Arkansas football: Grading Chad Morris' final loss
It gets more and more difficult each week to find the positives in the Arkansas football program. Just when you think they’ve hit rock bottom, they go and lay a 45-19 egg at home to Conference USA foe Western Kentucky. It is unimaginable that the Razorbacks’ program could fall to a lower level.
Morris reportedly was fired Sunday. Maybe that’s a start.
He resorted to ditching his more experienced quarterbacks for younger ones. And while that’s probably the proper move, it will also produce the kind of results we saw on Saturday.
It’ll be interesting to see where the Hogs go from here.
It took some doing, but I found 3 things I liked about the embarrassing loss, and I narrowed it down to 5 things I didn’t like about it.
Things I liked
1. Consistency from Rakeem Boyd
He continues to be the one constant standout in a season full of disappointment. Boyd, ever the consummate performer, dashed off touchdown runs covering 76 and 86 yards. The touchdown jaunts allowed Boyd to rush for a game-high 185 yards on just 8 carries.
2. Potential of KJ Jefferson
No, the true freshman didn’t set the world on fire, but he at least displayed some talent, and perhaps he’s someone to turn to for the future of the program. Jefferson completed only 6-of-15 passes for 60 yards and one interception, and he also ran a team-high 16 times for 32 yards, including a 17-yard scamper. If the Razorbacks are turning to youth, then Jefferson is the answer under center.
3. Versatility of Treylon Burks
Whether it’s catching passes or returning punts and kickoffs, Burks is a threat every time he touches the ball. Burks caught a team-high 5 passes for 59 yards, and he also returned a punt 18 yards. In addition, Burks returned a pair of kickoffs totaling 29 yards. His 106 all-purpose yards were second only to Boyd’s 185.
Things I didn’t like
1. Starting Jones
John Stephen Jones is not a Power 5 starting quarterback, certainly not right now, anyway. In his first start at Arkansas, Jones was abysmal against the Hilltoppers, completing just 3-of-10 passes with an interception. He threw for 27 yards and completed his debut as a starter with a QB rating of 32.7. His second pass was intercepted, and after 5 consecutive misfires, he was pulled for Jefferson in the 4th quarter.
2. Offensive line play
The Razorbacks’ offensive line needed to go above and beyond the norm as Arkansas broke in a pair of freshmen QBs. The line allowed 2 sacks and 4 tackles for loss. It didn’t do the two inexperienced signal-callers any favors.
3. Defense couldn’t get off the field
As if allowing the Hilltoppers to convert on 50 percent of third-down plays (9-for-18) wasn’t bad enough, Western Kentucky converted on all five fourth-down plays as well. That’s nothing short of atrocious. The Arkansas defense, therefore, was on the field a lot longer than it could have been. Western Kentucky won the time of possession battle by nearly 14 minutes.
4. Red-zone defense
The defense overall was bad enough, allowing 478 total yards. But the red-zone defense was particularly bad. In five opportunities, the Hilltoppers scored five times, four of them touchdowns and all four on the ground. Western Kentucky simply pushed the Arkansas defense around inside the 20.
5. Not ready to play
Sure, facing a middle-of-the-road C-USA team doesn’t exactly stoke the flames. But when you’re fighting for your program’s life, it should be expected that the Razorbacks would and should come out ready to go. But the Hilltoppers were the team that jumped out to a big 35-7 lead by halftime.