By Otis Kirk
Arkansas and Missouri will meet on Friday as the 2018 season comes to a close for the Razorbacks.
Arkansas (2-9, 0-7) in the SEC is obviously still in search of its first win this season. Missouri (7-4, 3-4) is favored in the game and hoping to close the season with some momentum. Missouri has won its last three games this season and four out of five. The only loss in the past five games was a 15-14 setback against Kentucky.
Arkansas coach Chad Morris know the short-handed Hogs will be in a for a battle on Friday.
“We’re going to have to bring our absolute best,” Morris said. “They’ve got the SEC player of the week in Drew Lock, rated high on everybody’s draft board as one of the top quarterbacks, if not the No. 1 quarterback coming off the board. He’s second in passing, he’s third in total offense. He’s a veteran. He’s had a lot of snaps. Very talented. You can tell he’s a great leader. Offensively, they’re third in scoring and fourth in total offense In the SEC. They’re extremely efficient on third down. Very productive.
“Defense, they’re the fifth best in our league in rush defense. They’re big, they’re physical up front. We’ve got an opportunity. It’s the Battle Line Rivalry trophy game. We’ve got an opportunity in front of us. It’s about the Arkansas Razorbacks.”
Arkansas is coming off a very embarrassing 52-6 loss to Mississippi State that still had Morris upset on Monday following the game.
“As I shared on Saturday, losing will never be accepted in this program,” Morris said. “It was completely unacceptable Saturday and it’s still completely unacceptable today. After going through the film and visiting with our coaches, we did a very poor job of executing, especially in some key moments of the game that could have given us an opportunity to have a little bit of a different tone at that time of the game. We ask everybody that’s associated with this program to be at a standard every day and that standard is best. Whatever their best is. And we didn’t do that.
“We’re not doing what it takes to play winning football. That’s the attention to the small little details in everything that you do. I’m not going to compromise. I’ve been here before and I know what it looks like and I know what it looks like moving forward. I said after the game it’s just unfortunate. Because the love of the Hogs across our great state and across the country and the passion that our fans and alumni have for our great university needs to be shown a competitive effort by everybody every day. We’ve got a lot of people, a lot of people, pouring their hearts and souls into this program, but we need more. And we’re going to get more.
“I think we competed well for two and half quarters. It got away from us mid third quarter. Some misfortunes happened to us. It went from 17-6 to 38-6 in just a few short minutes. And it became a huge hill for us to climb and we couldn’t do it.”
It will be Senior Day for Missouri. Coach Barry Odom wants the seniors sent out the right way on Friday.
“The things they have done over their career,” Odom said. “Some guys have only been here a year, but other guys five. The things you remember forever as a competitor and a college student-athlete are most of the situations and opportunities you had as a senior. One of those would be your last home game. We have spent time talking about that. We’ve spent time talking about for our underclassmen it’s our job, our responsibility to make sure we prepare the right way and prepare our best for our seniors.
“And then when the ball is kicked off let’s go play our A-game. There will be plenty of time when this is all said and done to look back. All that stuff has been addressed, but also we’re addressing on the challenge of playing our best, most complete game this Friday in the preparation habits and then you get down for us in this world today it’s Thursday in our preparation. Finishing out the last 48 hours on doing things the right way.”
Odom is 2-1 against Arkansas winning in 2016 28-24 and then 48-45 last year in Bret Bielema’s final game with the Razorbacks. The 2016 game saw Odom call a fake punt against the Hogs deep in his own territory trailing by 10 points. It was successful and the Tigers completed the comeback.
“The fake punt those plays every coaches always carries a couple of fakes in every game with them,” Odom said. “If the look is there that you feel confident about the work you’ve done executing those then the situation at that point really didn’t matter. If we got the look we thought was advantageous to connecting on it felt confident in our kids executing it, make the call and let them go play. So at that point it was a big point in that game. A big part of it and offensive continued on, if I remember right, went down and scored.
“All those momentum plays are not just luck of the draw by chance. It’s things you’ve spent a lot of time preparing on the week of practice and in that case, we had repped it over and over for months. And was waiting on the right look to be able to execute it and our guys did.”
The last win in this series for Arkansas was 2015 when the Hogs took a 28-3 victory. This year’s Missouri team has three players from Fayetteville High School on it. Sophomore Akial Byers is first-team defensive end, redshirt freshman quarterback Taylor Powell is second-team quarterback and redshirt freshman Barrett Banister is third-team slot receiver. Arkansas center Ty Clary is looking forward to playing against his old friends from high school.
“I can’t wait to play against those guys,” Clary said. “Last year, we lost to them. This year, we are looking to beat them. I am really excited to see my old teammates from high school. That high school team was really something special to all of us.
“I am just really excited, especially this year. Last year, I didn’t get to go up against Akial, who plays D-line. I am real excited about that this year. I am really looking forward to it.”
What have you seen of him on tape?
“He’s been good, he’s always been good,” Clary said. “He was highly recruited. He plays D-end, he plays his technique well, he plays his gap, he plays his assignment. He is assignment sound. The whole D-line is awesome and really assignment sound. They play their technique well and they are a good group of D-lineman and linebackers.”
The Hogs and Tigers will kickoff at 1:30 p.m. on Friday. The game will be televised by CBS.