FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — When Chad Morris was hired an offense of “Hammer Down in the Left Lane” was promised.
Saturday, Arkansas got to see a quarterback Morris had do exactly that with an offense. Unfortunately it was former Razorback Ty Storey directing Western Kentucky’s offense to a 45-19 victory over the Hogs.
Storey left Arkansas after last season as a grad transfer for Western Kentucky. He chose to do that after it became clear that Morris and his staff were gonna turn to former SMU quarterback Ben Hicks and then later add Nick Starkel from Texas A&M.
On Saturday as Storey and the Hilltoppers piled up 478 yards of total offense, 265 rushing and 213 passing, and had the ball for 36 minutes, 57 seconds, Arkansas’ two grad transfers watched from the sidelines.
Arkansas (2-8) now has lost seven games in a row. The explosion in the fourth quarter of the Colorado State game on Sept. 14 is now a distant memory. The Razorbacks, led by Starkel, moved to 2-1 on the season, but the Club Dub and all died the next week when San Jose State handed them a 31-24 loss.
The Razorbacks fall to 4-18 under Morris with a repeat of 2-10 looking more likely by the passing day.
Storey finished the game 22 of 32 for 213 yards and a touchdown while also rushing 17 times for 77 yards and two touchdowns.
Arkansas’ quarterbacks combined to go 9 of 25 for 87 yards and two interceptions. Jones started the game and finished 3 of 10 for 27 yards with one pick. Jefferson finished 6 of 15 for 60 yards and an interception. He did have a nice touchdown pass to Treylon Burks called back because of a holding call on one of the offensive tackles. Jefferson also rushed 16 times for 32 yards and a 2-yard touchdown.
Under Morris, Arkansas has now lost to North Texas State, San Jose State and Western Kentucky in Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Of those three losses, only the 31-24 loss to San Jose State was close. North Texas won 44-17 last season. Following the latest loss, Morris was asked about his future with the program?
“I’ll tell you this,” Morris said. “It’s going to take some time. This is not an overnight fix. We’ve seen that now for two years. We’re all frustrated. We’re all incredibly frustrated. We have a big youth movement on this team and a lot of young guys that are contributing and who will be tremendous football players. Where we are right now with these guys we have some major deficiencies that we have to fix, we have to fill. This is not an overnight fix.”
How do you explain getting blown out by a team that lost to UCA earlier in the season?
“Very disappointing,” Morris said. “Disappointed in the fact we let a team, and give them credit, they came in here. For us to come in here and not get off the field and have the opportunity to score some points. We’ve got to continue to — we’ve got some deficiencies. And we’ve got to go fill them.”
Western Kentucky came into the game 5-4, but only beat Old Dominion 20-3 and Charlotte 30-14. Is there anything to indicate your program isn’t near the bottom of college football right now?
“I think we are in a part of where our program is that we’re asking a lot of 18-year old young men to step in and play against some older guys,” Morris said. “Thats – there’s no excuse in that. But they’re having to grow up and they’re having to grow up the hard way. We’re definitely not where we want to be. As I mentioned earlier, it’s disappointing. We’re all frustrated with it. But these young men will continue to grow and continue to mature and develop.”
Can you go into more detail what you consider the deficiencies?
“You can look at us over the last few weeks,” Morris said. “We’re struggling stopping the run. That’s one of them. We’ve got some areas there. From a depth standpoint, we’ve got to create depth. On both sides of the ball. Offensive line, defensive line. That has got to happen in this league. And that’s where it starts. This is a line of scrimmage league.”
Morris was also asked about any assurances from Hunter Yurachek, Arkansas’ Athletic Director, that he would get to see the rebuild completed?
“We talk each and every Sunday and go through the program in depth each week and go through the game,” Morris said. “He and I will continue to visit.”
Even after losing to San Jose State, Arkansas was competitive in a 31-27 loss to Texas A&M in AT&T Stadium. Following a bye week, Arkansas lost at Kentucky 24-20.
However, since that time, they have lost to Auburn 51-10, Alabama 48-7 and Mississippi State 54-24. Mix in Saturday’s blowout loss to the Hilltoppers it appears Arkansas is no longer competitive in the games.
“I think that when you look at the way it happened today, the outcome of today,” Morris said. “It was very disappointing for us all of us. There is no question with that. As I shared earlier, as we look out there and we are rotating guys in on both sides of the ball, and we are trying to find the right fix right there and letting these young guys take on that ownership and their play. It is, it was disappointing with the effort. It has been over the last couple days, or couple weeks, but this is a lot of young guys that continue to grow up. We are going to continue to play these young guys.”
Back to the explosive offense promised by Morris when hired, is it more of a rebuilding job here than you thought?
“As I did mention, we are,” Morris said. “We want to be one of the most explosive offenses in the country. But we also want to do what. We don’t want to get out there and play to a speed at which we’re going three-and-out and putting the defense back on the field. There’s been some adjustment to that. I think you look at where I’ve been before and how fast we play, sometimes you just have to adjust to it.
“But I knew this was going to be a rebuild. I knew it when I took the job. I knew from just looking at all the other SEC programs and looking at what we have to get and where we have to recruit to, to get this program where it needs to be and the areas and the footprint that you need to recruit in. That was part of the reason why I got the job, is because our recruiting and our footprint. That hasn’t changed and it’s not gonna change. We have got to continue to recruit, we’ve got to continue to develop and that’s where we are.
“This is not… it’s going to take some time. Everybody’s frustrated with that and I get it. I am too. But I also understand that to get this thing right, it’s going to take some time in this league.”
Time is something that Morris better hope that Yurachek gives him because right now the progame is at the lowest point in recent memory.
Arkansas still has LSU and Missouri to face this season. The last time the Hogs won an SEC game was on Oct 28, 2017, a 38-37 victory over Ole Miss in Oxford. That too seems like a very distant memory. Arkansas is now 1-21 in SEC play since 2017.