It looked like a football play.
It looked like a fumble.
Yet for the second-consecutive year, a key no-fumble call in the Arkansas-Auburn game once again didn't go the way of Sam Pittman's Razorbacks. They lost, 38-23, at home – the Hogs' third loss in a row after they opened the season 4-0.
The fumble/no fumble occurred early in the game, when the two teams had traded blows and were separated by just four points at halftime.
Pittman declined to single-out the Southeastern Conference officiating crew in Saturday's game, but he acknowledged “it gets frustrating.”
The Hogs also were on the wrong end – for them, anyway – of a 50-50 pass-interference penalty.
“Well, you know, it's bad because we had such a big start to the season, and now we've lost three in a row,” said Pittman, who nonetheless spent almost 20 full minutes postgame patiently answering questions. “That's on the head football coach. I've got to figure out why. I think I've got reasons why.
“Yeah … it gets frustrating [feeling like his team repeatedly has calls go against it]. You'd like to catch a break here or there but … yeah it gets frustrating.”
As for the specific play, Pittman said he was informed because the Auburn ball-carrier – Jarquez Hunter – was lifted off the ground on the tackle that it could not be ruled a fumble.
“They said the ball-carrier was picked up,” Pittman shared postgame, “which meant it couldn't be a fumble.”
Late in the game during the 2020 season, Auburn also appeared clearly to fumble but instead had its backwards pass ruled incomplete and knocked off the Razorbacks.
The Hogs will try to bounce back next weekend when they host Football Championship Subdivision team Arkansas-Pine Bluff, before their lone open date.
Pittman, who repeatedly pointed the finger of blame at himself, admitted his Arkansas team – still in rebuilding mode after Pittman was hired after the 2019 season – has been beaten and battered in a brutal seven-game opening stretch.
The Razorbacks have faced teams ranked 15th, 7th, 2nd, 17th and soon-to-be ranked Auburn plus still have top-five Alabama on the road next month.
“I mean, you mean … are we going to quit? I think we all feel like crap,” Pittman said. “I think we all do. I think we've got a beat-up team to be honest with you. I think our team is beat up. This bye week can't get here fast enough. But I think we've got a physically, beat up team. And they're trying. But if you see plays that we were making earlier in year, we're not making them. I just think we've got a beat-up team.
“We need to get ready and play for Pine Bluff this weekend and take that week off. We need it. I think physically, if you didn't think we just physically got whipped today, that's what we did. On both sides of the football. We did. Now that doesn't mean if they're better than you that you can't counter that with blitzes and things of that nature, play-action, and all that kind of stuff. But that's what we tried. And they were better than we were today.”