Defense demolished, Hogs look to younger QBS
FAYETTEVILLE — It’s better for a running quarterback to play his running part of the RPO run-pass option than a quarterback who doesn’t run well.
And it’s impossible for a defense to play sound defense tackling poorly.
If the Arkansas score in its SEC 54-24 homecoming loss last Saturday at Reynolds Razorback Stadium alone doesn’t prove that, then assessments from the Razorbacks themselves surely will.
Second-year coach Chad Morris’ Razorbacks, reeling at 2-7 overall, 0-6 in the SEC after last year’s 2-10, 0-8, haven’t won since beating Colorado State in the season’s third game.
They had been SEC competitive in 31-17, 31-27 and 24-20 losses to Ole Miss, Texas A&M and
Kentucky, but now going into Saturday’s nonconference game with Western Kentucky at Reynolds Razorback Stadium, have lost 51-10, 48-7 and 54-24 the last three Saturdays to fellow SEC West members Auburn, Alabama and Mississippi State.
11th and 12th in the AP and Coaches polls, and Alabama, No. 1 in the Coaches and No. 2 in AP, were expected to rout the Razorbacks.
Mississippi State, now 4-5, 2-4 coming off four consecutive SEC losses, supposedly would be a comparable foe. The Bulldogs’ 38-10 first half quashed that notion. By intermission, MSU running back Kylin Hill netted 198 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries. He finished with 236 yards on 21 carries. MSU running back Nick Gibson netted 129 and a touchdown on 12 carries while MSU quarterback Tommy Stevens netted 74 on 15 carries. The Bulldogs ran for an SEC school record 460 yards and amassed a school SEC record 640 yards total offense.
Arkansas senior linebacker De’jon Scoota Harris, along with senior defensive Mctelvin
“Sosa” Agim destined to be remembered as very good Razorbacks despite playing for some very bad teams, couldn’t believe how the Bulldogs ran over the Razorbacks.
Especially since all week in practice they had run the defense against what Mississippi State runs.
“They just did the same thing we practiced for,” Harris said postgame.
“We just didn’t make the plays or make the tackles, period. Overall as a defense we just tackled poorly today. This was probably one of our worst tackling games we’ve had, and we’ve been poor basically all year, really.”
“I just did not think we showed up today really,” Harris replied. “I don’t know what’s going on. I just have to watch the film
for myself, but we just weren’t in the right position sometimes, just didn’t make tackles and didn’t execute the game plan really.”
Agim also was brought forth postgame to media.
“It’s been frustrating because of course you want to be great,” Agim said. “You want to leave a legacy and this is not the legacy you want to leave. The run defense, we’ve been trying to fix it all year. For a couple games it was pretty good, but we’ve just been trying to fix it for a while now. We have to move forward with it.”
Until the final 1:59 of last Saturday’s first half and the previous Saturday’s second half against Alabama, Morris committed entirely to quarterbacking graduate transfers Ben Hicks and Nick Starkel.
As defeats mounted with a struggling, injuryriddled offensive line
struggling to protect experienced but not very mobile quarterbacks, Razorbacks fans increasingly clamored for redshirt freshman John Stephen Jones and true freshman KJ Jefferson.
After Hicks threw a pick-6 with MSU safety Marcus Murphy returning the interception for a 33-yard TD with 1:59 left in the half, Morris granted fans their wish.
First Jones, who had directed Arkansas’ lone touchdown drive off the second half bench against Alabama, and Jefferson, previously unplayed and able to play Arkansas’ final four games of 2019 and retain freshman football eligibility for 2020, were inserted.
Both directed touchdown drives.
Jones completed his second touchdown pass in as many weeks.
Jefferson debuted dashing 21 yards his first play from scrimmage, completed
a 32-yard pass for freshman receiver Treylon Burks’ lone reception and rushed for a 5-yard touchdown.
Arkansas running back Rakeem Boyd, netting 11 carries for 114 yards and a touchdown, explained why the rookie QBS moved the Razorbacks.
“When they got in there the holes opened more because they are running quarterbacks,” Boyd said. “They opened up the holes a lot more for me.”
Sophomore receiver Mike Woods, catching Jones’ fourth-and-8 11-yard touchdown, also lauded the freshman QBS.
“I thought they came in and played great for us, really,” Woods said. “I think they both provided a good spark for us.”
Their spark and Boyd’s 52-yard second-quarter TD breakaway provided the flickers on an Arkansas dark day even as the sun shined.
Razorback freshman quarterback K.J. Jefferson, 13, throws downfield for a long completion against Mississippi State Saturday afternoon at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville. Jefferson played for the first time this season on Saturday and can play the remaining three games while still keeping his freshman eligibility for next year.