In the aftermath of Arkansas’ abysmal loss to San Jose State on Saturday, the national pundits have come out with their knives sharpened.
It’s not just that Chad Morris’ team lost at home to a Mountain West team that had won four of their last 27 games, it’s the entire state of Razorback affairs four games into Morris’ Season 2. He has yet to win a game against a Power 5 opponent. And that the program had already lost to Colorado State and North Texas last year. And that it has yet to show any semblance of consistent in-season improvement, instead opting for Six Flags Over Texas-like ups and downs in performance.
Among fans and experts alike, this is certainly the season for Chad Morris doubt.
And Hot Springs native Dan Wolken, national college football columnist for USA Today, is at the head of the train. Wolken begins his latest piece by mentioning that former Razorback coach Bobby Petrino received a standing ovation at his recent speech in Little Rock. As I pointed out at the time, this says more the program’s sorry state since Petrino’s crash in 2012 than it says about an innate hunger to forgive on the part of the 600 people in the Little Rock Touchdown Club audience that day.
Woken then goes on to lay out the laundry list of problems that led to Arkansas’ “unforgivable” loss to San Jose State:
“The problems for Arkansas are almost innumerable. Its offensive line got thrown around all night, its defense gave up 503 yards and quarterback Nick Starkel tossed five interceptions. Whatever Morris is trying to do, it’s just not working — and Arkansas fans aren’t going to be particularly patient to see if he can figure it out.”
“It’s rarely advisable to make a coaching change after just two years, but this is trending so poorly that Arkansas may have to consider adding $9.8 million to a buyout tab that is already staggering.”
Wolken adds: “A mere two years ago, Arkansas decided it had enough of Bret Bielema and paid him $11.9 million to go away, which was probably the correct move at the time but one that came with a lot of risk.”
Wolken then goes on recount the reasons Arkansas hired Morris in the first place. Namely, Morris’ deep Texas connections and his Clemson lineage after helping lay the foundation for that dynasty during his tenure as Dabo Swinney’s offensive coordinator.
So far, Chad Morris’ Texas ties have delivered in the form of a sterling recruiting class and another one in the hopper. But the Clemson connection isn’t developing like desired.
Morris doesn’t seem like he’s anywhere on track to establish a Clemson-like rebirth for the once proud Razorback program.
Originally, “Morris had enough of those Swinney qualities with his energy, his media skills and his positive coaching style to make it seem like Arkansas was getting Costco Dabo — close enough to the name brand that a slight drop-off in quality was barely noticeable,” Wolken writes.
“Instead, we now know it’s only the losses they bought in bulk.”
So how bad is it?
Any time a news station does a story on fan reactions on social media, you know things are getting bad.
On the Razorback sports show Pig Trail Nation, Razorback fans unloaded a torrent of frustration toward the coaching staff. “Chad Morris runs a loose ship and his Club Dub junk helped build this overconfidence leading to the San Jose debacle,” @HooodooHog Tweeted.
“At what point do they cut losses and move on?” Old Razorback fan chimed in.. “After 61 years of season tickets in my family, I let them go this year. This is why. Awful hire.”
Not long afterward, Pig Trail Nation reporter Alyssa Orange shared some frustration of her own around Chad Morris’ scheme.
“What is the [offensive] system?, she asked on air. “I get that it takes some time to implement this ‘Left lane, hammer down’ wanna go fast, but we haven’t seen anything.
You sit here and you say you want Nick Starkel to play within the system. What is the system? I haven’t seen it constantly enough to say ‘That’s what it looks like.’”
Earlier in game week, one Razorback player predicted a 173-0 win against San Jose State. Turns out, that wasn’t such a good idea. The Spartans “stewed over that. They got mad over that. You disrespected them and they came at you like they wanted to break you in half.”
“You got teams coming in who think they got nothing to lose — and they win,” Orange added. “Arkansas needs to start playing like they’re the Mountain West team with nothing to lose.”
See their full commentary below: