De­fense de­mol­ished, Hogs look to younger QBS

The Saline Courier - - SPORTS - By Nate Allen Ra­zor­back Re­port

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.

Auburn, na­tion­ally

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.”

What hap­pened?

“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.

CRAVEN WHIT­LOW/NATE Allen Sports Ser­vice

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.

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