Be honest, Razorback fans: How many of you gave up, or at least seriously worried about your football team, after three quarters Saturday in Fayetteville?
A 34-34 tie with Colorado State wasn't exactly what you or Chad Morris were looking for. Especially not after a fourth-quarter collapse at Ole Miss last week, resulting in a 31-17 Arkansas defeat, that raised questions whether Year Two under Morris would be, like his 2-10 opening act, another nightmarish season?
I can almost guess what you were thinking: If Arkansas can manage only a three-quarter stalemate with Colorado State, what chance do the Razorbacks have when they lead real bulls (Southeastern Conference variety) into the ring?
It's a school tradition for Razorback players to raise four fingers before the teams change ends for the last 15 minutes. Translation: The fourth quarter belongs to Arkansas. This one did, 21-0, as did the game, 55-34.
One tangible reward was equaling last year's victory total in September. An intangible benefit was uplifting spirits of a squad generally new to the program. Many weren't around when Arkansas caved in to Colorado State in the fourth quarter last year at Fort Collins, a defeat magnified in scope by the next week's home capitulation to North Texas.
Nick Starkel, in his first Razorback start, had reason to celebrate, passing for 305 of the Hogs' 520 yards. The ex-Texas Aggie completed 20 passes to eight different receivers, 10 by freshmen Treylon Burks (92 yards) and Trey Knox (90). Starkel passed to Knox, Cheyenne O'Grady and Chase Harrell for touchdowns -- O'Grady for 62 yards on the play of the game, the tight end breaking almost as many tackles downfield as the Democrats are running for president.
"Everybody came up to me and said throw me the ball," Starkel told an SEC Network announcer. "That meant they were winning their one-on-one matchups and seeing the field well."
As the halftime stats came in, the Hogs leading 27-24, SEC Network studio analyst Gene Chizik told his partners, "When's the last time we've seen this from Arkansas -- ever?"
Colorado State coach Mike Bobo played at Georgia, where he learned how to win in college football, and brought a respectable team to Fayetteville, one that beat Colorado. Consequently, Arkansas couldn't breathe easily until scoring three touchdowns in the last 8:52.
Devyah Whaley, atoning for a costly fumble at Ole Miss, got things started, scoring from five yards out. After Starkel's TD pass to O'Grady, LaDarrius Bishop returned Colorado State's second fumble for 25 yards, 3:31 left and all over.
Arkansas fans finally could enjoy postgame dinner, say, at A Q Chicken House, Herman's Ribhouse or the Venetian Inn, places I hung out when covering the Razorbacks.
No doubt some of those dinner-table conversations concerned the Arkansas defense. Try to remember the last time a winning team allowed two 75-yard scoring plays.
Skeptics in the stands and watching at home probably were saying "same old Hogs" when Marvin Kinsey bolted 75 yards on the second play of the game. That 7-0 edge lasted only 1:42 of clock time, with Starkel hitting Burks for 38 yards on the Hogs' first play of the game and then to Knox for 24 yards and Connor Limpert kicking for a tie. Arkansas twice led by 10, by which it was favored, but it was tied again when Dante Wright took Patrick O'Brien's pass 75 yards late in the third.
Then, in a flash, John Chavis' defense took over. A week after tiring in the heat at Oxford, Arkansas allowed Colorado State 34 yards in the final round. That's something a young team can take heart in, contributing on both sides of the ball to a hard-fought win.
"It was big," defensive end McTelvin Agim said. "You could see the momentum on the sidelines. It was something we could feed off."
Said safety Kamren Curl: "We all just bought in. Last year, we probably would have gotten down. Everyone would have gotten down and they would have kept scoring. Now, we know how to respond as a team (and) I feel like that will really help us keep going."
Morris' take: "We challenged our guys to respond, and I started seeing the response last Saturday night in the locker room."
Morris needed the win for personal reasons, especially in a week that ex-Razorback coach Bobby Petrino, at the Little Rock Touchdown Club, was welcomed home like the prodigal son in the New Testament parable. Beating Colorado State isn't exactly cause for killing the fatted calf, but as Razorback Nation should know by now, winning beats the alternative.Sports on 09/16/2019
Print Headline: This time, Hogs finish with flourish