Arkansas football: Grading the Razorbacks' 31-17 Week 2 loss to Ole Miss
Something has to give with the Arkansas offense. Nick Starkel pumped a little blood into it in the second half, but not nearly enough to take it off life support. This is getting ugly in a hurry. After putting up just 20 points on Portland State a week ago, the Hogs followed with a 17-point output on one of the worst defenses in the SEC.
Saturday’s 31-17 loss to Ole Miss left a number of question marks, from coaching to quarterbacks, and that’s a shame considering the strides the defense appears to be making from a year ago, when it ranked 11th in the conference.
It was somewhat difficult to come up with, but here are five things I liked about the game, along with the equally difficult task of narrowing it down to just three things I didn’t like.
1. Starkel’s efficiency
Granted, a majority of his stats were accomplished in garbage time, but we’re taking the positives where we can at this point. Starkel’s numbers were a respectable 17-of-24 passing for 201 yards and a touchdown. It will be interesting to see if that’s enough to supplant Ben Hicks as the Razorbacks’ starter moving forward.
2. Kamren Curl
The Razorbacks’ strong safety was second on the team with six solo tackles and eight total tackles. He displayed his versatility when he stripped an Ole Miss player of the ball and returned the fumble 69 yards for Arkansas’ first TD of the game, slicing the Rebels’ lead to 17-10 early in the fourth quarter.
3. WRs Trey Knox and Mike Woods
The two caught six passes apiece, nearly splitting their combined 172 receiving yards right down the middle. The Razorbacks are desperate to find a go-to receiver. Perhaps the two might share the duty. Woods has a team-leading 11 catches for the season.
4. Red zone offense
The Razorbacks converted on two of three trips to the red zone. And though only once did they score a touchdown, Arkansas did manage to put 10 points on the board in its three trips inside the Rebels’ 20. Sure, you’d like to pile up 21 points with three chances in the red zone. But right now, Arkansas’ offense is taking baby steps, and any sort of production is welcomed.
5. Rakeem Boyd
Despite not seeing the largest of running lanes, the Arkansas running back was able to tough out 67 rushing yards and gain nearly 4 yards per carry. He also added a pass reception for 8 yards in an offense hungry for standout performers.
I didn’t like
1. Two-QB system
What’s that old saying: “If you’ve got two quarterbacks, you don’t have any” — something like that. But maybe I’m being too hard on the two quarterbacks in an offense that is entirely new. Hicks is having a tougher time generating anything offensively with a new set of blockers and new receivers. Starkel certainly had the better of it on Saturday, but that’s not saying much. Arkansas quarterbacks were sacked three times and were hurried on seven more passing attempts. Those are not numbers conducive to good quarterback play, regardless of which one is under center.
Would it make a difference at this point if head coach Chad Morris settled on one? Perhaps not, but knowing you’re going to play only half the game only exacerbates the situation.
2. Line blocking
As stated, both quarterbacks were harassed, and the run game was virtually nonexistent. It’s a new set of blockers up front, and the growing pains will continue. But you aren’t going to win many games rushing for 2.3 yards per carry or totaling 61 yards on the ground.
3. Third-down conversions allowed
The Razorbacks allowed Ole Miss to convert on 8 of 15 third downs. You let a team convert more than 50 percent on third down, you’re pretty much guaranteed a loss. The Rebels maintained possession time after time when it looked as if Arkansas’ defense might get off the field. Instead, Ole Miss was able to win the time of possession battle, holding the ball for more than 32 minutes.