FAYETTEVILLE – The Arkansas Razorbacks will spend New Year’s Eve completing 2020 and their football season at the Mecari Texas Bowl against the TCU Horned Frogs at NRG Stadium in Houston.
First-year Coach Sam Pittman’s 3-7 Razorbacks through an entirely SEC schedule after going 1-7, 0-8, 0-8 in the SEC under predecessors Bret Bielema in 2017 and Chad Morris and in 2018 and 2019, and Coach Gary Patterson’s 6-4 Horned Frogs of the Big 12 accepted Sunday invitations to the bowl game that Arkansas played in 2014 when the Razorbacks defeated the Texas Longhorns, 31-7 at NRG Stadium and this Dec. 31 will be 7 p.m. televised by ESPN.
Arkansas, Texas and TCU all were longtime lynchpins of the since defunct Southwest Conference.
Including two games that Arkansas and TCU played nonconference in 2016 and 2017with Arkansas winning 41-38 in double overtime in Fort Worth, and TCU prevailing, 28-7 in Fayetteville, the Dec. 31 game will mark the 71st clash of Hogs vs. Frogs.
Because of covid-19 coronavirus restrictions limited the bowl game’s attendance, Arkansas fans cannot purchase bowl tickets through the Razorback Ticket Office but can visit Mercari TexasBowl.com/Tickets or call 832-667-2390 for ticket information.
“Happy to be invited to play in the Texas Bowl against a very, very good TCU football team,” Pittman said Sunday evening, “coached by in my opinion, one of the top head coaches in the country in Gary Patterson. His team plays extremely, extremely hard.”
Patterson spoke Sunday in similar terms, also noting Arkansas has several players hailing from near TCU’s Fort Worth base.
“We’re excited to get a chance get an opportunity to also play a great university like the University of Arkansas. Sam Carter is one of our guys that’s on their staff. I know Coach Pittman well and a couple of their coaches. So it’s fun. A lot of the kids are from….the DFW (Dallas-Fort Worth) kids we know that play with the Hogs. Anytime you get a chance to play in a bowl game it’s a fun experience.’
Pittman, 59 and a longtime major college offensive line coach until becoming Arkansas’ head coach this season, and Patterson, 60 and TCU’s head coach since 2000 after coordinating defenses at New Mexico and TCU, share one resume bond on which both commented in teleconferences Sunday evening.
Pittsburg State grad Pittman played for the Gorillas from 1980-83.
Kansas State grad Patterson coached Pittsburg State Gorillas linebackers in 1988.
“I think he’s a wonderful person and a heck of a football coach,” Pittman said. “I’ve known different guys that I coached with that coach with Coach Patterson. Several. Coach Patterson is a Pittsburg State guy, a Kansas man. So that’s where we started. Then we both know several different guys in the business. I don’t communicate with Coach Patterson on a monthly basis or anything of that nature, but I do run into him some in recruiting and have an opportunity to visit with him. There’s certainly mutual respect between he and I and it goes as far back as Kansas.”
Patterson cited similar experiences.
“He’s a Pittsburg State grad,” Patterson said. “I coached there. He also was on the Northern Illinois staff when we played them in a bowl game out in San Diego. When you’ve been in coaching almost 40 years like I do you get to know a lot of people. You cross a lot of paths and do a lot of things. He’s kinda like myself had quite a journey which is a good thing. But I really like watching from afar I’ve really liked how he’s come in and how they’ve done things at Arkansas this year. So really very complimentary. Really complimentary of how the kids are playing. I judge a coaching staff by how the kids play. The kids play hard. So they played really hard this year and the recruiting will take care of itself. That’s always a good start and everything his kids say about him.”
Also, Arkansas cornerbacks coach Sam Carter, 30, accompanying former Missouri head coach/first-year Arkansas defensive coordinator Barry Odom from Odom’s Missouri staff to Arkansas, is a TCU grad and 2011-2014 Horned Frogs letterman for Patterson,
“I knew he needed to go away and learn other things,” Patterson said of Carter so far coaching elsewhere than TCU. “But he’s a great leader, he’s a great role model and he’s a great teacher. He always was even a great recruiter for us as a player. He was very close to my family, so Sam Carter is a guy we think very well of in the Patterson house.”
Pittman said he thinks highly of Carter, too and already did so because of Odom
“Barry Odom recommended him,” Pittman said. “Barry knew him well, obviously, because he’d been over there with him. Sam’s just mature beyond his age. You feel like he’s 35-40 years old. He’s obviously not. He’s a great recruiter. A relentless recruiter. His players have great respect for him. He’s one of the best recruiters we have on our staff.”
Pittman continually professed praise for Patterson’s Frogs but proffers no apologies for Arkansas’ 3-7 record given its strength of schedule.
“I’ve had an opportunity to play TCU a couple of times, once when I was at Northern Illinois several years back,’ Pittman said. “And most recently in the Liberty Bowl when we were at Georgia. It’s exactly what you think. They’re going to run around and hit you and they’re going to be well coached. They’re a physical football team.”
And his own team?
“We’ll always have folks who will say we were 3-7 and things of that nature,” Pittman said. “If you look at our schedule obviously we played 10 SEC games, certainly played four (Alabama, Florida, Texas A&M and Georgia) I think of the top nine teams in the country, let alone with the other guys. I feel like if nothing else because of our schedule we’ve earned a bowl situation. Our guys I said, it’s a big deal. And to be honest with you I believe we’ve earned it and so we’ll see what happens.”