FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — It was one thing to get blown out by Auburn and Alabama, but Mississippi State came to Reynolds Razorback Stadium owning a four-game losing streak.
They left with a 54-24 victory over Arkansas. The Razorbacks’ 2-1 start to the season is long past them now as they own a six-game losing streak. Chad Morris is now 0-14 in SEC games and still doesn’t own a win over a Power 5 school.
Arkansas is now 4-17 under Morris against a two-year schedule that shouldn’t have been this difficult. This isn’t to say that Morris didn’t inherit a trainwreck from Bret Bielema and Jeff Long.
But the two-year schedule included eight games against non-Power 5 schools. This year, Auburn, Alabama and LSU are among the elite teams in the nation. But the Razorbacks had nine games against teams that going 5-4 or 6-3 shouldn’t have been expecting too much.
To Arkansas’ credit the Razorbacks played Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Kentucky close in earlier SEC games. The loss to San Jose State in Razorback Stadium was unacceptable.
But the problem with Arkansas this year is it’s looking eerily similar to last season. Arkansas played Texas A&M, LSU and Ole Miss competitive in the SEC last year, but then got blown out by Mississippi State and Missouri to close the season.
The Razorbacks will play their final non-conference game next Saturday when Western Kentucky comes to town. They are quarterbacked by former Razorback Ty Storey.
Arkansas will then get a bye week and close out the season at LSU and then against Missouri in Little Rock the day after Thanksgiving.
Morris said on Monday he would go with the quarterback that gave them the best chance to win this week. He went with, as expected, senior Ben Hicks who he had at SMU. Hicks was 4 of 13 for 44 yards with a pick-six. Morris left him in until he threw the pick-six to Marcus Murphy with 1:59 remaining in the first half. That left Arkansas trailing 38-10 prior to halftime. Following the game, Morris explained why he left Hicks in so long and if he considered taking him out sooner.
“Well, I thought we dropped too many footballs,” Morris said. “I thought he was putting the ball where it needed to be early and we dropped balls and couldn’t get the chains moving. Then when we did get some type of success, we couldn’t hold the momentum very long. 17-7 and the next thing you know, five plays later, they score on us. It wasn’t until right there at the end that I decided to make a move.”
Morris was asked if he will go with Jones and Jefferson next week?
“We’ll get back in here tomorrow and go through that,” Morris said. “I thought that Ben was healthy. I though that both John Stephen and KJ came in and gave us a spark. I was proud of both of those guys.”
This was just the second game that Jones has played and the first action for Jefferson. Jones hit Mike Woods for an 11-yard touchdown pass and Jefferson led the Hogs on a four-play, 75-yard drive his first series. It ended with Jefferson scoring from five yards out. Any regrets about not playing Jefferson earlier this season?
“I don’t have any regrets for not playing him earlier in the season,” Morris said. “I thought he played well today. We kept it as simple as possible with him. I thought he did a really good job. Obviously he led us down, had a big run and scored a touchdown. It was pretty impressive for your first drive.”
Junior running back Rakeem Boyd rushed for 114 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. He liked what he saw from Jones and Jefferson.
“They gave us a big spark,” Boyd said. “When they got in there the holes opened more because they are running quarterbacks. They opened up the holes a lot more for me.”
Boyd is impressed with Jefferson and took notice of him in practice.
“I knew he what he had just being on the opposite of the ball in practice every day,” Boyd said. “Just the stuff he does. He’s a helluva runner and can throw the ball too. I bet you see next week.”
Senior defensive tackle McTelvin Agim is impressed with Jefferson as well.
“We were gonna against him a lot in fall camp,” Agim said. “I knew he was a good quarterback. He just had to wait his time and his turn. We’ll see how he does, but I know he’s a good quarterback.”
Woods felt that both Jones and Jefferson provided a spark for the Hogs when they entered the game.
“I thought they came in and played great for us, really,” Woods said. “They both provided a spark coming in for us, and I thought KJ did very good as well. I think they both provided a good spark for us.”
Woods then went on to talk more about Jefferson.
“I think he did great,” Woods said. “I thought he came in and did what he could. We drove right down the field we he got in, so I thought he took advantage of his opportunity.
“He’s looked great in practice and he looked good out there today – same way he’s been looking in practice. He’s looking good so far.”
Linebacker Scoota Harris won the Crip Hall Award for the top senior Razorback at homecoming. But following the game he talked about Jefferson and what he has seen from him in practice.
“He’s been giving us a great look all year, basically all season,” Harris said. “He’s just a dual-threat quarterback that can do both (run and pass). Just going against him on scout team is kind of bettering us, but he’s just preparing us for our upcoming opponents, like with quarterbacks that can run.
“(In practice) He showed flashes here and there. Like I told him, we never really got a chance to see his speed even at practice or whatever, so we were just excited and waiting all year just to see him just like the fans. I told him before he went in, he told me he was about to go in and I was like, ‘Just tune out the crowd because you know everybody is going to cheer for you.’ I was like, ‘Just settle down. After your first drive, just settle down and do what you do.'”
While Morris didn’t announce the quarterback plan for next week, it’s past the time to insert Jefferson and give him experience. Hicks is a senior who won’t be back next year. Nick Starkel has started five games and won one. Jones deserves some reps in the coming games, but Jefferson possesses the size, speed and arm strength that causes problems for defenses.
In other news, as reported earlier by Hogville.net, the sources indicate that senior tight end Cheyenne O’Grady won’t return to the team. Chad Morris said following Saturday’s game he is slated to meet with O’Grady on Sunday, but once again sources indicate that O’Grady has no interest in returning for the final three games.