Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A double graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
Postgame Thoughts: Missouri 24, Arkansas 14
Arkansas quarterback Jack Lindsey runs the ball against Missouri during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Friday, Nov. 29, 2019 in Little Rock, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)
LITTLE ROCK Arkansas had its opportunities to snap its dreadful Southeastern Conference losing streak Friday at War Memorial Stadium, but in the end the same offensive inefficiency that has hampered the Razorbacks for the past two seasons doomed them again.
Missouri held Arkansas to 242 yards of total offense in its 24-14 victory - the Razorbacks’ third-worst offensive output of the season, behind only losses to Kentucky and Auburn.
Arkansas’ two scoring drives of 38 and 26 yards against Missouri were set up by turnovers, one on downs in the first quarter and the other via an interception on the first play after halftime. The scoring drives lasted five and three plays.
In their other 54 offensive snaps, the Razorbacks totaled 178 yards.
Starting its fifth quarterback in as many games, Arkansas did not get much production in the passing game. Interim head coach Barry Lunney Jr. said starter Jack Lindsey played about as well as could be expected - 10 of 26 for 75 yards and two touchdowns.
Lindsey had a number of incompletions stem from off-the-mark passes caused by Mizzou’s rush, but also had multiple passes dropped that might have changed the course of the game.
As Lunney pointed out after the game, the Tigers are no slouch on defense. Missouri entered the game 17th nationally in total defense and, outside of its loss to Tennessee last week, had been very good against the pass all season.
Arkansas’ offense has not been good for most of the season, and has looked especially poor in the back half with unsettled quarterback play and lots of mixing and matching along the offensive line.
• Missouri was playing without its best quarterback, Kelly Bryant, but give some credit to Arkansas for playing one of its most inspired games, defensively of the year.
The Tigers’ 329 yards were the fewest allowed by Arkansas since the season opener when Portland State had 230.
In the previous five games, Arkansas had allowed 491, 459, 640, 478 and 612 yards.
Despite Friday’s success, the 2019 defense will still go down as one of the worst in program history. The Razorbacks ended the year allowing the most points (442), highest completion percentage (66.6) and most first downs (271) ever by an Arkansas team in a single season.
The 5,408 yards allowed by the Razorbacks this season are second most in program history, 138 yards shy of the record set in 2016.
• Friday’s loss tied the 2019 team with the 2018 team as the one with the worst record in program history.
The loss was Arkansas’ 23rd in its past 27 games and gave the Razorbacks their third winless SEC record in the past seven seasons, including their second in a row.
A few futile stats that Arkansas must live with all offseason:
• 19 consecutive SEC losses, the sixth most in the history of the league and most in school history
• 9 consecutive losses overall, one shy of the school record set in 2013-14
• 12 consecutive losses in trophy games vs. Texas A&M, LSU and Missouri
There is a different feeling going into this offseason than last year when the Razorbacks were dismantled by a combined 90-6 in their final two games.
Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek will be able to begin speaking with some sitting head coaches (the ones not in conference championship games) following the conclusion of this weekend’s games, and a new head coach should be in place within the next two weeks.
• Earlier in the week, Lunney spoke at length about the importance of not letting in-state players get away, even if they were the types that might not contribute for a few seasons.
Missouri’s Taylor Powell and Barrett Banister were exactly the types of players Lunney was referencing. The former Fayetteville High School standouts played well against their hometown team, with Powell completing 8 for 14 passes for 105 yards, and Banister catching six passes for 60 yards.
Both were crucial on Missouri scoring drives. Banister had four first-down receptions during the the Tigers’ scoring drive that tied the game on the first play of the second quarter, and Powell’s 37-yard pass to Tauskie Dove on a third down in the fourth quarter might have been the play of the game.
Powell followed that pass with a 10-yard touchdown strike to Jonathan Nance, a former Razorback. The sequence put Mizzou ahead by 10 points instead of giving Arkansas the ball back down three.
Powell and Banister left War Memorial a winner for the third consecutive time. They teamed up to give Fayetteville consecutive 7A state championship victories in 2015 and 2016.
• The future of War Memorial Stadium is not going to be determined by the attendance for a game at the end of a terrible season, but it’s worth noting that Friday’s announced crowd of 33,961 fell well short of the benchmark attendance of 47,000 outlined in the contract between the University of Arkansas and the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.
Based on the $45 average cost of a ticket, the ticket revenue for the game likely fell about $600,000 short of the $2.1 million benchmark for this year’s game, too.
Once a remarkable home-field advantage, War Memorial has not been home to an Arkansas win against an FBS team since 2011. Since then the Razorbacks are 3-7 in Little Rock, with victories over Samford, Alcorn State and Florida A&M, and losses to Ole Miss (twice), Louisiana-Monroe, Mississippi State, Georgia, Toledo and Missouri.
Friday’s game marked the end of a 88-season run during which Arkansas played at least once in Little Rock, including 72 consecutive seasons at War Memorial. The Razorbacks’ next contracted game there is in 2021 vs. Missouri.
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