HOGS regroup; staff recruits after A&M loss
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas began its open-date week with a light Monday following Sunday’s off day, while UA head coach Chad Morris and staff recruit and review film of the Kentucky Wildcats.
Kentucky (2-3 overall and 0-3 in the SEC East) plays host to Arkansas (2-3, 0-2 in the SEC West) on Oct. 12 at its Kroger Field in Lexington, Ky. UK coach Mark Stoops’ Wildcats also are open this weekend.
Dreadfully disappointing their coach Sept. 20 by losing 31-24 to 21-point underdog San Jose State, the Razorbacks rallied Saturday against now AP 25th-ranked Texas A&M before falling 31-27.
It was another close loss to the Aggies. A 2-10 Arkansas team last year under then first-year coach Morris battled the eventual 9-4 Aggies before losing 24-17. It evokes mixed emotions within Arkansas’ head coach knowing the 2019 Razorbacks fought and improved from the previous week, yet lost again.
“I'm extremely proud of our football team,” Morris said, “but we've got to find ways to win games like this. They fought bell to bell but losing is not acceptable. There are no moral losses. We've got to find a way to win when you get down to the end like this.”
The positives of building on last week’s close loss and converting it into victories starts with improving during this open date week, Morris said.
“I think it's been a long grind since the first of August,” Morris said during Saturday’s postgame. “And I think these guys need a mental break for just a couple of days and step back physically and let's get healthy as we go into playing five more conference games. We will be back on the field Monday night, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Our players will have Friday and Saturday to unplug and get back in here Sunday ready to go.”
Tuesdays and Wednesday’s practices, likely the hardest of the week, will be partially open to media. The others will be entirely closed.
“We've got to continue to keep coaching hard and continue to put these young men in situations to be successful,” Morris said. “And that's what we're going to do. We're going to go back to work.”
This week will include monitoring the health of starting quarterback Nick Starkel and starting receiver Trey Knox. After suffering “a contusion,” Morris said on Starkel's left arm so painful and deep that the right-hander still could not properly grip the ball, he was removed late in the first half against A&M for backup Ben Hicks.
Starkel remains his starter, Morris said. However, Hicks, playing by far his best game off the bench after ineffectually starting the first two games, would quarterback the first-team offense in this week’s practices, if Starkel still ails.
Knox, the freshman with 21 catches for 299 yards and two touchdowns the first four games, missed the Texas A&M game because of a worsening hip injury that first occurred in the early season.
UA receivers Mike Woods (four catches for 62 yards and a TD vs. A&M and 21 catches for 301 yards this season), freshman Treylon Burks (four catches for 58 yards and a 32-yard punt return vs. A&M in Craven Whitlow photo above), and Tyson Morris (16- and 10-yard receptions for first downs vs. A&M) and sophomore Koilan Jackson (19-yard reception) did their part taking up Knox’s slack. Senior tight end Cheyenne O’Grady caught eight balls for 91 yards.
“I was very proud, with Trey Knox not playing, the addition of Koilan Jackson coming in and Tyson Morris,” Morris said. “Those guys were making some plays.”
Receiver/kick returner De’Vion Warren, not in last week’s game plan while in concussion protocol after the San Jose State game, and receiver Jordan Jones, out since an August preseason severe high ankle sprain, might practice this week and play against Kentucky.