RAZORBACKS REPORT: Coach Pittman impressed by Arkansas backup QB Criswell

Arkansas backup quarterback Jacolby Criswell has thrown a touchdown pass in each of his two appearances this season, which Coach Sam Pittman said has earned the former Morrilton star more playing time. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Hank Layton)

FAYETTEVILLE -- University of Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman said backup quarterback Jacolby Criswell's play last week behind KJ Jefferson has earned the redshirt junior playing time.

Criswell completed 2 of 4 passes, with one drop, for 19 yards and his 60-yard run set up an 11-yard scoring strike to Isaac TeSlaa for the Hogs' only touchdown in a 48-10 loss to Auburn.

Pittman noted Criswell has thrown touchdown passes in each of his two appearances this season, including a 14-yard throw to Davion Dozier in the 56-13 win over Western Carolina in the season opener.

Criswell, a Morrilton High graduate who began his career at North Carolina, has drawn praise from his teammates for his practice work and limited game action.

"Jacolby, when he's on the field, he's very dialed in, locked in," receiver Andrew Armstrong said. "Y'all have seen him throw the ball. He can throw the ball like no other. He's got one of the strongest arms I've seen.

"He's a leader. When he gets on the field, if you don't know where you're supposed to be at, he can help line you up. If you forget the play, you can look at him and he'll tell you the play. He's just fitting in and being Jacolby Criswell."

Added guard Josh Braun, "Seeing him put in the work he puts in day in and day out just in practice, and ... having his number called and filling in the shoes that needed to be filled, it was great to see as a friend of his."

Linebacker Chris Paul said seeing Criswell produce in his opportunity last Saturday made him happy.

"Just looking at Jacolby and talking with him ... you can tell that he is a natural-born leader," Paul said. "He has that factor about him that was instilled in him."

Big bones

Florida International will pocket a guaranteed payment of $1.5 million to face Arkansas on Saturday. It marks the Panthers' largest game guarantee of the season. Arkansas paid Kent State a season-high $1.6 million for a contest on Sept. 9 won 28-6 by the Razorbacks.

Florida International has an 0-4 record against SEC competition, including a 58-10 loss to Arkansas in 2007.

Tackle touts

Coach Sam Pittman wasn't the only coach lamenting sloppy tackling after last week. Florida International Coach Mike MacIntyre said the Panthers were lacking in that department in last week's 40-6 home loss to Middle Tennessee State and it needs to be rectified fast.

"We've got to wrap up and tackle," MacIntyre said. "We have to tackle better than we have the last couple of games. That's been one of our big problems. We were tackling well earlier.

"We worked on it hard during our off week. We kept working on it the last couple of days. Hopefully we'll be able to tackle better. We have to tackle and round these guys up for sure."

TE catches

Arkansas senior tight ends Nathan Bax and Francis Sherman had their first catches of the season against Auburn.

Bax, in his fifth year at Arkansas, had 2 receptions for 15 yards with 9 yards after the catch on a 10-yard gain.

Known primarily as a blocker, Bax had 3 catches for 16 yards last season.

"Bax is reliable," Coach Sam Pittman said. "You know exactly what he's going to give you. He's been wonderful to have on the football team. We only have him for two more games."

Sherman, a transfer from Louisville, had an 8-yard catch. He and Bax were involved in the passing game with redshirt freshman tight end Ty Washington suffering a season-ending shoulder injury at Florida last week.

Washington had 11 catches for 170 yards on the season before his injury. He replaced true freshman Luke Hasz, who had 16 receptions for 253 yards before suffering a broken collarbone on the first series of the fifth game against Texas A&M on Sept. 30.

Var'Keyes Gumms, a redshirt sophomore who transferred from North Texas, has two receptions for 27 yards, including a 25-yard catch at Alabama.

Same board

Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman and FIU Coach Mike MacIntyre both serve on the American Football Coaches Association board of trustees, for which Todd Knight of Ouachita Baptist is the current president.

Among other coaches serving on the board are Penn State's James Franklin, West Virginia's Neal Brown and Wake Forests' Dave Clawson.

"I know him because he's on the AFCA Board of Trustees with me," Pittman said of MacIntyre. "I know some people who worked with him at Colorado. Really energetic guy, a great guy."

Said MacIntyre, "Sam Pittman is awesome. He has a genuine love for football and an understanding of what college football is all about.

"Me being around him as much as I have, he's a guy I'd love coaching my sons. He cares about young people, he cares about the process of college football and he cares about the game. To me he's a very humble person which is really genuine and I really appreciate."

Younger days

Wayne Younger, the high school coach of Arkansas tailback Raheim "Rocket" Sanders, was the quarterback at Florida International in the only prior meeting between the programs, a 58-10 win for the Razorbacks on Oct. 27, 2007.

Younger rushed for a game-high 124 yards and completed 9 of 26 passes for 93 yards and 5 interceptions in the loss. Rashaad Johnson had two of the Arkansas interceptions, and Jerell Norton, Michael Grant and Kevin Woods had one each.

C-USA changes

Conference USA has undergone a series of changes since its inception but the movement has been sharper in recent years.

Jacksonville State, Liberty, New Mexico State and Sam Houston State joined the conference this season, while Kennesaw State is slated to join in 2024.

That will put C-USA in nine states, from East to West: Virginia (Liberty), Florida (FIU), Georgia (Kennesaw State), Tennessee (Middle Tennessee State), Kentucky (Western Kentucky), Alabama (Jacksonville State), Louisiana (Louisiana Tech), Texas (Sam Houston State and Texas-El Paso) and New Mexico (New Mexico State).

Kickoff tally

The Razorbacks will play their fourth night game of the season and their first since a 27-20 loss at Ole Miss on Oct. 7 when they host Florida International at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

Arkansas played five games (Western Carolina, Texas A&M, at Alabama, Mississippi State, at Florida) with kickoffs at noon or earlier, and will have three 3 p.m. kicks (Kent State, Auburn) when it closes the season on Nov. 24 versus Missouri.

Here's to Beers

Florida International has a pair of tight ends with fun names. Rocky Beers is a 6-4, 233-pound redshirt sophomore from Littleton, Colo., and a transfer from Air Force. Rowdy Beers is a 6-3, 232-pound freshman, also from Valor Christian High in Littleton.