North Texas used six interceptions to defeat Arkansas 44-17 on Saturday in Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Starting quarterback Cole Kelley was 16 of 35 passing for 185 yards with four interception. He did run for a 5-yard touchdown. The Arkansas fans in attendance booed loudly after halftime and then when Kelley threw his fourth interception in the third quarter. Wide receiver Jared Cornelius took exception to the boos.
“It’s really easy to pick one guy to point a finger at,” Cornelius said. “For the majority of the first half I think that guy was Cole at least by the outside world. I think the receivers could run better routes, the offensive line could protect better and guys can get out on their checks and chip defensive ends.
“When you come out of the locker room to start the second half and your starting quarterback is getting booed by the home team. When is that right? How is that right? I feel I have been holding this in for a minute, but at the end of the day that is someone’s son, someone’s brother, that’s my brother. I’m not gonna sit around like that is OK. When a guy comes in the second half we’re still in the game and they are booing him. That’s not the standard, that’s not gonna be the standard.”
Arkansas was behind 17-0 after one quarter, but did fight back to pull within seven points with a touchdown run by Kelley and a 54-yard field goal by Connor Limpert. But North Texas scored the final 17 points of the first half and was never threatened after that.
North Texas quarterback Mason Fine was 24 of 45 for 281 yards and a touchdown. Safety Santos Ramirez talked about what happened to the Arkansas defense on Saturday.
“As a team we had many mistakes to beat ourselves,” Ramirez said. “We gave up too many deep balls as well. This is a tough loss and one that’s gonna hurt. We’ve still got more games to play. We’re gonna move on and get ready for Auburn.”
Arkansas’ Chad Morris talked about the tough loss after the game.
“It’s disappointing,” Morris said. “We took a punch today especially the first half. We have to get our mindset to change and battle back. It’s disappointing that we ran 17 or 16 in the plays in the first half. They stunned us and we couldn’t rally back. You have a locker room of young men disappointed and the coaches are disappointed. They do care. We’ll continue to fight. We have to go back and look in the mirror. It starts with us. It starts with me. It starts with the coach every coach and every player.”
In Arkansas’ first two games, the team has outscored its opponents 51-22 in the four quarters that Ty Storey has been at quarterback. The other eight quarters Arkansas has been outscored 76-48 by its opponents. Arkansas played three quarterbacks on Saturday, but no Storey who wasn’t injured.
“We went through practice this week and we were trying to stay with one guy,” Morris said. “That was the message. I was trying to get to staying with one point of staying with on guy as long as we could. Cole had the better week of practice and we made the decision to go with Cole.
“We made the decision to stay with him in the second half. I wanted to see if he could rally us back after halftime and we made some adjustments. We talked and told Cole we are going right back with you. The game situation with the interception I decided to go with Connor Noland. I didn’t want to put Ty in that situation with the game down that far. That was my decision to go with Connor. It was a tough situation for the young man.”
Noland and John Stephen Jones are both true freshmen. Noland was 4 of 7 passing for 25 yards and was sacked five times while throwing one interception. Jones was 0 of 3 passing with one interception returned for a touchdown. Morris talked about how the two young guys played.
“I wanted to get the freshmen in and see how they respond,” Morris said. “We’ll go back in and reevaluate them. I thought both those guys under the circumstances they were under, the pressure they had on them and the sacks with the young guys in there with them, that’s tough to put a freshman in that situation. John Stephen, had that great run but for that holding call. And the same with Connor (sacks and such) two steps forward then two steps back.
“I thought Cole turned the ball over entirely too much. It’s our job to protect the football. We had some things we could have done better.”
In a play that was pretty much typical of how the day went for Arkansas, North Texas’ Keegan Brewer fielded a Blake Johnson punt at his own 10. He acted as if he had fair caught the ball and the Arkansas defenders didn’t tackle him. They stopped and he took off to running and went 90 yards untouched to put North Texas up 10-0 with 6;49 remaining in the opening quarter. Morris talked about what he said to his team after that play.
“You have to play all the way through the whistle,” Morris said. “That was my message. Some of the guys came down the field and did not have their eyes up. You have to have your eyes up and look for the fair catch signal. He started to put hand up in his face but a true fair catch signal was not given. We stopped late right there in position. But you’ve got to play through the whistle.”
Arkansas scored its final touchdown of the game with 53 seconds remaining. Maleek Williams raced 68 yards for the touchdown. Limpert added the PAT.
Former Razorback kicker Cole Hedlund added three field goals in the game. He hit from 24-, 26- and 20-yards. He is now 10 for 10 on the season with a long of 51 yards.
Williams led Arkansas with 74 yards rushing on five carries. Outside of Williams, Arkansas had 27 carries for 52 yards and one touchdown. Morris wasn’t happy with that performance.
“We felt we could run a lot of 12 personnel and run the football but we could not move and sustain the double teams,” Morris said. “We used a lot of play action passes.”
Mike Woods, a true freshman wide receiver, caught four passes for 61 yards. La’Michael Pettway had four receptions for 49 yards.
Linebacker De’Jon Harris led Arkansas with 12 tackles while Kamren Curl had five. Derrick Munson and Armon Watts each had one sack. Munson had 1.5 tackles for loss. Briston Guidry, Ryan Pulley, Grant Morgan, Bumper Pool and Watts each had one tackle for loss. McTelvin Agim, Michael Taylor and Dee Walker each had 0.5 tackle for loss. Curl forced a fumble that Gabe Richardson recovered. Harris had two pass breakups to lead the team. Agim and Randy Ramsey each had three quarterback hurries to lead the Hogs.
North Texas finished the game with 376 yards of total offense to 336 for Arkansas. The Hogs averaged 34.2 yards on nine punts with a net of 24.2 yards.
Arkansas will hit SEC play on Saturday at Auburn. The time will be announced later tonight or on Sunday.