FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas and Ole Miss will meet Saturday night in a key SEC game for both schools.
The Razorbacks are coming off a 20-13 victory over Portland State while Ole Miss fell to Memphis 15-10. Both teams struggled putting points on the board last week.
Since each of the defenses played well and the offenses struggled Chad Morris was asked if this should be a defensive game?
“I don’t know. I hadn’t looked at it that way as far as it being a shootout or being a low-scoring game,” Morris said. “That’s going to be hard to predict. I know we’ve got our hands full. Going on the road in this league is hard and we’ve got to make sure we take care of business.
“Both defenses played well last week, and offense didn’t execute as well as they wanted to. They’ve got two outstanding coordinators who have been head coaches before that have been coach of the year recipients before, and they’ve been in these situations before. They will have those guys improved and ready to go, as we will.”
Ole Miss Coach Matt Luke also doesn’t know what to expect as far as high scoring or defensive struggle.
“I don’t think you really ever know what to expect in this game,” Luke said. “It’s been pretty crazy. But that’s what it looked like. It looked like, again, the interior of Arkansas’ defensive line is very good with two seniors and a senior middle linebacker. So I think they did a really good job of bringing pressure and didn’t give up any big plays. The one touchdown they did score was kind of a fluke, kind of a scramble and throw it up. I thought they did a nice job defensively, so we’ll have our work cut out for us as we try to fix our issues offensively.”
Arkansas has some players who played in the game two year’s ago in Oxford that Arkansas won 38-37 on a 34-yard field goal by Connor Limpert on the last play of the game. Arkansas overcame a 31-7 deficit to win the game. Morris is glad he has some players who have experience playing and winning in Oxford.
“I definitely think that’s always a positive and something that we’ll reach for those guys and their leadership,” Morris said. “But at the end of the day, and you know as well as I do that it’s a completely different team, and to be able to go over on the road in the SEC, we’ve got to make sure we take care of ourselves as far as not beating ourselves. That’s the biggest thing.”
Rakeem Boyd didn’t play in the 2017 game since he was in junior college, but he left a lasting impression on Luke in Little Rock last fall before he was injured in the game. Boyd rushed for 109 yards and one touchdown on seven carries.
“I’ve just been very impressed,” Luke said. “Obviously I thought firsthand last year, him being able to run through people and also make them miss. He’s just got a knack. He’s a very very good player. He’s hard to get on the ground. He’s one of the top backs that we saw last year.”
Arkansas’ John Chavis brought a lot of pressure in the season opener and Luke expects to see the same thing on Saturday night.
“We struggled against pressure last week, so I expect to see that,” Luke said. “We’re going against Coach Chavis, worked with Coach Chavis. He’s a great football coach and I think he’ll do a good job of mixing it up. He’s an experienced guy, and I do expect to see some pressure. We’ve got a young quarterback and some young players so I expect him to try and exploit that.”
Chavis will be going up against Ole Miss Offensive Coordinator Rich Rodriguez on Saturday. He was asked if he has ever gone against Rodriguez previously?
“No, never have,” Chavis said. “It’s a lot of what we’ve seen. Very, very fast tempo. Lot of zone reads. They want to run the football. That’s what they like doing and to be a good football team I think that’s something you have to do. They want to get that done and certainly use the quarterback in running the football. I don’t know compared to what he did at Arizona where they are compared to quarterback, but certainly they’ve got one that’s very talented. He can run, he can throw. He’s very talented and can do all those things.
“We expect to see a wide-open offense. I don’t think we’ll see anything we haven’t seen at some point in time, but he has been very successful. He does a tremendous job. You go back and he’s one of the guys that kinda got this era of football started going fast and a lot of the formations and lot of the shifts and stuff that we’re gonna see.”
Morris talked about Ole Miss and its loss to Memphis.
“Just flipping the page to Ole Miss, it was a tough road game for them (at Memphis),” Morris said. “They’ve got four offensive starters, five offensive starters back. Two brand new coordinators, two new schemes. Yes, they made mistakes just like we did, but I know this, they scored their points in the second half. They were figuring it out in the second half. They’ll be much improved from week one to week two, just like we will be. We’ve got a big challenge ahead for us and we’ve just got to focus on ourselves and getting better.”
Morris and Joe Craddock will be matched up against Ole Miss Defensive Coordinator Mike MacIntyre.
“I’ve known Mike for quite some time and consider him a really good football coach,” Morris said. “Watching them play and studying the film, those guys played exceptionally hard. They’re very, very sound, and they played physical. So, these guys were much improved from where we saw them a year ago.”
Morris talked about some of the Ole Miss defenders who have impressed him including linebacker Lakia Henry, Benito Jones and Austrian Robinson.
“Very disruptive,” Morris said of Jones. “He was disruptive Saturday against Memphis, and a guy that’s a 2-gap player. You’ve got to account for him. Someone definitely that we’ll have to account for, as is the Robinson, number 38, he’s another outstanding football player. Lakia Henry, a young man that had seven tackles. Played very fast and physical. Again, they’re very sound in what they do.”
Arkansas safety Kamren Curl is expecting a typical Arkansas-Ole Miss game that goes down to the end on Saturday.
“We know it is going to be a four-quarter fight,” Curl said. “Always since my freshmen year, it has been a four-quarter fight. We have got to come in, start fast and finish strong.”
Arkansas was 2-10 last season while Ole Miss was 5-7. This figures to be a big game for Arkansas and a chance to get some early momentum.
“I feel we know this is going to be a big game,” Curl said. “It is going to set the tone for both of our seasons. We know that this game, this week, we are going to have to turn it up a notch.”
Arkansas wide receiver Trey Knox talked about what he has seen from the Ole Miss defense on film?
“They have a new DC and they like to run a lot of zone.” Knox said. “They’re very aggressive. They’ve got players who have been playing in this league for a couple of years now. So we’ve just got to attack that and use their aggressiveness against them.”
Arkansas and Ole Miss will kickoff at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday night and televised on the SEC Network. Ole Miss is a 6 1/2-point favorite.