Razorback Stadium’s naming rights don’t come available until next summer, but it might as well be renamed Faurot Field South the way Missouri dominated Arkansas on Friday.
The No. 10 Tigers put the 2023 Arkansas football season out of its misery by crushing the Razorbacks 48-14 in a game that was even more lopsided than the final margin indicated.
It was such a thorough beatdown that one Arkansas player publicly expressed a desire to defect in the immediate aftermath, as freshman wide receiver Davion Dozier commented on Missouri star wide receiver Luther Burden’s Instagram Live, “spots open?”
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Missouri fans invaded Razorback Stadium to an extent rarely seen. They might have failed their ambitious goal of striping out the stadium, but there was plenty of gold sprinkled throughout the announced crowd of 59,847 — the fourth-smallest attendance for an SEC game since the 2001 expansion — and a loud M-I-Z, Z-O-U chant broke out at one point in the fourth quarter.
Ugly Showing in Arkansas vs Missouri
That was almost as embarrassing as the product the Razorbacks put on the field. Almost.
Arkansas didn’t get a first down until the second quarter and had only two at halftime — and one of them came via penalty. It didn’t run a play in Missouri territory until there was 1:15 left in the third quarter.
A pair of garbage time touchdown drives inflated their yardage, as it wasn’t until early in the fourth quarter that the Razorbacks finally eclipsed 100 yards. For the longest time, Cody Schrader had out-gained the entire Arkansas offense.
About the only positive was the fact it was such a blowout, the Missouri running back sat out the final three possessions, preventing him from making a run at Darren McFadden’s single-game SEC rushing record.
He finished with “only” 217 yards and one touchdown on 27 carries, essentially clinching the SEC rushing title and likely securing the Burlsworth Trophy, which goes to the nation’s top former walk-on and is named for Arkansas legend Brandon Burlsworth.
Listed at 5-foot-9 and a transfer from the Division II ranks, Schrader is one of the best stories in college football, but Missouri football coach Eli Drinkwitz took it a step further in a postgame interview on CBS reminiscent of Houston Nutt and McFadden, circa 2007.
Drinkwitz, an Alma native who began his coaching career at the high school level in Arkansas, was certainly feeling himself. He brought a cigar into his postgame press conference and, when asked about the second-quarter fight, quipped, “We were here to play football, they were here to fight.”
It’s hard to blame him for the confident persona. Not only did the win improve Missouri to 10-2 and likely clinch it a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl, but it dropped Arkansas to 2-8 against the Tigers since they joined the SEC.
Race to the Transfer Portal?
Meanwhile, the Razorbacks limped to a 4-8 finish that included just one SEC win. They were also blown out in their last two SEC games – both at home – by a combined score of 96-24.
If it hadn’t already, the focus can now shift to 2024. That means hiring a new offensive coordinator, which could happen as soon as next week, and doing work in the transfer portal.
Arkansas football coach Sam Pittman has gone on the record that he doesn’t think this year will be as bad as last year in terms of players leaving the program, but reserve defensive back Jaylen Lewis has already announced his intentions to do so and Friday’s aftermath seemed to show at least a handful more will join him when the portal opens Dec. 4.
Davion Dozier’s comment on Instagram was the most blunt of the social media posts, as it indicates an actual desire to leave. That’d be a tough blow for Arkansas because he was a four-star signee and has shown some promise.
Another freshman to monitor is quarterback Malachi Singleton. His mother was very active on Twitter during the game, complaining about his lack of playing time in several tweets, including this now-deleted one:
The “Gus” she’s referring to is almost certainly UCF head coach Gus Malzahn, who pushed hard for a flip in Singleton’s recruiting process. When a UCF football fan tweeted at her that “sunshine and palm trees in Orlando (are) lovely this time of year,” she replied, “it sure is.”
Then there’s linebacker Jaheim Thomas. Despite leading the team in tackles by a wide margin and grading out decently on Pro Football Focus, his playing time dwindled in the last two games.
“He obviously had some tackling problems, things of that nature, not (un)like anybody else, but to be perfectly honest with you, I think Grier just played a little bit better when he was in there and he played better in practice when he was there,” Pittman said. “Jaheim’s got a strong future here. It wasn’t injuries or anything like that. It was just I think we felt like Grier was playing a little bit better.”
Joining the Razorbacks from Cincinnati this past offseason, Thomas has used his one-team free transfer and would require a waiver to play somewhere else in 2024, unless he finishes his degree and becomes a graduate transfer. Whether or not that happens remains to be seen, but he posted – and quickly deleted – something on Twitter that indicated he wasn’t particularly happy about his situation.
Starting defensive back and Baylor transfer Lorando “Snaxx” Johnson would be in a similar situation, but the Razorbacks can rest easy with him.
He initially caused a stir by tweeting “decisions,” but it sounds like he was talking about the NFL Draft vs. returning for a fifth year of college football. He even came out and said he wouldn’t be hitting the portal.
Needless to say, Pittman has his work cut out for him this offseason. Not only must he finalize his staff, secure the 2024 recruiting class and identify transfers to bring in, but he must also keep his current roster from being decimated by the transfer portal.
UPDATE (Nov. 25): Davion Dozier is apparently trying to quell the talk of him transferring in the aftermath of his Instagram comment. He has retweeted Johnson’s tweet about transferring not being an option and then, on Saturday morning, tweeted the Razorback emoji:
Arkansas vs. SEC Teams in Fayetteville
The embarrassment wasn’t limited to Black Friday. Arkansas football played three SEC games in Fayetteville (its fourth “home” game was against Texas A&M in Arlington) and all three were miserable experiences for fans.
It started with a 7-3 loss to Mississippi State on Oct. 21, which resulted in the firing of offensive coordinator Dan Enos, and then featured two of the worst blowouts of Sam Pittman’s tenure — 48-10 vs. Auburn and 48-14 vs. Missouri. Both games were more lopsided than the score indicated.
The offense was particularly bad in those games. The Razorbacks scored 27 total points, but that consisted of three garbage-time touchdowns (all in the fourth quarter and trailing by 45, 41 and 34 points) and two field goals set up by interceptions.
Even including garbage time, Arkansas averaged just 226.7 yards per game and 3.7 yards per play in those games. It gained 229 of its 680 yards in the fourth quarter of the Auburn and Missouri games, though. Take out those quarters and the Razorbacks averaged 180.4 yards per game and 3.0 yards per play in the other 2.5 games.
Sam Pittman on whether KJ Jefferson is leaving after he posted “one least time” on Instagram:
“I don’t know. I really don’t. I don’t know. We haven’t sat down and spoke about it. I never do until Monday with the guys, so in all honesty, if he put that out there, that probably means that he’s had all the college or all the Arkansas that he wants. I just haven’t talked to him about it.”
On Jaheim Thomas not playing lately:
“Jaheim’s done a nice job. He obviously had some tackling problems, things of that nature. Not (un)like anybody else, but to be perfectly honest with you, I think Grier just played a little bit better when he was in there and he played better in practice when he was there. Jaheim’s got a strong future here. It wasn’t injuries or anything like that. It was just I think we felt like Grier was playing a little bit better.”
See the rest of the Arkansas football press conference here:
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