HOGS: No surprise, D wins spring game
FAYETTEVILLE - The Arkansas defense knew it won Saturday’s Red-White intrasquad game against the offense, though not exactly how.
The offense scored conventionally with touchdowns and field goals Saturday, but Arkansas coach Chad Morris figured a formula for defensive scoring on three-and-outs, sacks, tackles for losses, turnovers and pick-sixes resulting in a 39-33 Red defense win over the White offense.
The Razorbacks have one practice left to review Saturday's game then conclude spring drills.
“I think if you reflect how the offense and defense thought they did today, I think they would say the defense won as well,” Arkansas junior linebacker Grant Morgan of Greenwood said. “But I don't know how the scoring goes. We were looking at the scoreboard, but we would get a sack and it said we had seven points so we didn't know if that was one, two or three. We really didn't know how the multiplication, addition or whatever you call it goes. We just play football.“
For the first half of No. 1 offense vs. No. 1 defense and No. 2 offense and No. 2 defense, the defense mostly got the better of it.
The defense has done that pretty much from spring drills Day One, Morris said.
“Yeah, I thought as it’s been for the majority of spring, the depth in our D-line, the improvement in our defensive back position has really accelerated defensively,” Morris said. “I think you see a huge, remarkable difference defensively. So it did not surprise me to see the way they came out with some three and outs to start the scrimmage on ones on ones and twos on twos. But again, I love what we’re doing defensively. I love the flying around.”
And the offense did revive particularly with a first offense vs. first defense 45-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter from graduate transfer quarterback Ben Hicks to December high school graduate and freshman flash receiver Trey Knox. Knox caught the pass over the middle, juked junior safety Kamren Curl and went the distance.
“Offensively, I thought it took us a few series to kind of settle in,” Morris said. “But it was good to see some guys making plays.”
“I thought the pass, when Ben sat in the pocket and delivered to Trey Knox, I thought it was a great catch,” Morris said. “It was defended very well. And you know to see him (Knox) with the ball in his hands, he’s definitely a difference-maker.”
Even Arkansas’ senior defensive tackle McTelvin “Sosa” Agim marveled at the 6-5 Knox.
“I think he’s a three-year type of guy,” Agim said of how long before Knox is in the NFL. “I feel like three and then he’s going to be out. All I can say is Razorback fans, enjoy him while he’s here.”
Coming off a 2-10 season, it appeared second-year coach Morris’ Hogs got a big lift from the early-bird enrollees of his 2019 recruiting class, including Knox and freshman cornerback Devin Bush who intercepted and returned a John Stephen Jones pass for a 55-yard touchdown. Junior college transfer offensive lineman Myron Cunningham filled in for injured left tackle Colton Jackson of Conway.
Freshman defensive ends Eric Gregory collected four tackles including two sacks, and Mataio Soli notched two tackles for losses and one a sack, among his three tackles.
“Eric Gregory made a huge sack toward the end against (first-team right tackle) Dalton Wagner,” Morris said. “That was good to see from Eric’s standpoint. Devin Bush responded. Devin’s been consistent all spring. Greg Brooks is another one that’s been consistent. Mataio Soli is a guy who is much like Trey (Knox). He’s come in and gained 22 pounds since he’s been here and has made the best of the amount of reps he’s gotten this spring.”
Senior running back Devwah Whaley, idled much of the spring by a lower back ailment, logged his most work of the spring and most carries of the scrimmage with 13 for 51 yards, including an 8-yard TD.
“He felt good, ready to go, and he needed the work,” Morris said. “He needed as much as he could get today. This was about having a good workout. I know it’s a spring game, but we had to get good execution, a good workout out of this thing. This was the last full-padded live practice we’re going to have until the fall. And so he needed everything he could get today.”
Jordon Curtis, the cornerback moved to running back because of Whaley’s absence netted 45 yards on 10 carries for the second unit.
Hicks, running first-team QB as the graduate transfer from SMU, completed eight of 18 for 100 yards and the TD to Knox against the first-team defense.
Redshirt freshman John Stephen Jones completed 13 of 22 for 112 yards with a 23-yard TD to tight end Grayson Gunter against Bush’s pick-six.
Sophomore receiver Koilan Jackson caught three passes for 43 yards.
In the fourth quarter clash of third-team units, QB Daulton Hyatt completed three of three for 54 yards, including a 48-yarder to receiver Shamar Nash, another December high school graduate and January UA enrollee.
Jack Lindsey, the walk-on QB lettering last season as the holder for Connor Limpert’s place-kicks, completed five of seven passes for 25 yards.