Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll. Murphy was the 2017 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
Harris says no regrets
FAYETTEVILLE -- University of Arkansas senior linebacker De'Jon Harris riffed on the hottest topics facing the Razorbacks football program after Friday's season-ending 24-14 loss to Missouri at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
The defensive captain and three-year starter from Harvey, La., spoke about what three consecutive losing seasons -- including an 8-28 record and not a whiff of postseason chances -- felt like.
Players of the week
RB Rakeem Boyd
The brightest light on the offensive side virtually all year, Boyd had 95 rushing yards on 21 carries. The Houston native and junior-college transfer wound up with 1,133 rushing yards.
LB De’Jon Harris
The senior from Harvey, La., had a game-high 8 solo tackles and 11 total. Harris forced a fumble and had 2 tackles for 7 yards in losses while hitting the 100-tackle mark for the third season in a row.
"It's been frustrating, very frustrating the past three years," Harris said. "But just last night with the seniors giving a talk, I'm thankful just to be a part of it.
"I wouldn't go back and change where I went to school. I learned a lot and gained a lot from the relationships and the people here. I care about everyone around here. It's been frustrating, but I'm thankful for it."
Harris always has spoken about addressing the most important issues with the younger players on the Arkansas roster. One of those dealt with the changes at head coach. Whomever Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek hires will be the third permanent head coach since 2017, following Bret Bielema and Chad Morris.
"I told the younger guys last night that just have faith and just buy in," Harris said. "Just give the coach a chance. I feel like the majority of the guys didn't buy in over these last two years with Coach Morris, and you could see what happened.
"It's not just the coach's fault, like the players play a big part in it, too. I told them grow up. We played as freshmen, we grew up fast, and we understand what they're going through, but that's gonna have to be the thing when a new coach comes in: Everybody has to buy in."
Harris added some advice for whomever Arkansas hires.
"I feel like they just need someone to come in and demand everything from everyone," he said. "Don't slack off of any player. Treat everyone as one. I feel like once you do that and players see that, they'll respect you more and do everything for you."
Arkansas' 19-game conference losing streak is the sixth-longest on the books of the venerable SEC.
Third place on the list will be within reach for the Razorbacks in 2020.
Sewanee holds the record with 37 losses (1933-40), followed by a 33-game Vanderbilt skid (1976-81).
If Arkansas loses its first five SEC games next season, they would reach third, ahead of a 23-game streak from Vanderbilt (2000-03), a 22-game streak by the Commodores (1995-98) and a 21-game skid from Mississippi State (1965-70).
Senior kicker Connor Limpert missed a 54-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter on his only try in Friday's loss to Missouri.
The miss dropped Limpert's all-time field goal percentage under 80% but didn't stop him from becoming the Razorbacks' all-time field goal accuracy leader at 78.8% by making 41 of 52 field goal tries. The Allen, Texas, native is ranked seventh in career field goals for the Razorbacks.
The Razorbacks committed no turnovers in their final two games under interim Coach Barry Lunney Jr., no mean feat considering the offense used two first-time starters at quarterback.
True freshman KJ Jefferson made his first career start in a 56-20 loss at No. 1 LSU, then junior Jack Lindsey got his first nod as a collegian Friday.
Arkansas had a plus-2 turnover margin in its final two games. Kamren Curl forced a fumble and recovered it against LSU, and nickel back Greg Brooks had an interception against Missouri.
Playing a relatively close game against Missouri on Friday helped the Razorbacks dodge what would have been school-record territory for scoring margin.
Arkansas had been outscored 254-80 in its previous five games, putting the Razorbacks in jeopardy of surpassing the school-record margin of minus-16 points per game set in 1918.
Instead, Arkansas finished the season with a scoring differential of 442-257, an average of minus-15.4 points per game that ranks third worst in school history.
The Razorbacks did not avoid becoming the worst scoring and total defense team in program history. Arkansas opponents averaged 36.8 points per game and 450.7 yards per game, both school records. The scoring average broke the mark of 36.2 points per game set in 2017, and the total yardage average broke the previous standard of 438.8 yards per game that also was set in 2017.
Arkansas finished with 340.1 yards and 21.4 points per game. The Razorbacks ranked 109th in the FBS ranks in both categories entering Saturday's games.
Arkansas was 87th in rushing with 147.2 rushing yards per game, and 101st with 192.9 passing yards per game.
Defensively, Arkansas was 107th with 450.7 yards allowed, and 122nd with 36.8 points allowed per game.
Entering Saturday, the Razorbacks were 122nd in rushing defense (221.5) and 70th in passing defense (229.2).
Leach lit up
Washington State Coach Mike Leach, a potential candidate for the head coaching job at Arkansas, got grumpy after the Cougars' 31-13 loss to Washington on Friday, their seventh consecutive loss in the Apple Cup series.
Leach pointed to recruiting rankings when asked about the losing streak to the Huskies. When a reporter followed that response with a question about being able to beat teams with better recruiting rankings, Leach jumped.
"We didn't win this one, and I don't care to have a big discussion with you on it because I really don't care what you think," Leach said. "You run your mouth in your little old column and stuff like some sanctimonious troll, where you've never been fair or even-handed with us, so I really don't care what you think."
Sports on 12/01/2019
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