HOGS can take baby step vs San Jose

HOGS can take baby step vs San Jose

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FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas second-year head coach Chad Morris and his staff can take a baby step Saturday night.

Defeating 21-point underdog San Jose State would mark the first consecutive victories for Morris at Arkansas. Kickoff is set for 6:30 at Reynolds Razorback Stadium, and the SEC Network will televise the game.

Arkansas (2-1) has sandwiched 20-13 and 55-34 non-conference victories in Fayetteville over Portland State and Colorado State around a 31-17 SEC loss at Ole Miss. From 2015-2017 former coach Bret Bielema’s Hogs slipped from 8-5 and 7-6 seasons to 4-8 overall and 1- 7 in the SEC in 2017.

And if the Razorbacks prevail over the 1-1 Spartans of the Mountain West Conference, they will exceed what they won in Morris’ first season in Fayetteville just four games into his second campaign ... even if that is not the goal for these Razorbacks.

“You don’t say, ‘Oh, we won two games, that’s as many as we won last year,” junior center Ty Clary of Fayetteville said. “No one’s thought that. It’s how many can we win? This team is so hungry to win. Let’s try and win them all.” 

Replying to a reporter’s question, Clary affirmed a  convincing victory over this underdog Saturday would perk up the Hogs and their fans heading into the Sept. 28 SEC West battle against the nationally No. 17 Texas A&M at the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

“To me the great teams, the teams that win national championships, typically run up the score on these (underdog) teams.” Clary said. “That’s something we want to do. We want to dominate. We want momentum going into that Texas A&M game.”

Morris likes the confidence compared to the hangdog Hogs of late 2018, but he cautions not to get carried away.

“That was one game last week, and we executed really well,” Morris said. “Can we string weeks together and put good days on top of good days?”

Off a 2-10 season in 2018, Morris knows these Hogs better be concerned with winning and not by how much.

“Our main goal is to win a football game Saturday night in front of our home crowd and defend our home stadium,” Morris said.

Morris has imparted such to his team.

“Don’t underestimate them,” Clary said. “Their defensive front, they  can play.”

Behind that SJS defensive front that Clary says plays so hard, the Spartans sport one of the nation’s best linebackers. SJS senior Ethan Aguayo leads the nation for tackles average (17) per game during the Spartans’ 35-18 victory over Northern Colorado and 34-16 loss to Tulsa.

“He’s all over the field,” Morris said. “Very aggressive, has a knack for the ball. Usually where the ball is, he’s close by or if not. He’s in hot pursuit to get there. He’s definitely caught our eyes, as has the other outside backer, Jesse Osuna.”

In fact, Arkansas offensive coordinator Joe Craddock said, “To me, Osuna is the one who stands out. He’s violent. He flies to the ball.”

The Spartans come off an open date, likely making their “pressure defense” more aggressive than ever, Morris said.

Offensively, the open date week allows Brennan time to incorporate freshman running quarterback Nick Nash, SJS’s leading rusher with 115 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. Starting senior passer Josh Love has completed 37 of 61 passes for 413 yards and three touchdowns with zero interceptions.

“We expect to see them both,” said junior backup linebacker Grant Morgan of Greenwood. “They like to throw the ball a lot. Their strength isn't in the run game, but they're going to run the ball because they saw what we did last week. We just have to be able to step up and play sound defense.”

Though pitching a fourth-quarter shutout, Arkansas yielded 425 yards total offense against Colorado State, starting with CSU running back Marvin Kinsey’s 75-yard TD run on the second play from scrimmage. 

Offensively, Arkansas strives to keep alive the momentum gained since Texas A&M graduate transfer QB Nick Starkel was elevated to starter. The Hogs amassed 520 yards total offense  against Colorado State and excelled on special teams.

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