Arkansas football: 5 things I want to see the Razorbacks accomplish in Week 9
Arkansas picked up its first win over an FBS opponent in the Chad Morris era last Saturday. This week, the Razorbacks have their sites set on giving Morris his first SEC win with Vanderbilt coming to Fayetteville.
The Hogs (2-6, 0-4) have won their past three matchups with Vanderbilt, though being in separate divisions the teams haven’t played since 2011. Arkansas holds a 5-1 lead in the series since joining the SEC.
Here are five things the Razorbacks need in order to give Chad Morris his first SEC win:
1. Ty Storey not missing a beat
Arkansas quarterback Ty Storey missed the Hogs’ win over Tulsa after he failed to clear concussion protocol. Morris stated Monday the junior is healthy and set to start against Vanderbilt. Storey’s return is vital to the Razorbacks’ chances of earning a victory, but it’s also important he doesn’t miss a beat coming off the injury. He has the offense showing significant improvement against Alabama and Ole Miss before he sustaining a head injury in the fourth quarter against the Rebels. Though very little offense was needed to win last week, things weren’t running nearly as smooth with Storey out. If he returns in the form he displayed his past two starts, Arkansas will like its chances to win.
2. Another great DL performance
Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmur and wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb are a tandem capable of burning Arkansas’ secondary. But beyond Shurmur and Lipscomb, Vanderbilt’s offense is extremely lacking. So if the Hogs can avoid letting that duo burn them with a bunch of yards through the air, that’s a recipe for success. How do they get that done? It all starts with the defensive line. The group had its best pass-rushing performance of the season last week with 6 sacks and 4 quarterback hurries. Shurmur isn’t an effective scrambler, so not allowing him to get comfortable in the pocket is a recipe for success.
3. Rakeem Boyd playing in the fourth quarter
Arkansas starting running back Rakeem Boyd hasn’t played in the fourth quarter either of the past two weeks. It didn’t matter against Tulsa — when Boyd had to exit with cramps — as the defense dominated in a 23-0 victory. But his minor back issue might have cost the Hogs a win in a 4-point loss to Ole Miss the previous week. Saturday could be a similarly close game, so having Boyd available with the game on the line is potentially critical. The Razorbacks should try to limit his carries in the first half in hopes he can remain fresh. He could make a huge difference down the stretch against a Vanderbilt defense allowing an SEC-worst 266 rushing yards in conference games.
4. Connor Limpert continuing to shine
Junior kicker Connor Limpert is suddenly on a hot streak. He began the season a modest 5-for-8 on field goal attempts. But he’s made 10 consecutive tries since including 7 over the past two weeks. In a game like this, the kicker could easily decide the outcome. Vanderbilt kicker Ryley Guay has made just 57 percent of his attempts this season. If Limpert can keep his hot streak going, Arkansas should hold a very clear advantage in a potentially critical phase of this game.
5. A few wins on third down
Arkansas’ offense has moved the chains on just 32 percent of its third-down opportunities. That’s worst in the SEC. Fortunately for the Hogs in this game, Vanderbilt is equally as bad at stopping opponents on third down. The Commodores are giving up a third-down conversion 47 percent of the time. That number has risen to 54 percent in their four SEC games. Something has to give when Arkansas faces third down Saturday. If the Hogs are going to win, it better break in their favor.