The Arkansas Razorbacks have reason to be encouraged… and discouraged… as they move into Week 7. The reason to be encouraged is that they scored over 30 points against a Nick Saban defense, a forward step for Chad Morris’s offense. Even in a blowout loss, Arkansas can gain confidence from what it did on that side of the ball. The Hogs needed that boost.
By Matt Zemek
The reason to be discouraged: That spirited and resilient performance on defense in a loss to Auburn looks less impressive now that the Tigers have looked absolutely awful in the subsequent two weeks. Auburn is no better than the fourth-best team in the SEC West right now, and you could certainly make the case that the Tigers are fifth-best in the division behind Texas A&M.
It is up to Arkansas to follow the path of encouragement and take the tangible signs of improvement against Alabama into this contest against Ole Miss. This is easily the most winnable division game of the year for the Razorbacks, and it is similarly the case for the Rebels on the other sideline. Walking away with a win will give UA at least something to build on beyond a moral victory or “at least we did these things well while losing by over 30 points.” The program and the players in the locker room can surely use that.
1 – ALABAMA APPLICATIONS
The overall key for Arkansas is to apply the lessons from the Alabama game and turn them into winning plays against Ole Miss. This reaches into many aspects of the game against the Rebels, so it is not based on any one tactical element of competition.
Alabama hit the long pass play against Arkansas. Against Ole Miss, the Hogs should expect to do better, since they won’t be facing the same caliber of athlete.
Tua Tagovailoa dominated Arkansas. Against Ole Miss, the Hogs – by the simple fact of not facing Tua – should be able to make better defensive reactions and decisions in order to contain Jordan Ta’amu, who is talented but certainly not on the same plane as the Heisman Trophy front runner in Tuscaloosa.
Alabama piled on points before Arkansas could catch its breath, and abruptly halted UA’s momentum whenever the Hogs began to build it. Against Ole Miss, Arkansas should be more able to consolidate gains and not allow the flow of play to unravel.
Everybody is getting curb-stomped by Alabama. Arkansas needs to learn from its experience.
2 – THE SEVEN STOREY MOUNTAIN
This is not a Thomas Merton spiritual classic. This is the Arkansas quarterback who led the Hogs to a number of touchdowns against big, bad Bama. Chad Morris can build on his quarterback’s performance. What better time to establish cemented, rooted confidence in a signal caller than after posting solid numbers against Team Saban? This is a critical game for Storey as the leader of the offense. If he thrives against Ole Miss, he has a better chance of growing into the leader the Hogs need him to become.
3 – CLEAR MINDS
The punishment dealt by Alabama can often leave a team sapped the next week. Arkansas needs to go light on the practices and be mentally ready. If the mind is right, the Hogs can win.