FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas is 2-8 and will have two weeks before they play again.
The season will mercifully end on Nov. 29 when they play Missouri in Little Rock. There’s a good chance Arkansas will finish 2-10 for the second year in a row. The only thing that might allow that not to happen is if Missouri comes into Little Rock wanting to play a game less than Arkansas does.
Missouri is 5-4 and lost 27-0 to Georgia on Saturday. They have now lost three games in a row and haven’t won away from home this season. They do host Florida and Tennessee before heading to Little Rock. Florida will be favored to hand them their first home loss and Tennessee, once considered in worse shape than Arkansas by some, has rallied to a 5-5 record and is playing better than Missouri right now.
But back to the Razorbacks, 2019 has been a disappointment. After a 2-10 season in 2018, some improvement was expected this season. If there’s improvement this season one has to look far and wide for it.
What are some of the biggest disappointments this season? Here’s a few that jump out to this reporter.
Still A Quarterback Mess
With Arkansas switching offenses when Chad Morris was hired to replace Bret Bielema it was understanding that Arkansas kept searching for a quarterback last season. After Cole Kelley started the season opener, Ty Storey replaced him. Then it was back to Kelley and then back to Storey. When Storey was out with an injury, Connor Noland started the Tulsa game. But in the offseason the Arkansas staff recruited a pair of grad transfers. With Ben Hicks arriving at midterm and Nick Starkel headed to Fayetteville after spring semester, Kelley, Storey and Noland all left the team at various times. Noland did go through spring drills on a limited basis due to baseball. Kelley left at midterm and Storey stayed through the spring semester and then was able to be a grad transfer at Western Kentucky. It was Senior Day at Arkansas on Saturday and would have been Storey’s last game in Reynolds Razorback Stadium had he stayed. Instead, he was the only senior from his recruiting class to leave the field a winner on Saturday. Arkansas’ two grad transfers both watched from the sideline on Saturday as neither showed the consistency to keep the job. John Stephen Jones got the start and KJ Jefferson played in relief. Jefferson injured his shoulder, but was able to finish the game. He has two weeks to heal before the Hogs play LSU. Morris, known for his explosive offenses, has now started six different quarterbacks in his first 22 games. If Jefferson starts one of the next two that will be seven different starting quarterbacks in two years. I don’t think anyone expected that.
Arkansas’ schedule hasn’t been an easy one since joining the SEC, but the past two years have been about as easy as it can get in that regard. They have had eight non-conference games with none against a school from a Power 5 conference. Yet, they are 4-4 in those eight games with home losses to North Texas, San Jose State and Western Kentucky. Mixed in with a road loss to Colorado State last season. Then, in the SEC the Hogs had Missouri and Kentucky from the East this season. That is two of the weaker teams on that side of the SEC. They had Vanderbilt and Missouri last season and was blown out by both. So no Georgia or Florida in the two years Morris has been the head coach. This year’s schedule presented three great teams in LSU, Alabama and Auburn. Most fans understood the Hogs would take their lumps in those games. Was it really expecting too much to think the Hogs would go 4-0 in the non-conference this season and then win one or two from Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Kentucky, Mississippi State and Missouri? That would have shown progress and improvement. Arkansas was selling trust the process to recruits after 2018. It would be much easier to trust the process if they had won 5-6 games this fall which was possible with this schedule.
The defense has still struggled particularly against the run. Part of playing defense is effort and that has been missing in recent games. Sophomore linebacker Bumper Pool was asked on Saturday if he felt everyone on that side of the ball was giving great effort?
“No, I mean, if we’re being honest we didn’t get it done,” Pool said. “I could come in here and make excuses that we fought hard. Y’all saw the score. That’s something that is not acceptable and we’ve got to reach down and every single guy has got to look in the mirror and understand that it’s not someone else’s fault. It’s your fault. You’ve got to fix your mistakes, and if you had that mindset 11 guys through, you’re going to have a successful defense in the future.”
Arkansas is playing a lot of young players on that side of the ball, but it’s unacceptable for everyone who steps on the field not to play as hard as they can. The effort wasn’t there by all against Mississippi State and it was missing again on Saturday.
It’s not understood why on third and short the Hogs allow such cushions in the secondary. I get the keep the play in front of you philosophy and mentality, but at times you have got to play press and get off the field on third and/or fourth down.