OXFORD, Miss. — Saturday’s game in Little Rock looks to be a pivotal contest for both Ole Miss (4-2, 0-2 SEC) and Arkansas. Each team is hungry for its first Southeastern Conference victory with the winner looking to gain momentum for the remainder of league play.
The Razorbacks (1-5, 0-3 SEC) enter the game looking to continue their adjustment to the new system of first-year head coach, Chad Morris. Although their record does not indicate success, Arkansas has improved over the past few games with Morris emphasizing a more pass-happy offense combined with a more aggressive defense.
Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke spoke this week on what he has seen from Coach Morris in his first year at the helm:
“I think anytime that you’re building the culture in your program, I think there are going to be some growing pains,” Luke said. “You see that, trying to find the right quarterback and the right mixture. But I think he’s doing a great job. I think the mark of a good coach is when teams get better as the season goes on, and I think you can see his team doing that.”
Razorbacks score 31 on Alabama
The Hogs’ improvement is definitely being seen on the playing field as just this past week the Arkansas offense racked up over 400 total yards and scored 31 points–the most scored on the Tide so far this season. Yes, they lost the game; however, the Razorbacks did show signs of improvement all over the field.
Ole Miss linebacker coach Jon Sumrall has noticed the progression of his team’s next opponent. “Talk about improvement, 400 yards of offense against Alabama,” Sumrall said earlier this week.
“They found their stride last week against a really good defense and look a lot different than in the first couple games of the year, offensively,” he noted.
Sumrall says he is also impressed with Arkansas’ quarterback play. “The guy they’re playing at quarterback now, (Ty) Storey, he’s a tough football player. I love the way he plays,” Sumrall explained.
“He’s competitive. He took a couple of hits last week that you look at and you’re like, ‘Man, is he going to get up?’ He bounces up and plays with an edge. I’ve got a lot of respect for that guy.”
Ole Miss linebacker coach Jon Sumrall on Arkansas QB Ty Storey
Scouting the Razorbacks’ offense
Quarterback: Storey, a junior, won the starting job over sophomore Cole Kelley and has managed to pile up 861 yards in five games this year, four of which he has started. Storey sports a solid deep ball and does a really good job of managing the Razorbacks’ offense. The one negative of his tenure, thus far, has been his tendency to throw interceptions. Storey has thrown 6 TDs on the season—but has also suffered 5 INTs. The young and talented Ole Miss secondary will look to take advantage of some of those miscues.
Receivers: To compliment the junior play caller out of Charleston, Arkansas, a slew of experienced receivers, including La’Michael Pettway (200 yards, 3 TDs), Jordan Jones (168 yards, 1 TD), Mike Wood (130 yards, 1 TD) and Deon Stewart (113 yards), will help try and get the Arkansas passing attack up and running this weekend against the Rebels.
Running backs: The Arkansas receivers will be helped on the inside by the running back duo of Devwah Whaley (231 yards, 2 TDs) and Rakeem Boyd (294 yards). Boyd was able to pick up over 100 yards rushing against a stout Alabama defense last week—the first time a Razorback had accomplished that feat since Darren McFadden in 2007.
Offensive rankings: Overall, the offense out of Fayetteville is by no means the flashiest when it comes to the stat book as they average just under 360 yards per game, placing them in last place in the SEC and 102nd nationally. With that being said, the Razorbacks do seem to be on the upward trend over the past few weeks.
Scouting the Arkansas defense
Defensively, the Razorbacks currently sit at 13th in the SEC (Ole Miss ranks 14th) in total yards allowed per game (405)—a number that could be made worse after playing against a potent Ole Miss offense this Saturday.
A bright spot for the Razorbacks on defense is junior linebacker De’Jon Harris who leads the SEC in tackles (64) and ranks 12th nationally. Harris also leads the team in the sacks, tackles for loss, and total tackles—the first player to do so at Arkansas since 1973.
With that said, the Razorbacks’ defense is young with many freshmen and sophomore starters. The entire team, in fact, is composed of mostly underclassmen as over 60% of the team are freshmen and sophomores.
After notching a school-record 826 yards of offense last weekend against Louisiana-Monroe, Ole Miss quarterback Jordan Ta’amu and an experienced Rebels’ offense will look to take advantage of the Hogs’ youth.
Date: Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018
Time: 6:30p.m. CT
Location: Little Rock, Ark.
Venue: War Memorial Stadium (54,120)
Surface: Field Turf
Series: Arkansas leads 35-28-1
In Little Rock: Ole Miss leads 8-6-1
Streak: Arkansas, W4
Television: SEC Network
Tom Hart, Play-by-Play
Jordan Rodgers, Analyst
Cole Cubelic, Field Analyst
Satellite Radio: Sirius 81, XM 81