Arkansas football: 5 things I want to see from Razorbacks on Saturday
Somebody is going to snap a losing streak Saturday. The Arkansas Razorbacks are hoping it’s their 2-gamer that bites the dust. But Kentucky is at home and the Wildcats are looking to erase a 3-game skid of their own. Both seek their 1st conference victory this season as well. If Arkansas wins, it will be Chad Morris’ 1st SEC win as the Hogs’ coach.
The 7:30 p.m. ET kickoff presents an opportunity for one team to reverse its fortunes and begin to trend the 2019 season in the opposite direction.
For Arkansas to be successful in that endeavor, several aspects of its game must be improved. Here are 5 things I’d like to see from the Razorbacks on Saturday.
1. Nick Starkel making better decisions
The Arkansas quarterback is fully healed from a left, non-throwing, elbow injury suffered in the loss to Texas A&M. It was an ill-advised pass at the goal line, which was intercepted, that put Starkel in position of making a tackle on the play, resulting in his injury.
Better decision-making in those situations would give the Razorbacks more positive results and keep Starkel out of harm’s way. He’s enough of a seasoned veteran to know that.
“Protect points in the red zone,” he said Monday. “Every possession has got to end with a kick. That’s something we’ve really stressed this week, that every possession has got to end with a kick. We’ve always got to reserve the right to punt and also we’re not bad playing with a field goal instead of an interception.”
Making sound decisions will better serve Starkel and the Razorbacks against a Kentucky secondary that has allowed just 3 touchdown passes this season, tied with Missouri for fewest in the SEC, and none in the past 2 games.
2. Healthy WRs step up
Starkel’s decision-making will certainly made easier when the Razorbacks field a healthy set of receivers. Mike Woods and Trey Knox, Arkansas’ 2 top receivers, appear to have healed from hip injuries and should be at full speed Saturday.
“It really opens it up,” Starkel said. “You can see those guys make the safeties kind of respect them and respect the vertical pass game a lot more.”
In addition, the Razorbacks are expecting De’Vion Warren back from concussion protocol, and junior Jordan Jones, who caught 17 passes for 191 yards and a touchdown last season, could see his first action of 2019 after ankle surgery.
3. Tougher in the trenches
In addition to healthy receivers, the Razorbacks look to be healthier in the trenches as well. Along the defensive front, DT McTelvin Agim and DE Zach Williams used the bye week to heal knee injuries. Their return to full strength would give the defensive line a lift.
Center Ty Clary and LT Colton Jackson look to be ready to go. Both are coming out of concussion protocol. Jackson, who has also been nursing a foot injury all season, played against Texas A&M, and with both healthy could spark the Arkansas OL.
4. Take it on the road
I would really like to see Arkansas bring its “A” game on the road. The Razorbacks are 1-13 in their past 14 games away from home, which includes 4 neutral site losses. The last away game victory was a 38-37 win at Ole Miss on Oct. 28, 2017.
If the program is to make strides, it has to find a way to win on the road. Saturday in Lexington would be a good start.
5. More O’Grady
Tight end Cheyenne O’Grady is a beast. Tied for the team lead in receptions last season with 30, O’Grady has 18 catches this season, 3rd on the team. You just can’t target this guy enough in the passing game.
He had career-highs against Texas A&M with 8 catches for 91 yards. Those are the kinds of numbers I’d like to see on a consistent basis. In the Hunter Henry mold, O’Grady has 4 receptions of 20-plus yards this season and 13 in his career.
More, more, more …