Arkansas football is bleeding. College football analysts are describing the Hogs as possibly the worst team in the nation, indicating the program is at an all-time low. The struggles are quickly turning a loyal fanbase away from optimism and into pessimism.
A 17-game losing streak against SEC opponents has the Razorbacks resting amongst the worst teams of the 130 in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).
When Arkansas’s head coach Chad Morris left his head coaching gig at SMU to accept the same position at Arkansas, fans hoped that Morris was a coach on the rise who would be able to take a Razorback team that had lost its spark on offense and turn it into an up-tempo, explosive and exciting unit. Morris made a name for himself as offensive coordinator at Clemson when he introduced that face-paced offense.
Through 21 games in the Chad Morris era, Arkansas has won four contests, all coming against smaller schools suffering a subpar season. The Hogs have suffered numerous alarming losses in the year-and-a-half stretch as well, with losses against North Texas and San Jose State standing as the most discouraging.
There was reason to hope that Arkansas would be able to finish the 2019 season on a strong note, with three of the four remaining games for the Hogs being winnable in the context of their opponents’ recent performances.
That hope was laid to rest Saturday afternoon after the Razorbacks lost their homecoming game against a slipping Mississippi State team by 30 points, never threatening the visiting Bulldogs.
The loss marks the third straight conference defeat by 30+ points for the Hogs, and the improved final product that Morris promised Arkansas fans at the time of the coaching change seems to move further away every week instead of drawing closer.
Against Auburn a week before, Arkansas set a record for the lowest attendance at a home SEC-conference game since Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium was expanded in 2001, attracting 54,619 fans, around 72% capacity. The next week, Arkansas broke that record, recording 52,256 fans against Mississippi State.
The record-low attendance against the Bulldogs was the lowest in any Arkansas game since 2001. It fell short of the previous record-low against Weber State, a game that was added to the schedule after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks led to the cancellation of the North Texas game, according to HawgBeat.com.
The fans have clearly lost their faith in the program at this point in the season.
History major at the UofA and longtime Arkansas fan David Stancil, a sophomore, is disappointed where the program is at.
“The staff has been disappointing to say the least,” Stancil said. “The atmosphere of Razorback Stadium is not what it was a decade ago. No one expected instant success, but this has been an embarrassment to Arkansas football.”
Arkansas’ performance against Mississippi State mirrored the almost one-third-empty stadium, and Morris’s response after the game was nearly identical to what he has said all year long.
“I’m very disappointed with our performance,” Morris said Saturday.
Granted, there is only so much to say after consistently underperforming every week. But as the performances do not improve week-to-week, and the answers, likewise, stay the same, there is reason to believe that things will not get better.
Arkansas’s struggles have not only caught the attention of the fans, but of college football experts as well. College football broadcaster Joel Klatt said that “Arkansas might be the worst team in the country,” while appearing on The Herd with Colin Cowherd on Fox Sports 1.
So what happens next?
There are still three games on the ledger for Arkansas, two of them against teams who are potentially, and probably should be, beatable. That does not matter.
Florida State fired its second-year head coach Willie Taggart on Sunday after going 9-12 in his first 21 games as the head of the Seminoles, compared to Morris’ 4-17 record through the same time span. The ‘Noles went 5-7 last year and are projected to finish 6-6 this year.
Florida State athletic director David Coburn cited high expectations as grounds for letting Taggart go.
"Frankly, 6-6 isn't good enough," Coburn said.
Arkansas has passed the point of salvaging the season with a win or two at the end of the year, if that even happens. The focus has shifted to what move athletic department officials will make next.
The Arkansas football program is not a lost cause, and Razorbacks fans and officials alike know it. An exciting crop of new talents has showcased promise and potential for making Arkansas football relevant again, if it is placed in the hands of the right person.
That crop includes the dynamic duo of freshman receivers Treylon Burks and Trey Knox, running back Rakeem Boyd, tight end Hudson Henry and quarterback KJ Jefferson.
An intentional decision to improve the defense and offensive line, and a commitment to allow the young offensive talents lead the Razorbacks into battle would be a recipe to produce a football program that is not the laughingstock of the SEC. With the right staff at the helm of the program, it is more than possible.
But this group, which has driven Arkansas football in the ground, is not that staff.
A change is brewing that will dictate the future of the program. Whether that is relieving some assistant coaches of their duties and giving Morris a chance will some different personnel around him, or cleaning house altogether, what happens this offseason will impact the future of Razorback football for years and years to come.