It will get worse, before it gets better
Arkansas Razorbacks fans who were hoping for a quick turnaround under first-year coach Chad Morris got a bit of a reality check Saturday night, as the Razorbacks blew an 18-point lead in a quarter and a half against a previously winless Colorado State team.
The ugly truth for the Razorbacks is, it’s going to get worse before it gets better.
Most folks who follow college football were surprised by Saturday night’s outcome. I wasn’t — although I was surprised at how it happened. I told sports editor Ty Loftis, reporter Kelby Newcomb and photographer David Bell at lunch on Thursday that Colorado State would win. It wasn’t some half-in, half-out prediction, either. “Write it down,” I said.
Looking at the game objectively, it had all the elements of a classic trap game. Arkansas was playing its first road game under a new coach, at high altitude, without a proven quarterback, against a team that already had two games under its belt. Throw in a talented Colorado State receiver who had transferred from Tennessee after being one of the top recruits in the nation coming out of high school, a quarterback who started his career at Washington and nearly wound up at UCLA instead of Colorado State and a head coach with an SEC pedigree, then add that to a questionable Arkansas secondary, and you have the makings of a not-so-stunning upset. All Colorado State needed was a little bit of luck in the form of Arkansas turnovers to complete the recipe.
Still, even with all that, Arkansas could have and perhaps should have won. Instead, the Razorbacks left Fort Collins holding an L and facing some tough questions.
It won’t get any easier the rest of the way. On Saturday, the Razorbacks will host a North Texas team that has won its first two games for the first time since 1994. That’s followed by a road game at Auburn, then the annual meeting in Dallas with a talented Texas A&M team. Then the Hogs get home games against No. 1 Alabama and an Ole Miss team that scored 76 points on Saturday against Southern Illinois.
I do think Arkansas will be too embarrassed by the loss at Colorado State to let North Texas escape Fayetteville with a win on Saturday, but I’m not sure the Razorbacks will win an SEC game this season. The Vanderbilt game on Oct. 27 in Fayetteville looks like their best chance. If we pencil that in as a W, to go along with a homecoming win against Tulsa, we come up with a final mark of 4-8 in Morris’ first season. Maybe that’s being too pessimistic. Maybe they’ll win another game somewhere along the way, but even at that, 5-7 is likely the best we can hope for.
Is Morris the right coach to make Arkansas competitive in the SEC? Only time will tell. I do believe his offensive philosophy is more conducive to SEC success than that of Bret Bielema, who tried and failed to beat the likes of Alabama and LSU by doing what they do better than they do it. Bielema was never able to recruit (enough of) the kind of players who could line up and physically whip the Crimson Tide and the Tigers at the line of scrimmage. Morris won’t try that. His offensive philosophy is closer to that of Bobby Petrino — who made the Hogs a contender in the SEC but couldn’t escape his own ethical shortcomings.
The time to judge Morris’ performance is three or four years down the line, not in the wake of a loss to Colorado State that frankly wasn’t all that shocking.
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Scott Loftis is managing editor for Carroll County Newspapers. His email address is CarrollCountyNews@cox-internet.com.