FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas coach Chad Morris knows San Jose State comes into Reynolds Razorback Stadium the big underdog, but he isn’t allowing his team to overlook them.
“We’ve got San Jose State coming in, they’re off an open week, Morris said. “They’ve had an opportunity to prepare extra week for us, and we’ll see their best. I do know that. We’ll see their best. I know Coach (Brent) Brennan. He’s very well respected. A great ball coach. He’ll have those guys ready to go.
“They return four offensive starters. Their quarterback, Josh Love, has a 60 percent completion rate. Three of their five offensive linemen return. Defensively, they return six starters. They’re very aggressive defensively. They’re very multiple. They bring a lot of pressure. They create a lot of TFLs. So we’ve got to do a good job of recognizing the fronts. It’s led by two of their linebackers, who are very, very active. I’ve been very impressed to watch these guys on film.”
Arkansas (2-1) is coming off a 55-34 victory over Colorado State. They also have defeated Portland State 20-13 at home. They fell to Ole Miss 31-17 in the only road game.
San Jose (1-1) owns a 35-18 victory over Northern Colorado, but lost to Tulsa 34-16. For San Jose, it’s a chance to move to 2-1 on the season. The last time they had that record after three games was in 2012 when they defeated Colorado State 40-20 enroute to an 11-2 record and No. 21 ranking in the final Associated Press poll.
For Arkansas it’s a chance to win its second game in a row and already top last year’s win total of two. Morris talked about coming off the win over Colorado State and now facing the Spartans.
“Moving forward, it was one game,” Morris said of Colorado State. “That’s what it was. It was one game. It was a big game for us. But they’re all big games.
“I’ve said many times, and I say it every time that we’re getting ready to play a game, I’m far, far more concerned about how we play than who we play.”
Morris is very aware of San Jose State’s linebackers particularly senior Ethan Aguayo. He leads the Spartans with 34 tackles, including 15 solo, two for loss, a sack and one quarterback hurry.
“He is very similar to Hayden (Henry),” Morris said. “He’s all over the field, very aggressive, has a knack for the ball. Usually where the ball is, he’s close by or if not, he’s on hot pursuit to get there. Very aggressive. A great tackler in space. He’s definitely caught our eyes, as has the other outside backer, Jesse Osuna.”
John Chavis wasn’t happy with how his defense played last week particularly on two plays. They gave up a 75-yard touchdown run on the second play of the game then had a breakdown on a 75-yard touchdown pass. What does Chavis see from San Jose State?
“They’ve got some athletes outside, they like throwing the football,” Morris said. “They’ve got two quarterbacks they’re going to play. Their starter, he runs the offense and reads the secondary really well. He’s good in the RPO game and making the right decisions.
“They have a true freshman that comes in and he’s an athlete. He can throw the football, but he’s really more of a runner. They get him involved in some option when he gets in the game. But I think the two quarterbacks and their differences, we’re going to prepare for both of them.”
Love is the starter. He has completed 37 of 61 passes for 413 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. He also has a rushing touchdown. Nick Nash is the other quarterback. He is 5 of 7 passing for 44 yards. He too hasn’t thrown an interception this season. Nash does lead the team in rushing though with 13 attempts for 115 yards and a touchdown.
Joe Craddock saw the offense pile up 520 yards of offense last week. He talked about what he expects to see from the Spartans’ defense this week.
“I think Day 1 they are a 3-down structured team,” Craddock said. “They are very multiple, you can get them in a 4-down on different formations that you get in. They do a lot of different things we have to be prepared for. Again, we’ll take the rest of the day and gameplan, not have practice today. We’ll put together a good plan for these guys, but they’re very multiple. We’re going to have to be very multiple and learn on some things.
“No. 11 (Jesse Osuna) to me, is the one that stands out. He flies around to the ball, he’s violent. He makes a lot of plays. He’s the guy that really stands out to me in terms of, a guy that plays 100 percent with a big motor. He doesn’t ever take a play off and he’s trying to hurt you when he gets there. He’s a football player, so we’ll have to be ready for a lot of these guys. Like you said, No. 31 (Ethan Aguayo) is a good player. No. 92 (Cade Hall) is a good player, so there are a lot of guys we have to prepare for.”
Arkansas’ tempo was faster last week with Nick Starkel at quarterback than in the previous two weeks. Freshman wide receiver Trey Knox said expect more of that this week.
“They play a lot of off techniques, so we’ll probably throw a lot of short routes this week, 5-yard quick game, just stuff to move the ball down the field, and then we’ll probably go fast because they don’t handle tempo very well,” Knox said of the Spartans.
Junior linebacker Grant Morgan feels as if San Jose State may change their priority on offense this week.
“They have a two-quarterback system, which I feel like we see every week,” Morgan said. “They have a young guy and an old guy. The young guy can run it a little bit, kind of like Portland State. He has some threats down the field. I wouldn’t say he’s immature, but he’s not as good at decision making as the older guy, which he’s been there longer. We expect to see them both, so we’ve got to prepare for both of them.
“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.”
Arkansas surrendered 220 yards on 38 rushing attempts by Colorado State last Saturday. In addition to Nash, San Jose State has senior running back DeJon Packer. He has rushed 25 times for 93 yards and a touchdown. He also has caught six passes for 23 yards.
Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. and the game will be televised on the SEC Network.