Steven graduated Cum Laude from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Mass Communications, focusing on film studies, journalism and theatre arts. Dubbed a "prolific" writer by Hollywood icon Kenneth Johnson (The Incredible Hulk, V, The Bionic Woman, Alien Nation), Steven has been honored by the Arkansas College Media Association for his story writing prowess. He has also received recognition for his dramatic writing from the Eerie, Shriekfest and Screamfest horror film festivals. Publications include: Carroll County News, Saline Courier, Forum, Echo and Moroch.
Defense bolsters Razorbacks' first-half flounder, victory over Vikings
Posted Saturday, August 31, 2019, at 6:38 PM
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — It wasn't John L. Smith bad, but Razorback (1-0) fans have every right to be concerned. Chad Morris and every edgy college football fanatic in the Natural State were hungry for a win Saturday as college football season returned to northwest Arkansas.
Morris' first year as the Razorbacks' head coach was horrendous. Last year, the Hogs were 2-10 overall without a single win in SEC play (0-8).
With an entirely new starting lineup on offense — 11 new players compared to opening day in 2018 — the Razorbacks headed into the season opener against Portland State (0-1) with more questions than answers.
But the answers came Saturday, particularly in the second half. The Hogs defense was good. The team had 6 total sacks, and only allowed 13 points against the Vikings, but the Razorback offense needs many more reps.
"I thought our defense played well," coach Morris said. "I thought they swarmed the football. I thought we got after the quarterback, forced him off his spot."
The Razorbacks' defense started a little sloppy as the Viking offense got off to a quick start thanks in large part to the legs of junior quarterback Davis Alexander.
Fortunately, the Hogs' defensive unit rose to the occasion and held the Vikings to a 50-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Cody Williams.
Senior quarterback Ben Hicks — an SMU transfer — got the ball and opportunity to lead Morris' offense.
The Arkansas' offense immediately answered on their first possession with senior kicker Connor Limpert nailing a 34-yard field goal on a promising drive that fizzled near the endzone.
However, on the Hogs second possession — a 10-play, 64-yard drive — the offense cashed in on a 1-yard touchdown run by senior running back Devwah Whaley.
The Razorbacks led 10-3 at the end of the first quarter. The Vikings' Williams kicked a 47-yard field goal to begin the second quarter which closed the scoring gap to 10-6.
While the majority of the second quarter was a stalemate, junior defensive back Kamren Curl picked off Portland State quarterback Davis Alexander and returned the ball 29 yards to set up the Hogs' offense.
Unfortunately, junior quarterback Nick Starkel — why did Morris put a backup QB in the game when Hicks was playing fine? — threw an interception inside the redzone. The decision to switch players cost Arkansas dearly.
Starkel came back on the next drive to hit a 38-yard pass which got the Hogs in scoring position, at least for a field goal with 19 seconds to play, but instead of spiking the ball in the redzone the Razorbacks ran a play. Time ran out, and Arkansas lumbered off the field with no more points.
"I was disappointed right there at the end of the first half," coach Morris said. "We had an opportunity to kick a field goal. I was signaling the clock to kill the ball. We had one of our signalers was signaling a run-it-again call. So, that was miscommunication right there. But I thought we had an opportunity to kick a field goal. That's on me. We'll get that corrected. It was really frustrating."
First half: Arkansas 10 | Portland State 6.
The second-half start was mired in the same mediocrity the Hogs endured during the first 30 minutes. A holding penalty by the offensive line and a dropped pass by senior tight end Chase Harrell — it was the first of his two drops which both had chunk-play potential — cast a shadow over Reynolds Razorback Stadium as Arkansas' first possession died an early death.
"I was very disappointed offensively," coach Morris said. "Didn't really think that we ever got into a rhythm. Not the performance I wanted to see from an offensive unit in week one, but we found a way."
The defense gave the Hogs new life halfway through the third quarter when sophomore defensive back Jarques McClellion came up with the team's second interception.
The resulting drive was sluggish, as the Hogs converted their second fourth-down of the game, but Arkansas paid off McClellion's takeaway with a 2-yard touchdown by junior running back Rakeem Boyd. The Razorbacks lead was extended to 17-6 after the 12-play, 67-yard scoring drive.
At the 10:44 mark of the fourth quarter, Arkansas extended their lead to 20-6 courtesy a 24-yard field goal from Limpert. But the Vikings fought back and managed to score another touchdown with 4:14 on the clock.
Portland State's junior quarterback Jalani Eason found senior tight end Charlie Tumoepeau in the endzone for a 32-yard touchdown to bring the Vikings within seven points at 20-13. That was as close as State would get. The loss drops PSU to 4-39 against FBS teams.
It was an ugly win, but the Razorbacks made just enough plays to squeak out a victory. Can you imagine what morale would be like if the Hogs had actually lost like the infamous "Misery on Markham?"
Final: Arkansas 20 | Portland State 13
The Hogs defense stood out with their 6 sacks, and 3 forced turnovers, but they also held the Vikings to only 230 total yards and 13 points. Offensively, Arkansas amassed 395 total yards with 191 yards passing and 204 yards rushing. And despite struggling on offense, the team only turned the ball over one time.
Hicks finished the game 14-29 for 143 yards without any turnovers, but he didn't throw or run for a touchdown either. Boyd led the Razorbacks in rushing on 18 carries for 114 yards and a touchdown. Whaley also scored the ball rushing on 9 carries for 21 yards. Four different running backs saw time Saturday.
"Never will I ever apologize for winning," coach Morris said. "There's no such thing as a bad win. You win, and you correct. Now, you may not have played as well as you want to play, and we didn't at all, but we won."
Up next: @ Ole Miss — OXFORD, Miss.
Date: Saturday, September 7.
Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. CDT.
Television: SEC Network
Arkansas has won four of their last five meetings with Ole Miss. The lone loss was a 1-possession, 37-33 defeat against the Rebels a year ago in Little Rock.
The Hogs have won three of their last four trips to Oxford and six of their last nine contests in the Magnolia state.
Arkansas and Ole Miss first played in 1908, and the Hogs won 33-0.
While some teams do not face each other every year, the Hogs and Rebels have tussled each season since 1981.
Prior to their SEC days, the Razorbacks faced Ole Miss in two postseason games: 1963 and 1970 Sugar Bowls. The Rebels won both contests.
The longest win streak by either team is six in a row by the Rebels from 1958 to 1970.
The largest win streak for the Razorbacks against the Rebels is five games from 1985 to 1989.
There have been four 7-overtime games in college football history, but the Razorbacks and Rebels have the distinction of playing in the very first one. In 2001, freshman quarterback Matt Jones and the so-called "Miracles" defeated quarterback Eli Manning's Ole Miss squad in Oxford 58-56.