Morris sees fight during SEC slide

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Tuesday, November 13, 2018
Arkansas coach Chad Morris points at a player during a game against LSU on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas coach Chad Morris points at a player during a game against LSU on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The Arkansas Razorbacks are playing with plenty of pluck, Coach Chad Morris said Monday.

The Hogs might need to add in some luck for one of their closing road games at Mississippi State or Missouri.

The University of Arkansas is a 19.5-point underdog for Saturday's 11 a.m. game at Mississippi State (6-4, 2-4 SEC), which was ranked No. 16 in last week's College Football Playoff poll.

The Razorbacks (2-8, 0-6) need a victory to stop their slide in conference games from reaching 10 consecutive losses, which would be the first conference-losing streak of that magnitude since Missouri lost 11 in a row in 2015-2016.

Arkansas lost 17 SEC games in a row between 2012-2014, the longest conference losing streak in school history.

The Razorbacks need to win one of their two remaining games to keep from becoming the first 10-loss team at Arkansas.

"I thought our team continues to fight and play extremely hard until the very end," Morris said at his weekly news conference. "That again was evident last Saturday night as we cut the lead to one score with five minutes to go and an opportunity to get the ball back."

The Razorbacks are 0-4 in games not played at Reynolds Razorback Stadium this season.

Though they've faced Texas A&M in Arlington, Texas, and Ole Miss in Little Rock, the Razorbacks haven't played a true road game since a 34-3 loss at No. 9 Auburn on Sept. 22.

"We've got a tough, tough road test," Morris said. "Coach [Joe] Moorhead has done a good job over there. They've got a lot of returning starters. As a matter of fact, the majority of their team is returning.

"The defense is as good as advertised. No. 1 in the SEC. It's the fastest overall defense that we've seen."

The Bulldogs lead the SEC and rank seventh nationally in total defense by allowing 281.3 yards per game.

That's better than the eighth-ranked defense of Alabama, which allows 282.3 yards per game, and the 31st-ranked defense of LSU, which Arkansas faced last week.

It's also more than LSU allowed to Arkansas, which managed 216 yards in a 24-17 loss Saturday.

"I mean obviously we started really slow," Arkansas offensive coordinator Joe Craddock said. "Tough to find anything early on. We were able to find some things later on in the second half, and of course the fourth quarter to make it a one score game there at the end.

"I wish we had come out and played a little bit better, called the game a little bit better. There's a lot of things we needed to do better in the first half that we just couldn't quite get rolling."

Moorhead, an offensive mind with a background at Fordham and Penn State, praised the work of his defensive unit and coordinator Bob Shoop in last week's 24-0 loss to No. 1 Alabama, the lowest point total scored by the Crimson Tide this season.

"Defensively, I thought we fought our tails off and did our best," Moorhead said. "Coach Shoop likes to use the term 'defend every blade of grass', and I thought we settled in after the first two drives.

"We gave up roughly 150 yards and three points in the second half, and I think that is indicative of the type of defense we have been playing throughout the season, particularly against a team that was averaging over 50 points and close to 600 yards a game."

The Razorbacks made a couple of defensive stands as well against LSU. McTelvin Agim and Santos Ramirez combined to stop Clyde Edwards-Helaire on fourth and 1 at the Arkansas 25 in the fourth quarter. That denial set up Ty Storey's second touchdown pass to Cheyenne O'Grady in the quarter, a 32-yard strike that pulled Arkansas within 24-17.

"Our guys did what we challenged them to do all week long, and that was to see how many red jerseys we could get to the football at the whistle," Morris said. "We had guys flying all over the field and that was good to see."

Morris and defensive coordinator John Chavis pointed out two critical defensive mistakes in the LSU game.

On the first, the Razorbacks had a busted coverage that allowed Justin Jefferson to run an out and up and break wide open for a 40-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

In the second quarter, the Hogs forced quarterback Joe Burrow to slide after a 2-yard gain on a second-and-17 play, which would have set up third and 15. Instead, defensive end Michael Taylor crashed into Burrow as he slid, earning a 15-yard penalty for targeting and an ejection. Brossette scored a 12-yard touchdown two plays later.

"Defensively, we needed one more stop," Morris said.

"They're too good for us to give them anything," Chavis said. "And they took advantage of it. They could have scored anyway [after the Taylor penalty], but I think if we get a chance to play third and 15, I like our odds a lot better than moving the chains and putting it at first down."

Sports on 11/13/2018

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