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Arkansas Football: A Tale of Two Coaches: The Past And The Present


FAYETTEVILLE, AR - In the world of college football, finding the right coach to lead a program can be a challenging and crucial task. Just ask Nebraska. For the University of Arkansas however, no other coach in history has done as poorly as Chad Morris in 2018 and 2019.


Coming from SMU, there were high hopes for the up-and-comer. He developed and ran a Gus Malzahn-type offense. "Put it in the left lane and hammer down" was his motto. However, on the field whatever vehicle coach Morris was referencing, never got above 12 mph and threw a rod.


Chad Morris in his first year led the Hogs to an abysmal 2-10 record with 0 SEC wins by the end of 2018. 2019 was no different and with just three games left of his second season, that same horrifying record loomed on the horizon once again. Needless to say, fans were not impressed.


November 9th, 2019. The Razorbacks were set to play the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. There was a lot on the line for both programs. For Arkansas, Chad Morris needed to prove himself to the fan base that he was capable of winning a seemingly very winnable game or they might just drag him out themselves. For the Hilltoppers, in specific their starting quarterback,


Revenge.


Tye Storey was the starting QB at Arkansas in 2018 and transferred out before the 2019 season after Morris brought in two QBs of his own. Storey would never say what happened behind closed doors, but it was evident that he didn't agree with having to compete for a starting position with grad transfer QBs.

“I didn’t really want to go through a whole other year like that where they were just bringing in quarterback after quarterback,” “Knowing we weren’t as successful as we thought we would be last year, I thought it might be a good time to start looking around myself."
“Thankfully, WKU called and it was just a good fit.”

On that November day, a half-empty Razorback stadium watched Tye Storey play like his hair was on fire. He would finish the game 22-32 213 Yds and 3 total touchdowns (one passing and a pair on the ground) The performance of his career. The Hogs never had a chance in this one and were down 35-7 at the half. There were very few bright moments in this game, but what we did get was a glimpse of the future of now-starting quarterback KJ Jefferson and the eventual #18 pick in the 2022 NFL draft Treylon Burks.


Both had great showings in this one, but the final score was a very lopsided 45-19 win for the Hilltoppers. That proved to be the straw that broke the camel's back as Chad Morris was fired the very next day.


For Hog fans, poetic justice had been served. Tye Storey came into Fayetteville against his previous team and proved to the world that Chad Morris was not the right fit for Arkansas. The very coaching staff that seemingly didn't believe in him, were left with egg on their face.


Fans reported having mixed feelings of disappointment and pride from Tye demolishing their beloved razorbacks on that November afternoon. Those emotions would turn into elation once the news broke that Chad Morris was fired. Tye leading the Hilltoppers to victory is something that both Hog and Hilltopper fans will never forget. The Hilltoppers got one of the biggest wins over an SEC program in history in an SEC stadium.


The Hogs? Finally were rid of Chad Morris.


Following the 2019 season, Arkansas would then make a shocking move and hire an offensive line coach who's home town was just over the border in Oklahoma in Sam Pittman. Critics immediately said that Pittman was a terrible choice and heavily criticized both the U of A and the athletic director Hunter Yurachek for the decision.


When asked why the move to fire Chad Morris, The Athletic Director for Arkansas, Hunter Yurachek was quoted saying:

“There are 120 men who worked their tails off for nine months to have the reward and opportunity to put on that uniform on 12 Saturdays during the fall, and that should be a rewarding experience for them. That should be something that they enjoy, and as I spent time with our student-athletes before, during and after games, I got the sense that they were no longer enjoying that experience on Saturdays. The focus of our department day in and day out is on the success of our student-athletes — all 465 of those student-athletes — and we had 120 student-athletes within our football program who were no longer experiencing the success I thought they needed to experience.”

When asked how he felt about the hiring of Pittman, Hunter answered:

“There was a sense of relief, but there was a sense of satisfaction more so. I was sitting at his kitchen table with his wife, Jamie, and I offered him the job, and he started crying and Jamie started crying. He had no idea what I was going to pay him. He had no idea what his contract looked like. It did not matter to him. He wanted to be the head football coach at the University of Arkansas. You get a great sense of satisfaction that you have landed on the right person to lead your football program."

Arkansas had found their man but it most certainly wouldn't be easy for Sam Pittman.


The 2020 Season was one like no other. A 10-game all-SEC season was a tall task for any program let alone a rebuilding Arkansas Razorbacks. The hogs started the season off against Georgia at home and looked much more competitive right out of the gate. Georgia proved too much and went on to win but hope began to come back to the Arkansas faithful.


The following week would be a joyous day for the Arkansas fanbase. The Hogs went into Starkville and came out with a 21-14 win over the Bulldogs. The first SEC win for Arkansas in two years. They wouldn't stop there and stacked up wins against Tennessee and Ole Miss finishing 3-7 from that daunting most difficult schedule in the country.


If there was a bowl game that season Arkansas would have headed to the Texas Bowl to face TCU. Covid of course had other plans.


2021 rolled around and Hog fans were very hopeful that they would see even more improvement. The season started with a win over Rice and then was followed with a game that everyone in the state of Arkansas anticipated because of a very deep hatred of our neighbor to the west. Texas. The Longhorns came in #15 in the country and looked very ready for this matchup. That is until the game started.


The Hogs manhandled the Longhorns holding them to just 257 total yards while putting up nearly 500 of their own. 40-20 was the final score and most of the 20 points came in the second half with the Longhorns down big. The media were stunned. Where did this Arkansas team come from? Arkansas would then go in week four and take down #7 Texas A&M.


The Hogs were 4-0 and were in the top 10 for the first time in a decade. They would finish the season 9-4 with an Outback Bowl victory over Penn State. Quarterback KJ Jefferson finished the year 198-294 21 TDs with a 164.7 QB rating and 6 rushing TDs. A breakout season for him.

The year 2022 didn't play out the way that anyone wanted it to. Suffering losses both to transfers and injuries, the Hogs found themselves down 13 starters on the defense. They were near the bottom in defensive stats, and that proved to be a fatal flaw. KJ Jefferson also was plagued with injuries throughout the season which led to some unforeseen losses for the 2022 Hogs. They would finish the regular season 6-6 and get a bowl game victory against Kansas to have their final record be 7-6


The difference between Sam Pittman and Chad Morris is very obvious. Sam Pittman will always have his work cut out for him at Arkansas, but He has proven that he can compete with the best.


The sky's the limit at Arkansas and with strong 2024 and 2025 recruiting classes being put together, don't sleep on the Hogs anytime soon. The goal for Arkansas should be competing well in the regular season and getting a bid in the College Football Playoff.


Maybe not this year but next. 2024 changes everything with divisions being a thing of the past and Arkansas' schedule is favorable. It will be very interesting to see what Sam Pittman has in store for the rest of the SEC in years to come.


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1 commentaire


Great article. The Hilltoppers probably still celebrate that win.

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