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The late back-and-forth in the Missouri-Arkansas game made for interesting television. The Tigers walked away with a 50-48 victory, but it took a last-second field goal to secure the win.
This was a game that could have gone either way at the end.
There were plenty of takeaways from watching the game, but none bigger than both of these head coaches being SEC Coach of the Year candidates. Whether it was the winning coach, Eli Drinkwitz, or the coach on the losing side, Sam Pittman.
What these two coaches have accomplished is impressive.
Heading into this season, it wouldn’t have shocked anyone if these two teams were at or near a winless mark with the all-SEC schedule. Instead, the two are sitting with a combined record of 8-9. And it could have been better had the Razorbacks not seen a tally in the win column stolen from them.
It’s strange to label Pittman as a Coach of the Year candidate considering his team is only 3-6 with only No. 1 Alabama left on the schedule. But considering where this team was even a year ago, it has been quite the turnaround.
Arkansas went two straight seasons without a SEC win. The program’s record during that span sat at an ugly 4-20. This 2020 Razorbacks squad should have four wins in this season alone.
Yes, the Arkansas defense allowed 27 points in the fourth quarter, and yes, that resulted in a blown double-digit lead. That obviously hurts the perception of Pittman and his team, but this is a group that has been competitive in most games.
In fact, Pittman and company made the bold decision to go for two after scoring a late touchdown to cut the lead to 47-46. If they had kicked the extra point, we were staring at overtime. Pittman believed in his group, however.
The result? This absolutely wild play that actually gave the Razorbacks a one-point lead with 43 seconds left.
This two-point conversion play in the Arkansas-Missouri game is so 2020 lol pic.twitter.com/QUPVd1yrHe
— Clint Lamb (@ClintRLamb) December 5, 2020
It was a gutsy move that should have earned Arkansas another victory, but this is where the improvement from Missouri comes into play. The Tigers countered with a seven-play, 60-yard drive and kicked a game-winning field goal.
Once again, the turnaround under Drinkwitz is notable, and it’s why he should also be in the conversation for Coach of the Year.
Granted, there was a lot less work to do with this team than Arkansas. Missouri had finished at or above .500 in each of the three seasons prior to the arrival of Drinkwitz, but a couple of those seasons were considered disappointments.
With an all-SEC schedule in 2020, many thought the Tigers would be in a similar situation to Arkansas and Vanderbilt. Slightly better, but not much. Instead, they’re 5-3 with two of those three losses to the No. 1 and No. 6 teams in the country.
They have the fifth-best win percentage in the SEC (.625) with Georgia and Mississippi State left on the schedule. At worst, they go .500, but a 6-4 season looks more likely with an outside shot at 7-3.
That alone should have Drinkwitz involved in the conversation.
If Florida beats Alabama in the SEC championship, Dan Mullen probably wins the award. If the Crimson Tide goes undefeated with all the uncertainty and a tough schedule (including three top-10 opponents), maybe Nick Saban gets the rare nod.
We obviously won’t forget about Jimbo Fisher and Texas A&M, either.
Those are your three front-runners, and a betting man should put his money on one of them. But if you want to talk about exceeding expectations, Arkansas and Missouri fit that bill more than anyone.
People expected this out of the other three. No one say this coming from Arkansas and Missouri.
Follow Clint Lamb on Twitter @ClintRLamb.