HOGS: Morris upset by loss to Vandy
FAYETTEVILLE - If Vanderbilt had injured running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn available a week ago, it would have defeated No. 12 Kentucky.
With him Saturday at Reynolds Razorback Stadium, the Commodores proved too much for Arkansas.
Vaughn (5-10, 222) amassed 172 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries, and Vandy quarterback Kyle Shurmur completed big-play screen passes to tight end Jared Pinkney and backup running back Khari Blasingame for a 45-31 victory before 41,000 fans.
Arkansas falls to 2-7 overall, 0-5 in the SEC West going into its open date before hosting LSU on Nov. 10. Coach Derek Mason’s Commodores take 4-5 overall and 1-4 SEC East marks into their open date before traveling to Missouri on Nov. 10.
That Vandy arrived in Fayetteville winless in the SEC had first-year Arkansas coach Chad Morris believing his Hogs would prevail.
“He basically told us we were the better team,” Arkansas junior linebacker Scoota Harris said. “We didn’t play our best game today. We didn’t come with it, so this was the result. It’s frustrating to know after watching the film that you’re the better team, and we didn’t come out with the win.”
His Hogs certainly didn’t appear the better team Saturday, Morris said postgame.
"First of all I want to credit Vandy,” Morris said. “Coach Mason had their guys ready to go. They wanted to run the football, and they executed very well. Bottom line we didn’t play well enough. We couldn’t stop the run, and we didn’t play well enough defensively to win. You get what you deserve, and we didn’t deserve to win. It’s on me.”
Well, and on Vaughn.
“Obviously getting Ke’Shawn Vaughn back, he’s as dynamic a 'back as we’ve seen,” Morris said.
Arkansas senior weakside linebacker Dre Greenlaw left the game with an ankle injury during the first half. Junior middle linebacker Harris, the game’s leading tackler with 11, gave Vaughn his due.
“First off, No. 5, he’s a pretty a good running back,” Harris said. “They’ve got a lot of pretty good running backs in their backfield rotation. They’re very patient. They’re aggressive up front, and they found some holes in our defense and executed today.”
The screens, 23 and 19 yards to Blasingame and among Pinkney’s game-leading five catches for 93 yards, also hit the Hogs where they weren’t.
“They caught us in man coverage with motion across to outflank us and out leverage us,” Morris bemoaned. "When you try and get to the edge, we couldn’t turn it back inside.”
Lack of vision screened them into problems, Scoota Harris said.
“Bad eyes by some of the guys,” Harris said. "I think we were man-to-man on one of them in the secondary, and I think on the other one they motioned over and the secondary had to make a check and we just weren’t there. It was bad eyes.”
Senior quarterback Shurmur completed 13 of 19 for 192 yards and two TDs.
Arkansas’s defense never netted a turnover.
Arkansas ran the ball well. Sophomore Rakeem Boyd netted 113 and a TD on 19 carries, and Chase Hayden netted 70 yards and a TD on five carries. The Razorbacks actually exceeded Vandy in total offense, 447-442.
But falling behind in the second half compelled the Hogs to call 36 passes for junior QB Ty Storey. He completed 23 for 240 yards and two TDs but was intercepted twice.
“Offensively, two turnovers led to 14 points,” Morris said. “We have to protect the football. That’s been the message all year long. When we needed to have drives and put drives together, we couldn’t get it done. We thought we could run the football and we knew we were going to have to pass the football, but we’re not a very good football team when we have to throw the ball 36 times. Circumstances at the end dictated us throwing the ball more than we wanted to; but we’ve got to be more balanced than that.”
Junior tight end Cheyenne “C.J.” O’Grady caught six balls, one spectacularly one-handed for 83 yards with a TD. With O’Grady, the son of the late Larry Marks, and walk-on Tyson Morris the son of Isaiah “Butch’ Morris, the Razorbacks two passing TD were caught by sons of Razorbacks who played for former Arkansas basketball coach Nolan Richardson.
“O’Grady continues to get better, obviously made some dynamic plays that kept us in the game,” Chad Morris said. “With (injured senior) Jared Cornelius being out, we’ve had to bring Tyson in. He’s done some good things.”
Whatever the good, one bad ruined it all in Chad Morris’ view.
“We talked all week long about being the most physical football team in the stadium,” Morris said, “and I don’t think that we were today.”
Arkansas began well with a nine-play, 75-yard drive started with Storey passing 16 yards to O’Grady. Boyd’s 5-yard TD capped the dive after he rushed 27 and 8 yards.
Because of “team rules,” Morris said junior top cornerback Ryan Pulley and Greenlaw didn’t start though both did play. Greenlaw wasn’t in the game when Vaughn ran his 63-yard TD tying it 7-7 with 8:02 left in the first quarter.
Arkansas’ second penalty for a receiver misaligned in the backfield stalled its next drive with Arkansas punting fourth and 3 from the Vandy 39.
Vandy corner Joejuan Williams stepped in front of Arkansas receiver Deion Stewart for the interception and 8-yard return to the Arkansas 42.
Shurmur threw a 3-yard TD to Pinkney at 13:46 of the second quarter.
Arkansas’ defense forced a punt before Storey’s 16-yard run and 14-yard pass to O’Grady preceded sophomore Hayden’s 14-14 tying 38-yard TD.
Vandy went up 21-14 in three plays, including Pinkney shredding would-be tacklers on a 40-yard TD pass.
Connor Limpert attempted a 60-yard field goal, falling short to end his 10 for 10 streak just before half, but he started another with a career long 55-yarder in third quarter to cut Vandy's lead to 21-17.
Vandy’s Ryley Guay kicked a 36-yarder for Vandy with 1:15 left in try the third quarter.
Storey, overthrowing receiver Jordan Jones on a deep route wide open, threw his TD passes in the fourth quarter but they weren’t enough with Vaughn scoring twice more and Blasingame once.
“From that point (Vandy going from from up 31-24 to 45-24) they went touchdown, touchdown and we couldn’t match them,” Morris said.
The coach who has tried to stay positive obviously was frustrated, and his team knew why.
“Losing sucks,” Storey said. “We’ve got to get over that and try to get some wins.”