By Otis Kirk
Arkansas lost to Mississippi State 52-6 on Saturday in Starkville and now has one more game remaining in the season.
The loss was just the latest in a string of SEC losses. Arkansas hasn’t won an SEC game since last season when Connor Limpert kicked a field goal on the last play of the game to top Ole Miss.
But despite the losses, Arkansas had been fairly competitive in most of the games. They had the ball and a chance to tie or beat Texas A&M on the last drive of that game. They scored 31 points on Alabama. They definitely had a chance to beat Ole Miss in Little Rock until Ty Storey along with Devwah Whaley and Rakeem Boyd were injured. Then just last week they played LSU to within seven 24-17.
Saturday’s game hit a season low. Arkansas was whipped physically on the lines and then when they had a chance to make a play on offense a breakdown prevented it. A couple of times Ty Storey held the ball too long before passing, several passes were dropped, penalties killed big plays and then once on a trick play Storey was wide open and De’Vion Warren’s pass was short of its mark.
Morris termed it “unacceptable” following the game. He didn’t limit his remarks to the players as he also included coaches and trainers as well as blasting the effort.
It seemed the only thing that wasn’t inconsistent was the play of Mississippi State. Even the officials had some calls that left one scratching his head. Storey was hit trying to pass and obviously the ball fell far short of any target. Intentional grounding was called on the play. That is a call that one seldom, if ever, sees called. Storey took a beating all game so it wasn’t like it was rare for him to get him.
Another call took a touchdown away from Arkansas. They called a pick play on La’Michael Pettway as Storey found Deon Stewart open for a touchdown. Coaches would love for the officials to be consistent on that call. Occasionally it is called and on most occasions it is just ignored. Alabama excels at running that play so check and see how many times it’s called on the Tide. A hint the answer rhymes with hero.
This is in no way to imply officiating beat the Hogs. Mississippi State had the better team and beat the Hogs in all aspects of the game. It is just pointing out the officials were about as inconsistent as Arkansas. Even questioning those two calls, the Hogs had plenty of costly penalties that were very legitimate and took away any chance they had to be competitive.
Morris inherited a mess from Jeff Long and Bret Bielema. The Hogs were 1-7 in the SEC last season. They were two plays away from being 0-8 in the SEC and being 2-10 on the season.
The bad news for Arkansas fans is patience is necessary as Morris gets a chance to right the ship. The only problem with that is Arkansas fans have been patient for seven years as the program continued to slip under Long’s leadership.
The announcers ESPN provided for the game weren’t any better than the action from Arkansas on the field. They kept pointing out how Morris has his work cutout for him while pointing to Bielema.
Since when did Bielema become the judging point for Arkansas Football? Why not point to what Houston Nutt and Bobby Petrino did at Arkansas? Long hired three coaches at Arkansas including John L. Smith on an interim basis. It was like swinging at a Randy Johnson curveball as Long whiffed on two of the hires.
Some will argue he missed on Petrino. Maybe he did, but the guy won on the field. Anything he did off the field was ignored by Long until it became public with the motorcycle wreck. If Petrino acted entitled at Arkansas it’s no surprise since his boss allowed him to feel that way.
Hunter Yurachek will need to have patience with Morris while also keeping fans happy and interested in the program. It’s difficult after seven years of bad football, but the one selling point Morris has provided is the Hogs have the No.10 recruiting class in the nation according to Rivals.com. Arkansas fans are likely to stay loyal if they know better days are ahead.
It appears better days are ahead, but Saturday certainly wasn’t one of them.