FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Saturday night in Razorback Stadium, the Arkansas Razorbacks made No. 14 Ole Miss look like Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
After all, it was the largest lead in forever outside of a game last year against the Golden Lions.
Meanwhile, down in College Station, the Texas A&M Aggies were busy making a 1-10 UMass team look like the LSU Tigers in front of a crowd that grew thinner by halftime than the hairline of a middle-aged man driving a Corvette.
Two teams that came into the week at low points. Two teams that came out with wins.
However, only one team diverges from the quagmire it's in with a Vanderbilt like enthusiasm while the other looks anxious to simply end its nightmare and move on.
Both Sam Pittman and Jimbo Fisher had a chance to lose the team this year. However, Saturday night Pittman was joking and smiling, even tossing a grin to his wife mid-sentence in the postgame press conference.
He talked about asking players to write a name of someone outside the Razorback family to think about playing for when the air got cold and things got tough. He talked about the need to play for the seniors who did so much to turn the Arkansas program around.
He spoke of KJ Jefferson as if he were his own blood.
Minutes later, a string of five players came out talking about the names on their undershirts. They spoke about sending seniors out a winner, the value of KJ Jefferson, the appreciation they have for what it means to have a program that was so deep in the dumpster fire that it was buried under the literal dumpster become bowl eligible again.
The message Pittman has tried to send for much of the season spewed forth in positive fashion.
Senior Bumper Pool even talked about how much more fun this win was in the locker room afterward.
"Honestly, so many wins this year in the locker room I feel like we haven't truly celebrated," Pool said. "But tonight we went out there and played phenomenal, especially in the first half. For everyone to feel like we were victorious in that locker room on a senior night. Coach Pittman, you could tell in his voice when he was telling that 'Turn the jukebox on, he meant it tonight."
Meanwhile, Fisher did his best to try to convince people that a win over a 1-win non-Power 5 is a good win even though the game was in doubt late in the fourth quarter.
He answered questions about a crowd that bailed out of shame for their team and how he justifies trying to make such a lackluster win over the Minutemen sound like a quality SEC win.
When players followed Fisher, they used words like "gave up," "didn't finish" and "frustrated." There was discussion of UMass doing exactly what players were told the Minutemen were going to do.
That made it official.
When players know what is going to happen, are drastically more talented than their opponents and say things like gave up and didn't finish, they're literally telling people through the press and through the actions on the field that the coach has lost them.
If the A&M administration opts to keep Fisher, all indications are that there will be a Black Friday sale going on in College Station as the finest team money can buy goes on clearance with players hitting the portal.
Back in Fayetteville, Arkansas looks like its 2021 self again for the first time all year. If Pittman can keep the energy up and pull out a win against Missouri followed by a bowl victory, he will have his mojo fully back.
While it looked impossible two weeks ago, Pittman appears to have won his players back. It's perfect timing too, because if he can make this program look attractive again in the offseason, there will be a lot of talent on the market.
He's already said he's going to hit the portal much harder this postseason in hopes of building depth and raising the talent level while recruits develop. After how things looked down in southeast Texas, he may not have to drive that far to shop for his holiday gift for Razorback fans.
Two highly touted preseason teams played on a cold November night.
The coach of one found himself again and created a spark that may turn the season around.
The other may have given the check writers a reason to make him one of the world's richest unemployed men.
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