Hogs familiar with blowing late leads

By: Bob Holt
Published: Monday, October 15, 2018
Ole Miss running back Scottie Phillips (22) celebrates with teammates after scoring on a 5-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter of Ole Miss' 37-33 win over Arkansas on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018, at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
Photo by Thomas Metthe
Ole Miss running back Scottie Phillips (22) celebrates with teammates after scoring on a 5-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter of Ole Miss' 37-33 win over Arkansas on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018, at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

The University of Arkansas football team's inclination for blowing big leads began at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock six years ago.

It continued there Saturday night.

Ole Miss overcame a 17-point deficit to beat the Razorbacks 37-33 and send them to their sixth consecutive loss.

For the Razorbacks and their fans, it was an all-too-familiar continuation of a disturbing trend that began with Louisiana-Monroe's 34-31 overtime victory in War Memorial Stadium in 2012.

Arkansas blew a 21-point lead in the loss.

That game was the first of 15 the Razorbacks have lost since 2012 in which they led by 10 or more points.

The Razorbacks' current losing streak began Sept. 8 in Fort Collins, Colo., where Colorado State rallied to win 34-27 after Arkansas led 27-9 late in the third quarter.

"At some point we've got to break this cycle," first-year Razorbacks Coach Chad Morris said the Monday after the Colorado State game when asked about the team's habit of blowing big leads. "There's going to be a moment that we're going to break it."

Maybe the Razorbacks (1-6, 0-4 SEC) could have broken it against Ole Miss (5-2, 1-2) if they hadn't lost starting quarterback Ty Storey and starting running back Rakeem Boyd to injuries.

"You never want to lose any player on either side of the ball," Arkansas linebacker De'Jon Harris said. "But losing those two guys hurt the offense a lot."

Left guard Hjalte Froholdt is a senior and has played for Arkansas teams that have lost eight games in which they led by 11 or more points, including a 35-24 loss to Virginia Tech in the 2016 Belk Bowl in which they had a 24-0 lead at halftime.

"There are some good teams we're playing against," said Froholdt, a team captain. "They're earning their scholarships as well.

"I think we just need to make sure we finish out the game. We were rolling really well for about three-and-a-half quarters. Then we kind of caved in at the end."

Arkansas led Ole Miss 33-24 going into the fourth quarter, but the Rebels rallied to win on touchdown drives of 84 and 97 yards led by senior quarterback Jordan Ta'amu.

"I think the biggest thing we've got to do is we'll continue to go back to work, as I shared with our players," Morris said. "It's not going to change. "Our formula is not going to change. We're going to keep getting back in there and go to work and get better."

Scottie Phillips scored on a 5-yard touchdown run with 42 seconds left to put Ole Miss ahead 37-33. Colorado State scored its game-winning touchdown on a 1-yard run by Izzy Matthews with 8 seconds left.

In Arkansas' final two games last season, Mississippi State won 28-21 on Nick Fitzgerald's 6-yard touchdown pass to Deddrick Thomas with 17 seconds left after trailing 14-0 in the first quarter, and Missouri won 48-45 on Tucker McCann's 19-yard field goal with 5 seconds left after trailing 28-14 in the second quarter.

That's four losses with the opponents' winning scores coming with a combined 1 minute, 12 seconds left.

"We need to win more plays in the second half than they do and then we'll like the outcome," Morris said. "So that's our message. We've got to play one play at a time and you can't let one play affect the next play, regardless of what the score is."

Harris, a junior and team captain, said the veteran players need to continue to lead the team in practice this week as Arkansas prepares for Saturday's game against Tulsa at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

"You've just got to keep that positive mindset," Harris said. "You never know when things are going to click for you.

"The ball didn't go our way, but you've got to always stay positive in this type of situation, and you've got to believe.

"The older guys, from our standpoint, we can't walk into the locker room showing negativity to the younger guys. We've got to set an example."

Sports on 10/15/2018

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