FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — It’s Sunday morning and the score is still 31-24 with San Jose State winning a stunner in Fayetteville.
Or was it a stunner? Arkansas broke a 34-34 time with Colorado State midway through the fourth quarter and won 55-34. After that it seemed like some false sense of how good this team is set in with the players, fans and at least some in the media, myself included. I wrote last week how things were truly different this year.
Fast forward one week and what you saw was a team that wasn’t prepared to play was beaten in every aspect of the game in their own stadium. But, in hindsight, it was almost predictable.
You had myself writing how much different things are this year. The coaches and players had told us that and I bought it hook, line and sinker.
Other media members seemed to also buy it as well. On Wednesday one asked about winning with style points and another asked about who would be the quarterback to go in for Nick Starkel if they got a big lead?
Don’t get me wrong when us in the media get a false confidence of how good they are it plays no part in the game. Fortunately for everyone involved the media isn’t playing a single down in the game. The hospital and doctors are the only ones who would benefit from that.
But it didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out overconfidence was creeping into Arkansas this week. When a defensive player was asked about Arkansas making a much better showing than in week one when they defeated Portland State?
“We, as a defense, want to hold them to 0,” the defensive player said. “I can’t speak on the offense, but I talked to Nick today and he said he wants to put up 73 points, he wants to put up 100, he wants to put up 173. Crap. We want to hold them to 0 and as low as we can in rushing yards.”
San Jose State scored with 12:44 remaining in the first quarter so the shutout was gone. They rolled to 503 yards of total offense. Arkansas was far from 73, 100 or 173 points. Starkel had a rough day forcing things and ending with five interceptions.
An offensive player was asked about blowing San Jose State out instead of just winning as they did against Portland State?
“To me the great teams, the teams that win national championships, typically run up the score on these teams and so that’s just a part of it,” the offensive player said. “That’s something that we want to do. We want to dominate. I don’t want to go out there and just win, I want to dominate. I want to run up the score.”
This is not to single out anyone, but just point out that a program that has won a single SEC game since 2017 isn’t good enough to overlook anyone. Chad Morris said as much afterward.
“I was a little concerned in pre-game warmups to be honest with you,” Morris said. “I thought we were a little too loose. I thought it was a little too giddy. And I made comment of that. We’re not good enough. We’re not good enough to be able come out and just walk out on the field with a Razorback logo on your helmet and expect you’re going to win.”
It became more and more obvious as the game unfolded this team wasn’t properly prepared to play San Jose State. The one key to the game really was for Arkansas to punch them in the mouth early and not let them hang around. When you let a 21-point underdog hang around this is what happens many times.
But with the offense having five interceptions and the defense allowing 503 yards Arkansas definitely did more than let the Spartans hang around.
“I thought they did whatever they wanted to do as far as throwing the football,” Morris said.
San Jose State wide receiver Tre Walker, who didn’t play in the first two games, had 12 receptions for 161 yards.
As he should have since it was obvious the coaches didn’t have the Hogs prepared to play, Morris put the blame back on himself, the assistants and players.
“They out-played us, they out-coached us and I was very disappointed in the effort we got tonight,” Morris said. “Everyone’s going to be held accountable from me down. I’m going to hold every coach, hold every player, every staff member is going to be held accountable. Totally unacceptable. We’re going to get back in here tomorrow and we’ll figure it out. It’s completely unacceptable.
“You get what you deserve in life and we didn’t deserve to win this football game. We had five turnovers and you allow a guy to throw for over 400 yards on you and go down the field on you like nothing.”
All spring and in preseason as well as early this season the culture difference has been talked about. Well, Saturday’s game against Texas A&M, another 2-2 team, will be the ultimate test of that culture, accountability and more.
Just like the Colorado State and North Texas State losses last year the Hogs have put themselves in a bad position with a loss to San Jose State. There won’t be any false sense of how good they are this week and the test will be how they play against the Aggies on Saturday in Arlington.
While Arkansas’ mental readiness for the game will be tested one has to think Jimbo Fisher may be having a similar task in College Station. Yes A&M has lost to Clemson and Auburn, far better teams than San Jose State and Ole Miss, but the expectations for the Aggies this season were very high. Four games in they are at 2-2 with games still remaining against Alabama, LSU and others. A&M didn’t have 2-2 starts in mind when they threw big money at Fisher.
Saturday’s game is likely to be one that has two teams with their backs to wall and the season on the line. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. and the game televised on ESPN.