FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas has had a chance to win its last two games, but came up short against both Texas A&M and Kentucky.
On Monday, Arkansas’ Chad Morris was asked about how Arkansas can get over the hump and win some of these close games?
“Well, that’s our job as coaches to go back and figure out,” Morris said. “You’re 20 yards away from winning the last two games. And you’ve put yourselves in position there at the end to win the majority of our games this season, all but one right there on that last drive. Whether it’s a stop here or a conversion here, you know, we’re putting ourselves in position. Are we in the right play call? Do we have the right check? Are we doing too much? Are we not doing enough?
“That’s really kind of what it comes down to. We’ve got to be able to find a way to get the ball in the end zone. We’re putting ourselves in that position, now we’ve got to finish the deal. We just haven’t done that.”
Arkansas lost to Texas A&M 31-27 and then fell to Kentucky 24-20. In both instances the Razorbacks had a chance to win the game late.
Against Texas A&M, Arkansas took over at its own 25 with 3:52 remaining in the game and trailing by four. Ben Hicks led the team down the field to the Aggies 19. A fourth-and-five pass from Hicks to tight end Cheyenne O’Grady with 31 seconds remaining in the game fell incomplete and the Aggies celebrated.
This past Saturday night, Arkansas, once again trailing by four, took over at its own 18. Hicks drove the team down the field to a first down at the Kentucky 17. Arkansas got as close as the Kentucky 15 before a sack pushed them back to the 22. A fourth-and-15 pass from Hicks intended for Treylon Burks never had a chance because of pressure from Kentucky’s T.J. Carter on the Arkansas quarterback.
Even the San Jose State game, Arkansas rallied from a 24-3 halftime deficit to tie the game at 24 with 2:56 remaining in the game. However, it just took San Jose State one minute, 43 seconds to put together a five-play, 75-yard drive to take a 31-24 lead with 1:13 seconds remaining in the game. That was a stunning loss for Arkansas and started the current slide.
On Sunday, junior linebacker D’Vone McClure opted to leave the team. That was followed on Monday by true freshman cornerback Devin Bush entering the transfer portal. How does Morris keep these mounting losses, after a 2-10 season in 2018, from splintering the team?
“Well, you share with him, first of all, you hurt with them, you hurt for them,” Morris said. “We put in an enormous amount of time. 353 days a year are to prepare for 12 opportunities, so the time commitment that they players, these coaches put in is enormous. You hurt with them and you hurt for them.
“But as I shared with them in the locker room, it’s going to turn. It’s turned in the previous places that I’ve been a part of. It’s difficult being stuck in a corner. It’s not fun at times being stuck in a corner. The only way to get out is put your head down and keep swinging and keep working and assuring our players that they’ll continue to keep playing hard and giving the effort and assuring our players that they’ll continue to keep playing hard and giving the effort that they’re showing, that we’re going to get out of it, that e’re going to get out of this corner that we’re in.
“But it’s not easy, and it’s not going to be easy, and it’s not getting any easier. But that doesn’t mean that we’re going to flinch or we’re going to back down because we’re not going to do that. These guys haven’t done that, and I don’t anticipate that happening at all. So, our message is that we’re all in this together. It’s not one, it’s not a group, it’s all of us. The only thing to do is put your head down and go to work.”
Arkansas (2-4, 0-3) has a rough stretch coming up to close October. They are home on Saturday to host Auburn at 11 a.m. in Reynolds Razorback Stadium. The following Saturday they have a 6 p.m. kickoff against Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Those two teams are a combined 11-1 and the Tide is ranked No. 1 in the nation. Auburn is No. 11 in the AP Poll with its only loss at Florida. Auburn will have had two weeks to get healthy and prepare for the Hogs.