Scottie Bordelon is a reporter for WholeHogSports.com. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, Bordelon previously covered high school sports for the Times Record in Fort Smith and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Springdale. He is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and Football Writers Association of America and voter for the Biletnikoff Award.
Starkel gets starting nod vs. Colorado State
Arkansas quarterback Nick Starkel (17) throws a pass during a game against Ole Miss on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, in Oxford, Miss.
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas will start its second quarterback in three weeks Saturday when it hosts Colorado State.
Razorbacks coach Chad Morris, who did not want to discuss plans for the position following Arkansas’ SEC-opening loss at Ole Miss, named graduate transfer quarterback Nick Starkel the team’s starter at his Monday press conference previewing the week.
"You know, we felt like coming out of half … it wasn’t so much what Ben (Hicks) did or didn’t do," Morris said. "It’s what Nick did. We were looking for a spark, something to get our offense moving, create some momentum, create some yards, give an opportunity for some big plays. That was our decision going into it, and Nick will be our starter."
Starkel started and played the entire second half against the Rebels, replacing starter Ben Hicks after he completed 7 of 16 passes for 98 yards prior to halftime.
Starkel completed 17 of 24 second-half passes, including nine of his first 11 and final seven, for 201 yards and a touchdown to receiver Koilan Jackson - the first of his career - in the loss. He became the first Arkansas quarterback to pass for 200-plus yards in a game since Ty Storey threw for 200 against LSU in 2018.
"I thought the ball came out of his hand quick, which helped the pass protection up front," Morris said of Starkel. "We did let him get hit after the ball was released too much. We have to keep him clean, especially in the fourth quarter. There was the one sack that he did not have a chance to get the ball out and throw it away.
"The one thing I did see, the ball came out of his hand quick. I thought, at that point, you kind of saw Ole Miss back off a little bit and give us some underneath stuff and loosen some things up."
Through two games, Starkel holds a passer efficiency rating of 149.0, according to SportsReference. Hicks sits at 91.7. Starkel has completed as many passes as Hicks (21) on 16 fewer attempts.
"Nick came in and did some good things," offensive coordinator Joe Craddock said Monday. "We had to open it up a little more in the second half. We got down and he was able to make some nice throws. ... Nick came in and did some nice things. He threw the ball downfield well, guys made plays for him and gave us a little bit of a spark.
"I think it’s his turn, and we’ll see what he does this week."
Hicks will be ready to play if called upon, Craddock said, but right now the staff is eager to see if Starkel can make things happen with full control of the offense from the get-go. While he played relatively well Saturday, Starkel did make a few mistakes.
The biggest miscue was not properly aligning the formation prior to his 38-yard touchdown pass to Trey Knox that would have tied the game at 10 in the third quarter. True freshman Treylon Burks lined up on the line of scrimmage on the right side of the field, covering tight end Grayson Gunter. That made Gunter an ineligible receiver down field.
"That's what I tell those guys all the time, playing with freshmen out there you'd like to see that and back him up, but (Burks has) got to do his job, too," Craddock said. "Treylon owned up to that. Treylon knew he had messed it up. Again, you've got freshmen out there, they're going to make mistakes. You try to encourage Treylon, and he owned up to it and said, 'Coach, I know I've done that a million times since I've been here. This is on me.'
"You like to think Nick would have looked out there and saw it. I certainly saw it from the press box and was hoping the ref didn't see it, but he obviously did and threw the flag. But you'd want your quarterback looking out there and see it and make sure everyone is on the (same page)."
Colorado State will mark the sixth start of Starkel’s career and first since his freshman season at Texas A&M.
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