There have been some really good losses in the Chad Morris era.
From last year, fans remember the near-heartwarming 33-37 loss to Ole Miss in Little Rock (which the Hogs likely would have won without an injury to Rakeem Boyd) and the Razorbacks’ 17-24 almost-upset of the No. 6 LSU Tigers in Fayetteville.
Neither of those setbacks, though, were as inspiring as the 27-31 bounce back loss Arkansas achieved today against Texas A&M at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. Playing the whole game without its leading receiver, and most of the game without its starting quarterback, Arkansas came within a few yards of converting a fourth down play at the end of the game..
The Razorbacks were right there, on the doorstep of the best win of the Chad Morris era, before a fourth-down pass by Ben Hicks ricocheted off the hands of Cheyenne O’Grady’s defender.
Arkansas bounced back from a massively underwhelming performance against San Jose State to retain some semblance of pride, winning almost all major statistical categories:
Four players — Rakeem Boyd, C.J. O’Grady, Mike Woods and Treylon Burks — combined for 36 touches and 300 yards of that offense.
“They did exactly what I asked them to do, and that was to respond,” Morris said after the game. “And they responded every day last week. And we had one of our best weeks of practices that we’ve had, the intensity level, the energy level. And it led me to believe that these guys were going to play extremely hard today, and that’s what they did.”
Many of the thousands of Razorback fans who attended the game showed their appreciation, standing to cheer the Razorback players as they walked off the field. Just watch the embedded video below:
Close again, but no cigar. ☹️ Hogs fail on 4th and goal from the 19 yard line. The Aggies win the SW Classic 31-27. Helluva effort from Ben Hicks. He almost got the job done. 5 yard penalty from Treylon Burks was the difference in NOT keeping that drive alive. #WPS @4029news ?? pic.twitter.com/TiQmFycEDk— Mitch Roberts (@4029Mitch) September 28, 2019
Tight end Cheyenne O’Grady, who finished with a career-high eight receptions for 91 yards, said this year’s team is proving to be more resilient than last years. “It just shows how much we care, how far we came,” he said after the game.
With “the team last year, we wouldn’t have been anywhere close to making it a good game or a close game. We probably would have gotten blown out because people would have started getting negative or blaming people like, ‘Offense is not doing this’ coming from the defense, ‘Oh, defense isn’t making plays,’ coming from the offense.”
“We don’t have that anymore on this team.,” O’Grady said. “We’re all one big brotherhood and we’re all for each other. We’re all we’ve got and we’re all we need.”
Hogs athletic director Hunter Yurachek got in on the post-game lovefest, too. “I am so proud of everyone associated with @RazorbackFB and if you truly love the Hogs you should be as well,” he Tweeted. “Not the end result we all wanted and not the result these men fought so hard all week to achieve, but you don’t always get what you deserve in life.”
Everything about this, from how badly the Hogs looked last week to how undermanned they were today, screams “moral victory.” But that’s not how head coach Chad Morris wants to see it:
“They fought bell to bell. We knew it was going to be a four-quarter game, and that’s what we ask for. But losing is not acceptable. There are no moral losses. We’ve got to find a way. Got to find a way to win when you get down to the end like this. And we will.”-Chad Morris
Should Razorback fans be standing-ovation proud of the performance against the Aggies? No, if the Hogs were where they were supposed to be by this point of the season coming out of fall camp. Yes, considering where the Hogs were at the end of the San Jose State debacle and that they were 0-9 against SEC competition with Chad Morris as head coach heading into this game.
If these Hogs continue to yo-yo effort-wise through the season, their performance will be for naught. This game will seem like fool’s gold, just like the end of the Colorado State game. But if they have finally turned a corner and will from now on play each game with this same level of ferocity, then yes, they deserve all the ovation fans can muster.
Because they know that once the Hogs start playing with true pride again, game in and game out, the wins will inevitably follow.
Below is more insight from Chad Morris after the game:
On responding to the loss of Nick Starkel to an arm contusion:
Chad Morris: Offensively, it was the-next-man-up mentality. I was very proud with Trey Knox not playing and the addition with Koilan Jackson coming in and Tyson Morris. Those guys were making some plays. Obviously, losing Nick [Starkel] early on. I was proud of the preparation of Ben [Hicks] and his professionalism that he’s shown over the last several weeks and how he prepares himself. He gave us a chance. You know, it was the little things. There were a few things there we missed when we were lining up, and we’ve got to get that corrected.
But these guys are making some plays for us. And, defensively, I thought we pressured the quarterback. I thought that was evident. I thought we played aggressive, and that’s how we wanted to play. but, you know, scored on defense, created a turnover, scored on defense, got an interception. I thought we played good enough to win and give us a chance.
On who will be the quarterback starter from now on:
Chad Morris: Nick’s our starter. He had an arm contusion, the left arm, and lost strength, couldn’t grip the ball. And so we thought that, as the second half came on, would it lead to anything.
And he was trying to throw the ball after half, but just — I felt that Ben [Hicks] was comfortable and the moment was not too big for him. And so I thought that was our decision, and he wasn’t able to go back in.
On the play of Ben Hicks:
I thought he was very calm and matter of fact on the sidelines. He was very prepared. And he knew that — he had a great feel for what was going on with our offense. I think he’s had a chance over the last couple of weeks to step back and prepare himself, knowing that the opportunity was going to come again.
And so I did think he played well. I thought that he gave us a chance. I thought he put some good balls on the money, and that was good to see. And that’s what you ask of your backup when he comes in.
On the play of the Razorback cornerbacks Montaric Brown and Jarques McClellion:
“I thought that they responded well and played exceptionally hard…We had an interception. When you pressure sometimes, you’re in man, and they’ll hit some of the comebacks on you. I thought we gave up some of that, but I did not think that we broke. We bent a little bit, but we needed to to put the pressure on.”
On the next two weeks, which include a bye week and then a game against Kentucky:
I think it’s been a long grind since the 1st of August. And I think these guys need a mental break for just a couple of days and step back physically and let’s get healthy as we go into playing five more conference games.
And so that’s what we’ll do. We’ll step back, step away from it tomorrow. We will be back in there on Monday, go back through the video, and be back out on the field Monday night, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of this week. Our players will have Friday and Saturday to unplug and get back in here Sunday ready to go.