FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas lost another close loss to Texas A&M and it left Razorback fans, coaches and players thinking of what could have been.
It was a loss and Arkansas (2-3) will take a two-game skid into the bye week. However, at the end of the day, it was another close loss in this series. But unlike the loss to San Jose State there’s one obvious positive that happened on Saturday.
The effort for 60 minutes that was missing the previous week was there. Arkansas didn’t play perfectly by any stretch, they did play with great effort. That was something Chad Morris had talked to his team about all week.
“I thought that this was a pivotal week for our football team,” Morris said. “We all knew that the performance last week was unacceptable. And how we responded was the only thing that matters, and why we got the results that we did.
“And so there was a lot of challenging going on this week among each other, challenging each other to really, really lock in and focus in and just do what we do. And they did. They did on Tuesday, they did on Wednesday. They did Thursday and Friday. And our meetings were incredible. And we’ve just got to find a way to win. And that’s really all this is. We have to find a way to win a game like this. And we will.”
The close loss against Texas A&M doesn’t guarantee anything though. Arkansas lost a close game to them last year and finished 2-10. The previous year the Hogs lost another tight game and finished 4-8. So there’s no guarantee a close loss to A&M means success is coming up in two weeks, but Morris is very aware of that.
“They fought,” Morris said. “They fought bell to bell. We knew it was going to be a four-quarter game, and that’s what we ask for. But losing is not acceptable. There are no moral losses. We’ve got to find a way. Got to find a way to win when you get down to the end like this. And we will.”
There was a bad no-call that could have possibly made a difference for Arkansas on the final drive. The Hogs had a second-and-10 at their own 42 when the Aggies jumped offsides. Realizing it was basically a free play Ben Hicks threw down the field to Tyson Morris who was knocked to the ground long before the ball arrived. Yet, an official standing close to the play with no obstructed view failed to throw his flag. Morris was asked about that play after the game.
“Well, I mean, we throw the ball up, that’s what you do,” Morris said. “You get a free shot. You take a shot down the field. And, you know, I wasn’t on that sideline, so it was hard to tell.”
Who knows if it would have changed the outcome of the game, but the bad thing for the SEC is there’s so many examples of such things each week in all its game. It seems the officiating hasn’t caught up to the coaching and athletes in the SEC. This isn’t to say there’s a bias against Arkansas, one can watch such stuff in any SEC game.
Arkansas will have two weeks to prepare for Kentucky that will bring a three-game losing streak into the game. The Wildcats won their first two games of the season, but have lost the three since that time. Kentucky also has a bye this week.
The bye should allow Arkansas to get Trey Knox back to go with Treylon Burks for the first time since the Colorado State game. Knox didn’t play against the Aggies and Burks missed the San Jose State game.
Following the game, some were insisting Hicks, who came in and did a remarkable job, should be the starting quarterback going forward. Morris however said that Starkel would be the starter when he’s healthy again. Texas A&M’s Justin Madubuike pointed out the Aggies had planned for Starkel, not Hicks.
“Oh, yeah, a little bit because we were expecting Nick to play the whole game,” Madubuike said. “Obviously, that didn’t happen, and 6 came in. We didn’t watch as much film as we did for Nick. I mean, we didn’t watch as much film for Number 6 as Nick. He’s a great player, and we weren’t expecting him to make the plays that he made. He’s a great player. So we had to adjust and just do our jobs as individuals and as a team to have success.”
The Hogs will be at Kentucky and need a win in that game to keep any realistic chance, however distant it may be, of a bowl game alive. To go to a bowl Arkansas would have to win six games.
They still have LSU, Auburn and Alabama left on the schedule. So probably any chance at six would include winning at Kentucky, beating Mississippi State and Western Kentucky in Fayetteville and then take your chances against Missouri in the final game of the regular season at Little Rock.
Will all that happen? The odds are long against it. Right now, Arkansas is just trying to find a way to close a game and win its first SEC game since the 2017 season. But the odds were against San Jose State coming into Fayetteville and winning. That’s why the games are decided on the field not on paper.
But to win at Kentucky the Hogs will need the same effort they got on Saturday in Arlington. Anything less and it will just be another bad ending to an SEC game.