FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas will have a big game on Saturday when Colorado State comes to Fayetteville.
Both teams enter the game at 1-1 with Arkansas having defeated Portland State 20-13 and fell to Ole Miss 31-17. The Rams lost to Colorado 52-31 in the season opener before downing Western Illinois 38-13 this past Saturday.
Colorado State overcame a 27-9 deficit in the third quarter last season in Fort Collins to rally past the Hogs 34-27. The Hogs followed that up with a loss at home the next week to North Texas. The message has been clear this week don’t let last week’s Ole Miss loss linger on like Arkansas did last year following the loss to the Rams. Quarterback Nick Starkel said it was addressed in the locker room following the Ole Miss loss.
“We talked about it in the locker room a lot,” Starkel said. “This right here, we can’t let this go over into next week. 24-hour rule – we’ll look at the film, 24 hours we’ll feel how we want about it and then we’ll move on from it. I believe our team is going to do that. It’s a different culture this year. We understand that we can’t let one game hang on for two weeks. That happened last year and that’s not going to happen this year.”
Joe Craddock, Arkansas’ offensive coordinator, said the coaches haven’t had to do much motivation this week to get the players ready after last year’s loss.
“Last year, I don’t remember the exact time in the game, but I know we had a 27-9 lead at some point and we felt pretty good about where we were and blew that lead and weren’t able to sustain that lead and put it away on offense,” Craddock said. “You shouldn’t have to say much to these guys. They know they’re coming to our place now and we have to protect our home field just like anybody that’s coming to our place. It’s all about us and it’s always been about us. We say all the time that the only team we feel like we can’t beat is us if we don’t make mistakes.”
Craddock sees a much better team on the opposite side this week though than they played in Fort Collins.
“They’re much improved from last year,” Craddock said. “Their D-line played extremely hard, like I said. They are thick legged and they have a lot of weight up front. They’ve played a lot of ball. They’re senior, junior-driven up front.
“Secondary has come a long way. They really mix and match and do a lot of different coverages and different pressures and looks. We’ll take the rest of the day to continue to gameplan for these guys and be ready for them. But they are much improved, they’re flying around and playing hard. They really are. It’s going to be a good challenge for us.”
John Chavis, Arkansas’ defensive coordinator, is aware of what Colorado State quarterback Collin Hill can do. Against Colorado, Hill completed 31 of 47 passes for 374 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions. He followed that up with 25 of 32 against Western Illinois for 367 yards and four touchdowns.
“They got the quarterback back,” Chavis said. “Their starting quarterback should have been the starter last year but got hurt in the offseason. He came back out of spring practice, would have been the starter last year. I think, don’t quote me on this, he messed his knee up playing basketball during the summer and missed a big portion of the season. He is an NFL quarterback. There is no question about that.
Chavis said the talent on Colorado State’s offense extends beyond Hill.
“No. 22 (Dante Wright), he can get on the edge and run some of the same stuff that Ole Miss did with No. 9 (Jerrion Ealy),” Chavis said. “But, he can get on the edge and stretch a defense in a hurry. Those guys are really good players. He’s a true freshman and he has certainly already made an impact on their team. He’s somebody that we got to game plan for, no doubt.”
Colorado State also has some tall wide receivers that could give the Hogs trouble at times. Warren Jackson is 6-foot-6 while E.J. Scott is 6-1.
“We see it in the SEC all the time,” Chavis said. “Hopefully, our pass rush will continue to grow because some of it you have to defend with pass rush. You can’t always do it all with coverage. We got to get the quarterback off the spot. I’ll tell you this, Coach (Mike) Bobo does a tremendous job of coaching quarterbacks, he always has. If they’re well coached and you don’t make them get off the spot, you don’t make them uncomfortable and they are good enough to make the throws, this quarterback is good enough to make the throws, you got to get them off the spot. The more we do that the more success we’ll have.”
Chad Morris also sees this is as a very much improved Colorado State team.
“We’ve got a very much improved Colorado State team from a year ago coming in this Saturday,” Morris said. “We know we’re going to get their best shot. With five offensive and six defensive starters returning, they’ve got a lot of experience coming back.”
Morris knows the Rams are coming off a win and have some momentum now.
“Any team, any program that gets a win, you build off of it, you build confidence off of it,” Morris said. “I know that they played well against Colorado. There were some mistakes at the end that kind of let Colorado pull away, but it was nip and tuck all the way through that entire game. But I think the way they responded after that first opening loss last week and played really well and got a win. I know we’re going to get their absolute best.”
Sophomore wide receiver Mike Woods knows the importance of Saturday’s game after the Ole Miss loss in Week 2.
“This is a must win,” Woods said. “Make no mistake about it, this is a must win for us. That’s what we’re going into it like.”
Arkansas and Colorado State will kickoff at 3 p.m. Saturday in Reynolds Razorback Stadium. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.