HOGS: plenty to play for vs. Mizzou

HOGS: plenty to play for vs. Mizzou

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FAYETTEVILLE - As would be anticipated with players in concussion protocol since Saturday night, Arkansas interim head coach Barry Lunney Jr. could not foretell Monday the availability of quarterbacks KJ Jefferson and Nick Starkel for the Friday finale against Missouri.

Arkansas (2-9, 0-7 in the SEC West)  and Mizzou (5-6, 2-5 in the SEC East) close their 2019 campaigns in Friday’s 1:30 p.m. game at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

Jefferson, the true freshman starter last week, and graduate transfer Starkel, first off the bench, were removed from Saturday night’s 56-20 loss to No. 1 LSU because of concussion symptoms.

Jack Lindsey, the holder for place kicks and originally a walk-on, directed Arkansas’ two fourth-quarter touchdown drives, throwing a TD pass to receiver Mike Woods and the handing off to running back Devwah Whaley on a 2-yard TD set up by Arkansas’ recovery of an onside kick.

Jefferson, Starkel and Lindsey, the grandson of 1964 national champion Razorback Jim Lindsey and son of former Razorbacks tight end Lyndy Lindsey, are listed in Arkansas’ weekly press release as potential QB starters against Missouri.

“We’re not playing around or anything about playing those guys,” Lunney said Monday about the starting quarterback against Mizzou. “It’s just going to be a day-to-day hour-to-hour situation. A short week creates a situation that’s more of a challenge. I think we’ll know a little bit more tomorrow about where this is heading on who we expect to be ready and who not to be ready.”

If Lindsey starts, he would be the fifth Arkansas starting quarterback this season following graduate transfer Ben Hicks, Starkel, redshirt freshman John Stephen Jones and Jefferson, Arkansas’ starters the last two games in losses to Western Kentucky and LSU.

“To be honest with you, some of it is a reflection of the status of our team,” Lunney said of a 2-9, 0-7 season with second-year coach Chad Morris fired after the 45-19 loss to Western Kentucky. “It’s kind of been a microcosm of that. We’ve been inconsistent in a lot of areas. All those guys have shown flashes when they’ve gotten their opportunity where you could validate their opportunity to start with some of the things they’ve done during the course of the games and opportunities they’ve been given.”

None have performed consistently, though Jefferson stands in line to start again if cleared.

Lindsey played the best against LSU. Lunney said he has no reservations if Lindsey, a junior who has quarterbacked the scout team in addition to years holding for Connor Limpert’s place kicks, is summoned to start.

“Absolutely,” Lunney said. “He knows where to go with the ball. He knows the offense in and out. He’s kind of got the ‘it’ factor when it goes to those types of things. He’s just kind of a football junky with a really high IQ. It was good to see him go in his first action really ever in a game at quarterback, and I thought he handled it extremely well.”

Lunney said cornerback Montaric “Buster” Brown and reserve linebacker Dee Dee Edwards, missing the LSU game because of illness, continue to be evaluated.  He also said kick returner/reserve wide receiver De’Vion Warren might return this after missing the last three games injured.

Normally the Razorbacks are off Mondays but with the short week they held a closed practice Monday night and will have closed practices Tuesday and Wednesday in Fayetteville before busing to Little Rock and a Thursday walk-through at War Memorial Stadium.

Because of a recent on campus outbreak of mumps, the MMR mumps vaccine has been made available to all Razorback athletes, coaches and staff, the UA announced in a Monday press release.

Given the Hogs’ struggles, Lunney insists there’s plenty to play for Friday,  including breaking an 18-game SEC losing streak spanning Bret Bielema’s final three SEC games in 2017 through the Morris-coached Hogs going 0-8 in the SEC in 2018 and this season’s 0-7.

“We've got a chance in the last game of this tough season, got a chance to break that streak,” Lunney said. “To me, that sounds like that's a whole lot to play for.”

Lunney cited the miserable 45-19 Senior Day loss to Western Kentucky in their Fayetteville farewell and their chance to go out winners in Little Rock. The  Hogs have lost three straight in their annual game with Missouri.

Arkansas is 1-4 in their annual “Battle Line Rivalry” trophy game with Mizzou, winning in 2015 in Fayetteville.

“I told our team there's not anybody on our football team that has beaten Missouri,” Lunney said. “That's got to mean something to you. As I told our guys, listen there's a lot to play for.”

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