Razorbacks’ inabilities keep creeping
These now 2-4 overall/0-3 in the SEC Razorbacks discouragingly reflect last year’s 2-10, 0-8 Razorbacks.
Coming off last Saturday night’s 24-20
SEC loss in
Kentucky, to a Kentucky team previously SEC winless digs a deeper abyss for
SEC winless second-year
Coach Chad Morris last year inheriting a 1-7 SEC squad from predecessor Bret Bielema.
Prospects for SEC success don’t loom on the immediate Arkansas horizon. Not with nationally No. 11 Auburn, 5-1, 2-1 in the SEC West with an open date week to refuel from a 24-13 loss Oct. 5 loss to Florida, visiting Reynolds Razorback Stadium at 11 a.m. Saturday on the SEC Network followed Oct. 26 by Arkansas’ trip to nationally No. 1 reigning SEC champion Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
Kentucky harbored Arkansas’ best hope for an October SEC success. That ship sailed with Kentucky wide receiver turned emergency quarterback Lynn Bowden. Kentucky’s misfortune turned to gold when injuries to conventional quarterbacks Terry Wilson and Sawyer Smith compelled Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops moving Bowden, his best wide receiver but also his best offensive player period - to quarterback.
At Arkansas’ expense, ex-high school quarterback Bowden had a ball with the ball snapped right to him. Instead of working as a receiver to get open, quarterback Bowden openly worked the Hogs over. He rushed for 196 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries, completed 7 of 11 passes for 78 yards with a touchdown plus a long pass of 31 yards and was augmented by Kentucky running backs Asmin Rose and Kavosiey Smoke combining for 135 yards on 27 carries.
Between the Hogs’ defense’s inabilities to keep Bowden (“he’s an unbelievable player,” Morris said) and Kentucky’s offense off the field and the Hogs’ offensive inability to stay on the field, the Wildcats possessed the ball 37:11 to Arkansas’ 22:49.
The third quarter Kentucky hogged the ball while switching the scoreboard from down 13-6 to up 17-13.
“In the third quarter they had the ball three minutes and 45 seconds,” Morris said. “It’s hard to hold on any momentum when you do that. That was very disappointing.”
Arkansas didn’t mind lack of possession time when Razorbacks running back Rakeem Boyd popping a 75-yard touchdown run on the game’s second play from scrimmage.
However, when the Hogs had to settle for a Connor Limpert field goal after driving to the Kentucky 10 and had to settle for a field goal yet again upon driving to the Kentucky 26, Morris was troubled even with Arkansas up, 13-0.
“We are just not at the point in our program were we can settle for field goals,” Morris told the Razorbacks Radio Network audience postgame. “We’ve got to get touchdowns. The field goals were the right calls not going for it on fourth down. But we’ve got to put
ourselves in the situations to score touchdowns right there. Obviously that came back to bite us.”
At this point of the season bandied back and forth between quarterbacks Nick Starkel and Ben Hicks, Morris and the Hogs seem much in last year’s mode when they bandied between since transferred Ty Storey and Cole Kelley, plus a start for Connor Noland, now pitching full-time for Dave Van Horn’s baseball Razorbacks.
This season started with SMU grad transfer Hicks, switched the second half of the season’s second game to Texas A&M graduate transfer Starkel, with far more effective than Hicks in the 31-17 SEC loss at Ole Miss, then started the last two games with Starkel but finished with Hicks.
Starkel was injured during the 31-27 loss to Texas A&M with Hicks finishing more effectively than Starkel. Ditto last Saturday in Lexington with Starkel healthy but ineffective, 7 of 19 for 41 yards, and Hicks finishing 5 of 8 for 81 yards with a go-ahead touchdown drive, 24-20 before Bowden’s 24-yard touchdown run capped Kentucky’s games-winning 6-play 75-yard drive.
So does he reevaluate who quarterbacks vs. Auburn?
“Yes, yes no doubt,” Morris said. “We’ve got to get something that’s going to provide consistency and provide that spark for us. We’ll reevaluate that.”
Since the most fan popular quarterbacks when times get tough tend to be the ones who haven’t played, expect some fan clamoring for true freshman KJ Jefferson. However these Hogs have six games to play. If Jefferson plays four at the maximum, he can still qualify for a redshirt preserving his freshman eligibility for 2020.
The defenses that Auburn and Alabama present aren’t ideal openers for a debuting rookie quarterback.
NATE ALLEN RAZORBACK REPORT