Jim Harris: Still Not Winning, Hogs Have Something To Build Upon 


ARLINGTON, Texas – We just finished telling everyone we’ve seen these Hogs “moral victory” games before – several times, in fact – in Arkansas’s past. But, make no mistake, the Arkansas Razorbacks may not be winning, but the little victories inside the bigger game are happening more frequently. Arkansas fell to 1-4 in losing to Texas A&M 24-17 on Saturday inside AT&T Stadium, but found more to build on, maybe more much than in last week’s surprisingly closer-than-expected 34-3 loss at Auburn.

This season is already beginning to resemble more the debut season of Bobby Petrino in Fayetteville, where the first five weeks were closer to miserable, but at least by week five, they were competing against eventual national champion Florida. Over the last seven weeks, Arkansas would win three times and probably blow two other games that would have gotten Petrino into a bowl in his first season in charge of the Hogs. The program soared after that with an influx of big-play talent.

Hogs Coach Chad Morris has a more difficult finishing schedule this fall than did Petrino in 2008, but it’s a heckuva lot easier than this three week stretch of murderers’ row. You can see the coaching taking hold – obviously, points were made (and players replaced) in the punt coverage team this week, and Arkansas displayed a real SEC coverage team there.

Alas, one fire is extinguished and another starts roaring. The Hogs won the toss, deferred their choice to the second half, kicked off to the Aggies and were down 7-0 in 12 seconds on Jashaun Corbin’s 100-yard return. Ryder Lucas of the Hogs slipped down, a crease developed near the middle, Corbin hit that and one of the Hogs’ safety men in the coverage was out of position and left with a bad angle, flailing to make the tackle near the A&M 40. Two other Hogs had little chance to get a hand on Corbin near the goal line. 

And the 18,000 or so Hog fans on hand in the total crowd of 55,383 sighed, “Here we go again.”

Arkansas trailed 17-0 before breaking through, when hardly seen tight end Cheyenne O’Grady made a big appearance as a Ty Storey target and sparked a 75-yard touchdown drive. The Hogs trailed 24-10 with about 5 minutes left in the game after staying within a touchdown for most of the second half. Storey led maybe the best offensive drive of the season in those final moments, culminating in a 29-yard touchdown pass to freshman Michael Woods. The Hogs defense, which grew more confident all day, returned the ball back to the defense after surrendering on first down. Storey moved the chains once, then tried for a home run throw down the right sideline to De’Vion Warren. It was underthrown and to the inside of the field, a big mistake that Storey acknowledged afterward. A&M safety Donavan Wilson drifted across the field to snag the lob and end the Hogs’ chances with 1:11 to play.

Arkansas had lost three overtime heartbreakers in the last four games here vs. A&M before Saturday’s near miss. Usually, the Aggies benefited from having an NFL-type receiver, Josh Reynolds, make a big catch down that sideline for the tying score, and NFL-receiver and speedster Christian Kirk win it in overtime, or something similar.

Arkansas has been looking for a Reynolds type receiver and Kirk-type game-breaker now for five years. Chad Morris is working on that. At least he has a pretty impressive performance and improvement by his team to show those highly regarded recruits that the program is headed in a better direction than what we saw two weeks ago.

“We can build on this,” said running back Rakeem Boyd, who has added a much-needed speed and toughness addition to the backfield, and on Saturday worked hard for 47 net rushing yards. Arkansas could only manage 1.9 yards per carry due to A&M’s dominant defensive front. Storey was sacked five times early on in the game, but the Hogs made necessary adjustments with the blocking, and he nearly had enough time to bring Arkansas back. It’s all still a work in progress, but it’s a work that is showing more promise now. 

Meanwhile, the defense is doing its part to keep the Hogs in it. Dre Greenlaw, hobbling around on two bad ankles, had two interceptions – one near midfield and another that stopped an Aggie march late in the first half. Greenlaw had 12 tackles and fellow linebacker De’Jon Harris had 16. Morris said he’d never seen two guys put up those kinds of numbers in the same game. The defense held A&M to nearly 170 total yards below its per-game average. Alabama even surrendered 23 points last week to the Aggies, so there’s that, too. A&M coach Jimbo Fisher wouldn’t go as far as to say his Aggies took a step backward, but he wasn’t pleased. Arkansas’s steps clearly were forward Saturday.

Every player we spoke with after the game said they came into the game feeling confident. The start looked more like it maybe the feeling was false confidence, but it was apparently that the Hogs began believing more in themselves as the game wore on. They outplayed A&M for three quarters. They fought.

Eventually, that effort will pay off sooner that many realize – probably not next week against No. 1 Alabama, but against more comparable talent level the last half of the season.

Catch Jim tonight on KTHV’s HogZone at 10:35.

hogs lose to Texas A&M

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