sure heard about Arkansas.
Now Arkansas hears all about the walk-on freshman cornerback from Dallas. Clark stuns the state relieving injured starter Montaric “Busta” Brown during the Razorbacks’ 21-14 SEC success at Mississippi State and starting for Brown in last Saturday’s controversial, 30-28 heartbreaking SEC loss at 13th-ranked Auburn. He’s made nine tackles and broken up a pass these last two games with another major role anticipated in Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. SEC West game televised on the SEC Network at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Family since birth rooted the former team captain of 2018 state high school champion Dallas Highland Park to Arkansas.
Hudson’s parents, Travis and Jennifer Clark, are University of Arkansas grads with roots to West Helena and Berryville. Ronnie Clark, Hudson’s grandfather, coached the Berryville Bobcats for 27 years and
Grandfather Ronnie Clark coached Berryville High School for 27 years and was inducted into the Arkansas High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
“One side of my grandparents are from Berryville and the other ones are from West Helena,” Hudson said. “I’ve been an Arkansas fan my whole life. Both my parents went here. My grandparents are from here. So, just being able to step up on the field, I kind of saw my dreams unfolding right in front of me.”
Likely his dreams would have taken longer to unfold but for the worldwide covid-19 coronavirus changing about everything in the world including football practice pecking orders.
Knowing the contagious covid-19 could vastly alter roster availability in a single day, new Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman has practiced fourth-teamers nearly as much as those considered first-team. The extra work with the reserves quickly convinced Pittman, defensive coordinator Barry Odom and cornerbacks coach Sam Carter that Clark ranks way above fourth team.
“I think that got me a huge benefit, because I was getting the same amount of reps as Busta and Jerry,” Clark said, “So whenever my number did get called I was ready because once they went down it was just next man up.”
I think just having a bunch of reps in camp really helped me because I was able to make some plays and gain coaches’ trust. This was really our time to show them what we had.”
The coaches had no qualms starting Clark and playing true freshman Khari Johnson in Auburn, Ala. with regular cornerbacks Brown and Jerry Jacobs injured.
“We’re out there with Khari Johnson and Hudson Clark, and those two guys did a heck of a job,” Pittman said. “They’ve practiced well. They’ve come in and watched extra tape. They’ve basically made their position coaching believe in them by the way they act, the way they play, the way they practice.”
Was he nervous, starting against Auburn?
“I was a little nervous beforehand, but once you hit the field it’s just like any other game you played in,” Clark said. “My teammates like (starting safeties)Jalen Catalon, Greg Brooks, Joe (Foucha) – they’re all behind me and had my back. So I felt comfortable out there.”
Now comes the explosive Lane Kiffin coached Ole Miss Rebels led by national total offensive leading quarterback Matt Corral and totaling 125 points for three games, 51-35 and 63-48 losses to nationally No. 5 Florida and No. 2 Alabama sandwiching a 42-41 overtime victory over Kentucky.
“It’s definitely one of the biggest challenges we’ve seen so far,” Clark said. “Their offense has put up a lot of points against really good defenses. We just have to take the challenge and come out every day and practice. They go really fast on offense, so we’re running to the ball. We’re getting set up. We’re trying to get ready for that. It’s going to be a really good challenge, but I think we’re ready.”