There was a chance for the Razorback football squad to grab its first conference win in almost two years Saturday night. That chance came and went in Oxford as Arkansas suffered its first loss of the season to Ole Miss, 31-17.
The Hogs (1-1, 0-1) met the Rebels (1-1, 1-0) in an early-season SEC matchup that provided both struggling teams a chance to begin conference play with a one in the win column, a feat that neither school has achieved in the last three seasons.
It was apparent from the start that Ole Miss was the more aggressive team. A touchdown with eight minutes to go in the first quarter put Arkansas down early, and the Razorbacks never gained the lead the entire 60 minutes.
Similar to the Hogs’ week one win over Portland State, the offense seemed to operate at a standstill, and once again, there was a quarterback change midway through the game. Junior Nick Starkel, who was on the field for a short time in the first game of the season, replaced senior and starter Ben Hicks under center in the second half. As opposed to last week, Starkel played out the rest of the game.
“We didn’t get the job done,” Starkel said. “It doesn’t really matter how I played. I’d rather throw 10 yards and take a win than lose.”
Starkel threw for 201 yards and one touchdown on 17-24 passing, while Hicks threw for 98 yards on 7-16 passing. Starkel has since been announced as the No.1 quarterback on the Arkansas depth chart.
“It wasn’t so much what (Hicks) did or didn’t do,” Arkansas head coach Chad Morris said. “It’s just what Nick did. He provided that spark.”
While both quarterbacks' statlines showed promise, especially with the absence of any interceptions, the offense continued to stall the closer it got to the endzone.
One key aspect that held the offense back was the lack of efficiency on first downs, Arkansas head coach Chad Morris said.
“We have to continue to develop our offense and create our identity,” Morris said. “We have to be able to run the football. That’s number one. It always starts with running the football and creating explosive plays.”
The Arkansas defense contributed one of the Razorbacks’ two touchdowns on a fumble recovery returned to the house by junior cornerback Kamren Curl, but took a step back from the performance against Portland State.
“I thought our defense kept us in the game, especially in the first three quarters,” Morris said, “but they were on the field entirely too long. We had too many missed tackles, more than I can ever remember.”
Despite the loss, Arkansas has a chance to return home and pick up victory number two on the season and earn a little bit of payback. Colorado State will travel to Fayetteville after completing a comeback victory against the Hogs last season. Arkansas will look to return the favor on Saturday at 3 p.m. The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network.