Hog Calls:

Hogs need booster shot of confidence

By: Nate Allen
Published: Wednesday, September 12, 2018
Arkansas coach Chad Morris (left) talks to Razorback Sports Network reporter Geno Bell during a game against Colorado State on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, in Fort Collins, Colo.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas coach Chad Morris (left) talks to Razorback Sports Network reporter Geno Bell during a game against Colorado State on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, in Fort Collins, Colo.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Other than swapping slogans from "uncommon" to "hammer down" and the coaches from Bret Bielema to Chad Morris, University of Arkansas 2018 football seems caught in a 2013 time warp.

The now 1-1 Razorbacks of first-year coach Morris appear riding a hauntingly familiar road to Bielema's 3-9 overall/0-8 SEC debut five years past.

Bielema arrived from an impressive seven years coaching Wisconsin bringing a different offensive approach from Arkansas' 2008-2011 Bobby Petrino era.

That era was muddied by Petrino's transgressions egregiously violating University of Arkansas hiring policy and forcing his firing. It commenced the 4-8 2012 lost year under interim coach John L. Smith.

Bielema inherited a team that had lost its way.

How lost manifested in the season's fourth game. The then 3-0 Razorbacks in New Jersey led host Rutgers by 17 during the second half but lost 28-24.

Those 2013 Hogs never won again.

In the SEC, South Carolina and Alabama hammered them, 52-7 and 52-0.

Steve Spurrier, then South Carolina's coach, candidly assessed, "The only thing Bret can do is recruit his way out of this."

To his credit, Bielema did. The Hogs improved for three winning seasons. And though not winning a SEC 2013 game, Arkansas became competitive by the season's end. Arkansas closed in a 24-17 overtime loss to Mississippi State in Fayetteville and a 31-27 down to the wire nail-biter to LSU in Baton Rouge.

However, it seemed upon losing 17- and 24-point halftime leads in 2016 season-ending losses to Missouri and Virginia Tech, Bielema's Hogs lost confidence. They didn't regain it their 4-8, 1-7 2017. It ended with Bielema fired after Arkansas lost second-half leads the last two games against Mississippi State and Missouri.

Morris arrived hailed for his recruiting and offensive coordinator work at Clemson and his three years head coaching SMU from disastrous upon inheritance to a bowl team.

From Morris' facsimile to Bielema's Rutgers it appears restoring confidence is his first Square One.

Arkansas last Saturday in Fort Collins, Colo., lost a 27-9 lead midway through the third quarter of its 34-27 loss to the Colorado State Rams. The Rams of the Mountain West were 0-2. They had lost to league rival Hawaii in Fort Collins and in Denver were thumped by the Pac 12's Colorado Buffaloes.

Now a surprisingly tough Conference USA North Texas Mean Green, 2-0 for the first time 23 years and quarterbacked by preseason national awards watch lists acclaimed Mason Fine, comes Saturday to Fayetteville.

Afterward looms an SEC West murderer's row starting Sept. 22 at No. 7 Auburn, Sept. 29 at the Dallas Cowboys AT&T Stadium against the Texas A&M Aggies that last Saturday nearly upset No. 2 Clemson, and Oct. 5 in Fayetteville against No. 1 reigning champion Alabama.

They say the biggest game should always be the "next one." For these Hogs so desperately needing a win, North Texas seems even bigger than "next."

Sports on 09/12/2018

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