Wooo, boy. You can’t spell “Wooo Pig Sooie” without “wooo,” but this is the wrong kind of “wooo” for the Arkansas Razorbacks and their fans.
By Matt Zemek
It was bad enough that the upper decks at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium were mostly empty for Saturday’s game against Mississippi State, and that the corners of the lower bowl near the goal lines were not filled with fans. It was a million times worse that in the one SEC game this season which seemed realistically winnable for UA, the Hogs got pounded by a not-very-good Mississippi State team.
The Razorbacks are staring at consecutive 0-8 finishes in SEC play, the kind of track record which gets a coach fired after only two seasons on the job. There is no point in trying to sugarcoat it or talk around it: The Chad Morris era has been a disaster, and one should not pretend that a win this Saturday against Western Kentucky will meaningfully change the reality of Arkansas’ – or Morris’ – situation. A win over Missouri in the season finale? Okay, THAT might make an impact. (I would be skeptical that a 1-7 SEC season would look that different from 0-8, but some could certainly disagree in a reasonable way.)
It really does seem that Arkansas cannot afford to keep Morris on as head coach. The utter lack of progress is conspicuous. If Morris does want to change the temperature in the room, though, he can focus on these game keys for Western Kentucky. If he can achieve them, maybe the final few games of the season can change enough of the important people’s minds to give Morris a third year in Fayetteville:
1 – Technique
Isn’t Chad Morris supposed to be a quarterback whisperer? Coulda fooled me. While the school Morris used to coach – SMU – is thriving with a transfer (Shane Buechele) under the guidance of another passing-game guru, Sonny Dykes (who developed Jared Goff at California), Morris has utterly whiffed in his attempt to develop SMU transfer Ben Hicks. It is what it is. Morris simply hasn’t been able to turn the corner with Hicks or any other quarterback. The clock is ticking on Morris’s job. He has to break through with a quarterback instead of shrugging his shoulders and wondering what he can do to improve this team. Rebuilding technique and starting over are the best answers, because nothing Morris has tried over the past two months has worked. The mindset should be to go back to square one and reimagine how a good quarterback will play.
2 – Get mad, get physical
Western Kentucky’s run defense is no joke. The Hilltoppers shut out Army’s triple option for three and a half quarters earlier this season before allowing a late garbage-time touchdown in a comfortable 17-8 victory. Army has not been good this year, but Army can still run the ball. Any team which can totally smother the triple option has some talent and discipline on defense. Arkansas’ offensive linemen need to get mean and nasty and punch someone in the teeth. They didn’t do that against Mississippi State. They need to do that – and keep doing that – in these final few games, starting Saturday against WKU.
3 – Shake things up
Don’t punt, period. That’s one idea.
A total hurry-up offense the whole first half. That’s another idea.
When a season is going down, down, down, into the pits of misery, a coach needs to make decisions and implement changes which create a sense of fun, excitement, and adventure. Liven things up. Remind players this is fun, not drudgery. See what it might inspire.
Sticking to the plan isn’t good when the plan stinks.