Razorbacks scuffling to find their way in Morris’ second season

After trailing Arkansas 27-9 late in the third quarter, Colorado State quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels and wide receiver Preston Williams connected for a two touchdowns and a 2-point conversion to cut the lead to 27-24 early in the fourth quarter in 2018.

Photo: Tomas Redondo, CSURams.com

What do you do when you fritter away a game that so many of your fans had circled as the most important game of the year?


Next up for the Razorbacks

Opponent: vs. Colorado State
When: 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14
Where: Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville
TV: SEC Network

Remaining schedule

Sept. 21 – San Jose State
Sept. 28 – Texas A&M (AT&T Stadium in Arlington)
Oct. 12 – at Kentucky
Oct. 19 – Auburn
Oct. 26 – at Alabama
Nov. 2 – Mississippi State
Nov. 9 – Western Kentucky
Nov. 23 – at LSU
Nov. 29 – Missouri

That’s been the watch word of the week for Chad Morris’ Arkansas Razorbacks (1-1, 0-1 SEC) after they showed up to Oxford, Miss. last Saturday ill-prepared to play and then received a swift 31-17 kick in the rump by Ole Miss (1-1, 1-0 SEC).

Morris has more motivational words, slogans, and acronyms than Sesame Street, yet through a year and two games, he’s yet to find the right ones to provoke his Hogs into playing winning football.

Clearly, slogans aren’t the issue.

For whatever reasons, the squad is not being prepared well enough during practice to get the job done on Saturdays.

Ole Miss was a better football team than Arkansas last Saturday, but it wasn’t because of pure talent. The Razorbacks beat themselves as much as the Rebels did with a myriad of busted assignments and mistakes that proved critical in a game the Hogs’ had a chance to win in the fourth quarter.

The simple fact is the Rebels were better coached. That may be harsh or unfair or negative, but it is the growing sentiment among more than a few Arkansas fans who are suffering through subpar football on a weekly basis.

It’s one thing to be beaten or even pounded by a superior opponent, but it’s another to watch a team commit harakiri against an equal or lesser team.

This Saturday the Razorbacks play host to Colorado State at 3 p.m. in Reynolds Razorback Stadium. The game will be televised by the SEC Network.

It’s another opportunity for the Razorbacks to pick up a win against the Rams (1-1) who shouldn’t be as talented as an SEC team, but they are a squad that an inconsistent team like Arkansas can’t afford to overlook.

By Sunday a third of the season will already be over, and right now, the Hogs have little to show for their efforts since January.

Last year, CSU came back from a 27-9 second-half deficit to beat the Hogs 34-27 in the final seconds of the game at Fort Collins. That should be impetus enough for the Razorbacks to want to rip them a new one, but at this point, it’s hard to know what motivates these players. It doesn’t seem to be the coaching staff.

As a Razorback fan, I dearly hope I have to eat these words and declare “mea culpa” on Sunday, but from what I’ve witnessed, I’m not sure that I’ll have to.

In all honesty, I think the Hogs will win Saturday, but I’m not certain like I ought to be. Not after Arkansas’ performances against Portland State and Ole Miss. How could anyone be certain?

Arkansas fans shouldn’t be in a situation where they are legitimately concerned that a program like Colorado State might beat them two games in a row. We shouldn’t be worried about whether the Razorbacks win but rather by how much.

Hopefully Morris and his assistants will get a handle on the situation and get the nose of the program pointed up. A win this week against CSU and next week against San Jose State will put the curl back in Hog fans’ tails and have them optimistic for the Texas A&M game at Arlington whether they should be or not.

It might be false hope, but Razorback fans are resilient, even if we do like to squeal from time to time. After that, to paraphrase Betty Davis from the 1950 movie “All About Eve,” fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy October with Kentucky, Auburn and Alabama on the docket.

I mistakenly thought throughout the summer that if you put a better quarterback in the Arkansas mix that much of the Razorbacks’ issues would be alleviated. I didn’t think it would mean eight wins, but I thought it would give them a shot at six.

I stand corrected. While I do believe Ben Hicks and Nick Starkel are both better quarterbacks than what the Razorbacks had to work with last season, neither has meshed with the team, yet.

Maybe that will happen now as Starkel takes over as the starter on Saturday?

Starkel has the best arm on campus since Ryan Mallett, but in two series against Portland State and in the second half against Ole Miss, he and the Hogs around him have shown a knack for making mistakes that halt drives without scores.

Maybe with him locked in as the starter this week in practice, Starkel and his teammates have started to improve? Maybe their confidence in each other will build and they will begin to execute rather than self destruct?

We’ll see.

As down as I and other Hog fans are at the moment, we all want to see the Razorbacks succeed. There is nothing more I would like to write about next week than a Razorback victory in which the Hogs not only won, but also played well in doing so.

I’d love to be able to brag on players like safety Kam Curl, who really has played well so far this season, Fayetteville native C.J. O’Grady, senior running back Devwah Whaley, the offensive line or Starkel.

I’d love to be able to write that Morris and his coaching staff devised an outstanding game plan that they managed to get the Razorbacks to execute. I’d love to credit them for the hours of hard work that they have put in with this team.

However, before any reporter, columnist, or hack can write that, something good has to happen on the field. The avalanche of errors that made the Razorbacks look awful against a middling Ole Miss team have to cease.

If the Razorbacks play as haphazardly this week as they did against Ole Miss, it’s going to be another sad Saturday night around the state. There have been too many of those in recent years.

Let’s hope the Razorbacks respond this week, play well, and give us some hope not just for this season but for the future.