Arkansas football: Week 3 report card — is Chad Morris in over his head?
Arkansas suffered one of the most embarrassing losses in program history Saturday — a 44-17 defeat at home to North Texas.
The Razorbacks are 1-2 in 2018, the first season under coach Chad Morris. They’ve lost back-to-back games against Group of 5 teams, with their only win coming against FCS opponent Eastern Illinois. Saturday was the first win for the Mean Green over a Power 5 program since 2011. Clearly, the Morris era is off to the worst start imaginable.
It’s pretty obvious what Arkansas’ report card should look like after this performance, but let’s hand out some grades regardless. Here’s how I scored the Hogs in Week 3:
Arkansas opted to start Cole Kelley at quarterback after leaving that decision up in the air all week. If he’s truly the best option, that’s a really bad sign. Kelley threw an interception on his third pass attempt to set North Texas up for a short touchdown drive. The sophomore would throw three more interceptions before being replaced by true freshman Connor Noland late in the third quarter. John Stephen Jones, another true freshman, also saw some time at quarterback in the fourth quarter. The two freshmen didn’t fare any better than Kelley, as each threw an interception at a point when the Mean Green were just adding insult to injury.
The offensive line play was also a major issue, which was very apparent in the running game. The Hogs rushed for just 126 yards, and even that was inflated by a meaningless 68-yard touchdown run from Maleek Williams in the final minute. Starting running back Devwah Whaley had just nine carries for 12 yards.
The defense was easily Arkansas’ best phase of the game Saturday. That being said, the unit still deserves a failing grade.
North Texas had five pass plays of at least 27 yards. Many of those came as a result of receivers running wide open behind the coverage.
The Mean Green didn’t run the ball much, because they didn’t have to, but they had success against the Hogs when they did. North Texas starting running back Loren Easly averaged 5.2 yards on his 13 carries.
Special teams: F
The Hogs allowed a 90-yard touchdown on a punt return as a result of the coverage team being duped into believing a fair catch was signaled when it was not. It was one of the most embarrassing plays you’ll see in college football this season, and it has been appropriately mocked nationally.
Connor Limpert made a 54-yard field goal, but he later missed a 38-yard attempt. He also wasn’t the best kicker in this game, which really stings for Arkansas considering he was bettered by Cole Hedlund — a former much-maligned Razorback who is now at North Texas. Hedlund made all four of his field-goal attempts. He added five extra points, bringing his total to 14 points Saturday. That would’ve beaten the Hogs by itself if not for Williams’ score in the final minute.
Arkansas was expected to struggle this season, and the feeling around Fayetteville was that Morris wouldn’t come under heat for it. However, not even the most pessimistic Razorback supporters believed it would ever be this bad at any point under Morris.
It’s for that reason that it’s already time to ask: Is Chad Morris in over his head at Arkansas? This team clearly doesn’t have enough talent to compete in the SEC. But it should have enough to beat Colorado State and North Texas.
When Arkansas gets blown out by North Texas on its home field, there’s no way to justify anything but failing grades across the board. This team appears primed to be historically bad as games against Auburn, Texas A&M and Alabama loom next.