FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Junior Grant Morgan came to Arkansas as an invited walk-on, but then earned a scholarship.
He has also earned playing time as well while backing up De’Jon Harris at the Mike Linebacker. In the season opener, Morgan finished with four tackles, two solo and one for loss. Morgan talked about his role in that game and beyond.
“I’m here for the team,” Morgan said. “Anyway I can help to win, that’s what I’m going to do. If I play 10 plays, if I play 100 plays, if I play one, I believe in Chief (John Chavis) and the coaches, so whatever they say to do I’ll go out and give it 100 percent.”
Morgan was a member of the team that defeated Ole Miss 38-37 on the last play of the game. He recalled his role in that game.
“I played a little bit,: Morgan said. “That was my redshirt-freshman year. I played a good amount. I did really good on special teams. I think I had like three tackles just on special teams. That was a fun game.
“Just to go into halftime with everybody still with our minds up. That was when Coach (Bret) Bielema, we were down a little bit. I think it was like 30 to 7 or something like that? We came back and win and the feeling going into that locker room with a little chip on our shoulder knowing that we just came back and won, that was really fun.”
Arkansas trailed in that game 31-7 in the first half, but narrowed the gap to 31-21 at intermission. Connor Limpert kicked a 34-yard field goal on the final play of the game to win it.
Arkansas held Portland State to 13 points in the season opener. The Hogs held the Vikings to 230 yards of total offense including only 75 on the ground.
“We’re at that ‘not done yet’ mentality, so we’re never pleased with it,” Morgan said. “But, we were happy with getting the W to begin with, but there are certain things we can clean up, as well. Like different containments, Chief even mentioned different calls he can make. Just execution on our part. We got to be able to execute.”
Morgan knows the competition level goes up several notches this week. He talked about what to expect from an Ole Miss offense that struggled in the season opener against Memphis.
“First off, you’re going to see tempo with them,” Morgan said. “They go fast as can be. They will probably be one of the fastest teams we see all year. They got a young quarterback that can really run. He can throw it as well, but they’re going to include him in the run game. They got a physical tight end, he played last year. He’s got a big body. They got a couple of lineman coming back that are returning starters. They got young guys in there that are very good, as well. So, it’s going to be an SEC game. Receivers are going to make plays just like every other team we’re going to see.”
Ole Miss scored all 10 of its points against Memphis in the second half. That came after being shutout in the first 30 minutes. What was the difference for them in the second half?
“They went through the little things that we went through,” Morgan said. “Little things like just connecting at certain times, just going through the new coaching system, figuring out what calls they’re going to make. I think they’re going to get better this week, and I think that we have to, as well.”
Arkansas entered the Portland State game with three senior defensive ends. They may be down to one on Saturday. If so, that means true freshman Mataio Soli will likely get the start. Any concerns about a true freshman starting and two more as the top backups?
“No, I’m not concerned at all,” Morgan said. “Soli is doing really well. The next guys, they’ve all done really good. Gabe (Richardson) has held down that left side and when you have a really good interior like Sosa (Agim) and T.J. (Smith), it’s hard to just focus on the D-ends because you got to mess with those guys too.
“We have a next-man-up mentality. If something like this is going to happen you got to know your game, know your play and know your defense.”
Morgan and the Hogs know the importance of this game. He talked about that as well.
“Everyone is saying we got to get payback on them because they beat us last year,” Morgan said. “But we beat them right before four or five games in a row. That just shows we definitely know that we got to get payback on them. They know that they’re going to try and keep it from us. It’s king of a little rivalry within itself. We want to go out and get the W this weekend.”
On the lighter side, Hayden Henry got a personal foul on the opening kickoff against Portland State. Was that the first time ever for a member of the Henry family to get a personal foul?
“No, I would say no,” Morgan said smiling. “I bet Hunter had some chips on his shoulder too. But, we were talking, Coach (Chad) Morris obviously did not like it at all. But me and Hayden were talking. We didn’t think that would be called in the SEC because it gets a little chippy. But, first game of the year, first play of the game, to get a little personal foul is kind of funny. We got to cut it out obviously. That ended up to three points.”
Against Memphis, Scottie Phillips rushed 19 times for 62 yards and a touchdown. Against Arkansas last year, he had 18 carries for 90 yards and a touchdown.
“He’s the one who played last year, as well,” Morgan said. “He’s a good little back. I think he’s gotten more physical this year. Just in that first game, he ran a couple of those safeties over. He’s still a fast little back that is going to be hard to tackle. He’s going to be like every SEC back that we see, and we’re going to have to bring our stuff this weekend and we’re going to have to hit him hard.”
Growing up in Greenwood and seeing the Hogs play Ole Miss, Morgan talked about the rivalry.
“It’s growing,” Morgan said. “It’s getting bigger and bigger every single year as we go on. But, it’s something that we’ve got to kind of put our foot down in the SEC this year, be able to get Coach Morris’ first SEC win and get our streak back on the path of what it was going.”
Arkansas and Ole Miss will kickoff at 6:30 p.m. in Oxford on Saturday night. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.