Homecoming for the University of Arkansas was officially last week, but one ex-Razorback will have a homecoming all his own this week when the Hogs meet Western Kentucky at 11 a.m. Saturday at Reynolds Razorback Stadium for an SEC Network-televised game.
Last year’s starting Razorback quarterback Ty Storey returns to Fayetteville, but this time he’ll be wearing a Hilltoppers’ uniform.
Storey opted to exit Arkansas last December after the Razorbacks concluded their inaugural season under Chad Morris with a 2-10 record when Morris sought out a graduate transfer to compete for the starting quarterback role.
Next up for the Razorbacks
Opponent: vs. Western Kentucky
When: 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 9
Where: Razorback Stadium
TV: SEC Network
Nov. 23 – at LSU
Nov. 29 – Missouri
Overall: 2-7 / Conference: 0-6
Storey found a new football home at Western Kentucky, and while he was initially the backup at Western Kentucky, he’s now locked in as the starter and has averaged 318.3 passing yards the last three games.
Storey, of course, grew up in Charleston (80 minutes south of Fayetteville) and spent the first four years of his collegiate career with the Hogs.
He helped lead Charleston HS to back-to-back perfect seasons and Arkansas Class 3A state championships in 2013 and 2014, earning State Championship MVP as both a junior and senior. Storey ended his high school career with 29 consecutive wins.
His 12,856 passing yards ranks third in Arkansas all-time and the 154 touchdown passes is the second-most by any Arkansas player. With the Razorbacks, Storey started nine games as a junior in 2018 and passed for 1,584 yards with 11 touchdowns. He also rushed for 146 yards and 1 score.
Storey’s started the last six games for the Hilltoppers (5-4, 4-2 Conference USA) and has thrown for 1,477 yards, 7 touchdowns with 141 completions on 202 passes with five interceptions. Storey is 4-2 as a starter for the Hilltoppers.
Storey’s success at Western Kentucky is like a twist of the knife to some Hog fans, and it only further delineates the struggles and troubles the Razorbacks have had at quarterback since Morris took over the program.
The Razorbacks are moving to their third quarterback starter of the season in John Stephen Jones on Saturday and the sixth in two seasons under Morris and offensive coordinator Joe Craddock. It’s not gone unnoticed by some fans that the more the two have worked with a quarterback as the starter at Arkansas, the worse they seem to have played.
Not all of the blame goes to the quarterbacks and the ones that coach them. Arkansas (2-7, 0-6 SEC) has struggled on the offensive front for four seasons — Bret Bielema’s final two seasons as head coach and both of Morris’ seasons. Injuries and a lack of experienced depth has been hallmark of the offensive line under Morris and his offensive line coach Dustin Fry.
The running ability of Jones and freshman K.J. Jefferson, whom Morris said would also play on Saturday earlier in the week, could take a bit of pressure off the offensive line. Though the game was way out of hand, Arkansas ran the ball better with Jones and Jefferson making option reads in last week’s 54-24 loss to Mississippi State, the Razorbacks 17th SEC loss in a row and 14th under Morris.
The Razorbacks need a victory in the worst way. The Hogs haven’t won a game since Sept. 14 and are on a six-game losing streak coming into the contest. The Hilltoppers have lost their last two games against Marshall, 26-23, and Florida Atlantic 35-24. One of them will break the streak on Saturday.
There are rumors of Saturday’s game being a do-or-die ballgame for Morris out of Little Rock. How much truth there is to that kind of talk is anyone’s guess.
On one hand, it’s hard to believe a coach would be given only two years to get a program moving in the right direction. However, on the other hand, it’s difficult to point to tangible signs of improvement with the team as double-digit losses continue to pile up and home attendance spirals downward. It’s difficult to imagine Arkansas being able to stay the course with Morris if the Razorbacks lose all of their remaining games.
Historically Arkansas’ attendance takes a hit – particularly for nonconference games — during deer-hunting season, which just happens to open on Saturday, but the Razorbacks’ lack of success on Saturdays has seen fans opt for other forms of entertainment since September.
Reasonable estimates of last Saturday’s attendance ran as low as 35,000 but no higher than 45,000. That number likely will be less Saturday.
The Razorbacks are a 1- to-3-point favorite going into Saturday’s game, meaning Las Vegas sees the game as basically a pick-em contest.
A Razorback victory would certainly make next week’s open date more pleasant, but another loss would only further escalate the negativism that has some Hog fans hoping for a loss this week because it makes it more likely that Morris will be fired.
That is a sorry state for any football program to be in, but that’s exactly where the Razorbacks are at this moment.
I’ve always enjoyed the motto of “Root Hog or Die.” It’s a slogan that was much more prevalent in the 1970s and ‘80s. I guess it’s become too passionate or crude for the 21st century, or maybe the Razorbacks have been down for so long that much of the passion has dissipated.
It’s just tough to watch a program you’ve followed all your life get so far down that it’s a struggle to get up. Maybe a new slogan for the Razorback program should be “Root Hog and Cry?”