HOGS vs WKU and Ty Storey preview
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas’ quarterbacking past and future collide Saturday morning at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
As a graduate transfer, Charleston native Ty Storey was a Razorback from 2015-2018, including nine starts last year in coach Chad Morris’ first season. Now he quarterbacks the 5-4 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers of Conference USA and coached by Tyson Helton.
Storey and WKU take on the 2-7 Razorbacks in Saturday’s 11 a.m. non-conference game televised by the SEC Network.
Ben Hicks via SMU and Nick Starkel via Texas A&M, the graduate transfer quarterbacks Morris brought in after last season’s 2-10 prompting Storey transferring, have been benched. Between Hicks and Starkel starting every game, the Hogs at 2-7, 0-6 in the SEC with two SEC games left.
Time for a change. Especially with redshirt freshman John Stephen Jones throwing second-half touchdown passes the past two games. Jones relieved Starkel in the 51-10 loss to Alabama and Hicks in the 54-24 loss to Mississippi State. True freshman KJ Jefferson season-debuted with a spectacular scoring drive against Mississippi State. Jefferson started with a 21-yard run and finished with a 5-yard TD pass with a 32-yard pass in between.
So, Jones starts and Jefferson will play, too, Morris said.
Fans clamoring for the new grad transfers as 2018 quarterbacks Storey and Cole Kelley departed, en masse clamored for new QB blood.
Storey can sympathize with all four Arkansas QBs. He’s lived the Arkansas ups and downs. As classy homegrown Hog, Storey got off the bench to start for a struggling team and took the bulk of the blame after Arkansas went 2-10, 0-8 last year.
Storey has expressed no rancor this week, just mutual respect shown by him to Arkansas players and coaches and vice versa.
Not only is it Storey time against the Hogs, but with a sixth win Saturday the 5-4 Hilltoppers become bowl eligible. For a mid-major to clinch a bowl bid by beating an SEC school on SEC turf provides a major incentive.
“It’s an added bonus that it's an SEC opponent and playing a Power 5 school,” Helton said. “And if you can go down there and get a win, it says a lot about your program. It would be great to down there and get a good win.”
Oddsmakers wouldn’t be be surprised. Las Vegas lines generally favor Arkansas by a mere point.
Helton talks up Arkansas as coaches do, but he’s got to sense Razorback blood in the water. North Texas of Conference USA routed last year’s Razorbacks 44-17 in Fayetteville. San Jose State of the Mountain West beat these current Hogs 31-24 in Fayetteville and led 24-7 at half. San Jose State receiver Tre Walker embarrassed Arkansas’ pass defense by catching 12 passes for 161 yards.
WKU could get Lucky with skill. Though WKU has lost the past two Saturdays to Marshall and Florida Atlantic, Storey and senior receiver Lucky Jackson teamed for 16 receptions for 164 yards against Marshall and nine catches for 194 yards against Florida Atlantic. Given Arkansas’ struggle to stop the run, Mississippi State rushed for 469 of its 640 yards total offense last week. The Hogs face some SEC talent on this Conference USA team.
Arkansas’ injury-riddled offensive line will find SEC talent on the Hilltoppers’ Conference USA defensive line.
“Defensively, they give up less than 20 points a game,” Morris said. “They are very sound in what they do defensively. DeAngelo Malone (WKU’s defensive end) is ninth in the country in sacks. We’re to going to have to play well.”
Morris relies on his new quarterbacks and 17 seniors dressing for their last Reynolds Razorback Stadium. “It’s about pride and responding the right way,” he said.