Twenty quarters of football in 2019 for the Arkansas Razorbacks are in the books. The record stands at 2-3 with victories over Portland State and Colorado State. Before the year, many fans would have scoffed at the idea of a San Jose State loss paired with two conference losses heading into the first game in October. Unfortunately, that is where we stand. But fortunately for Chad Morris, he has an excellent opportunity to defeat his first power five opponent as a head football coach in his career. The only thing standing in his way, the Kentucky Wildcats.
Many folks in Razorback nation believe in the Hogs this week. Even though Kentucky is listed as a touchdown favorite on most betting sites, there are many reasons to be optimistic. Starting off at the most important position on the field, the quarterback position is a bit cloudy for the Wildcats. 2018 starter Terry ‘Touchdown” Wilson was back in action to begin the year until he was awkwardly dragged down by a Florida player in game three which would result in a torn ACL. The next man up was former Troy Trojan Sawyer Smith. The transfer ended up starting the last two games in the blue and white. In his most recent performance against South Carolina, Smith posted an ugly quarterback rating of 3.6 (out of 100). If you are wondering how it is possible to do manage that feat, throw 32 passes while only completing 11 to your team and one to the other team for a grand total of 90 yards. Not an ideal home conference debut for the junior gunslinger.
Smith is also battling shoulder and wrist injuries, which kept him out of drills all last week. Should he end up sitting out against Arkansas, look for star receiver Lynn Bowden to man the quarterback position against the Hogs. In fact, Bowden spent the bye week as QB 1. He rushed for 44 yards on six carries while completing both his passes for seven yards against South Carolina. A former star quarterback during his high school days in Ohio, Bowden is no stranger to the pressure of the position. Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops has opened up the idea of running the wildcat if Smith is a no go. One word Coach Morris used often to describe the four-star athlete was “electric”. Electric may be an understatement once you see this kid in action
On the flip side of things, the Razorbacks are the healthiest they’ve been all season, especially in the receiving corps. Trey Knox (hip), Jordan Jones (ankle), and Devion Warren (concussion) will all be available to play. On the defensive front, freshmen Zach Williams will be healthy, and Mataio Soli will be getting his cast off after having a fracture on his left hand since the start of the year. Coach Chavis will have his hands full with having to game plan for multiple quarterbacks along with other wrinkles the Cats added in during their bye week.
I expect a low scoring game, regardless of who plays quarterback for Kentucky. Without a doubt, Bowden will take some snaps behind center. The question is, how many? The Benny Snell-less offense has mustered 41 points over the last three games, which have all also resulted in losses. Trying to predict this game is tough since you don’t know if you will see the San Jose State Hogs or the Texas A&M Hogs. Even with his recent struggles to take care of the pigskin, Nick Starkel will be under center for Arkansas. He gives this team the best chance to win.
As tough as things may seem right now for Arkansas, I still believe Chad Morris has this team trending upwards from last year, just by a nose. However, the streak of straight conference losses will reach 14(!). Coach Stoops pulls out enough tricks with Lynn Bowden and the young defensive ends of Arkansas struggle mightily to contain him. Starkel drives down the field late in the 4th to put Limpert in field goal range to win the game, which leads to a doink off the right upright as time expires. Kroger Field breathes a sigh of relief as they win 23-21 on Jared Lorenzen’s day. A daunting matchup awaits in Fayetteville as Gus Malzahn and the Auburn Tigers come to town on fresh legs with their bye week falling this week.
CATS 23 – HOGS 21