FAYETTEVILLE — The University of Arkansas held Georgia to five points and 177 yards of total offense in the first half on Saturday, but then ended up losing 37-10 to the No. 4 Bulldogs.
Senior linebacker Grant Morgan led the Razorbacks with 13 tackles, four were solo, He was pleased with the first half performance.
“I wasn’t surprised by the way we played in the first half,” Morgan said. “I think we were more that we really knew what they were doing. We made good checks. Our DBs were playing really well. The D-line was getting good push. He (Stetson Bennett) did really good in the third quarter. We just made a couple of mistakes. I just want to take my hats off to them. They are a good football team. We’ve got to remember they are No. 4 in the nation for a reason. I think this definitely shows the defensive guys we have promise. It shows we can be really good and it shows we can be really good against a really good football team.”
In the first half, the Bulldogs only converted one of 11 on third-down conversions.
“We talked all the time about keep pushing,” Morgan said. “Don’t be satisfied. We’ve got to win this game. Don’t be surprised. Don’t be surprised. That’s the thing with momentum and defenses. We kept getting the ball with bad situations on the field and we jug really made some big stops like Busta’s interception at the very beginning of the game when they were going into the end zone. Making big plays on defense like that is just huge for confidence and that’s why we kept saying where we are, where you put us, we’re going to get them off the field. We’re going to get the ball back. But we definitely have to keep pushing how to get that in the second half.”
Morgan was asked what happened in the second half when the Bulldogs scored 32 points?
“We were pushing the line of scrimmage as linebackers, as a d-line, we were pushing the line of scrimmage,” Morgan said. “They weren’t getting anything pushing into us, they weren’t pushing the d-line into us. We were controlling the rush, and I think that they had to find themselves too as an offense, for Georgia. They had to figure out what their identity was, what they wanted to do.
“And I think the first half, we were really, I don’t want to say exposed them, but made them realize the certain things they’re really good at. We stopped the run, and that’s what they’re really good at. When we did that, they had to find other ways. When they put that other quarterback in, he’s a good quarterback and he’d move on his feet well. But I’d say the big thing that changed from us is we weren’t really as aggressive from d-line and linebackers on taking the holes super fast, shooting our gaps like you saw us doing in the first half.”
Several defensive players who provide quality depth didn’t play in the game for various reasons and defensive end Dorian Gerald was lost to a foot injury. Did the defense wear down?
“Its a huge thing playing this first game in the era of COVID,” Morgan said. “The fourth quarter, like last year we never had great second halves. So that’s something we are going to have to emphasize. Something that we have to keep pushing on and be able to rotate people in and keep playing at top speed. I feel good that we can handle what teams throw at us but we have to be smart and keep rotating people in and play when you’re tired. Play as fast as you possibly can. But I feel good regarding your question.”
Despite playing better overall than the last three seasons it was still another SEC loss. Morgan talked about the mood of the team following the game.
“We definitely have confidence,” Morgan said. “It’s different than last year because anyone who watched that game can tell that we can be a good football team. We had a lot of confidence in the first half, we played a really good game. If you would have all asked yourselves if we would have been in that game the way we were at halftime, you would’ve said no. That shows right there that we have confidence in ourselves, and it shows that we can do things that we’re not expected to do by the outside world. So, I’ll say this, the mood with the team right now, we know we’re going back to work, but we’re not satisfied with 24, 27 points or whatever. We’re not satisfied with ‘we didn’t get blown out.’ We’re ready to go win. We’re ready to win games here, and that’s what we’re going to set out to do. We’re going to set out to win some games.”
Arkansas now will head to Starkville to face Mississippi State on Saturday night. The Bulldogs went into Baton Rouge and defeated LSU 44-34. Mississippi State quarterback K.J. Costello passed for 623 yards and five touchdowns to lead the Bulldogs past the defending national champions. Morgan offered up his thoughts on this week’s challenge.
“Regarding the Mississippi State game next week, they’re a good team, we’re a good team,” Morgan said. “We’re both SEC, we’re both able to play. I guess their game right there shows you that you never know who’s going to win on these weekends, because COVID’s real. The SEC all schedule is real. You don’t play any easy games right before you play a big team. It’s going to be week in, week out of going after people and knowing anyone can win a game on Saturday. We all just saw that. So we’re going to go into every single week preparing to win, playing our best game every single week. We’re not going to worry obviously about the scoreboard while we’re playing, but we’re going to be the best we can be every single week. It doesn’t matter who’s put in front of us, we’re going to try to be our best.”
The Razorbacks will return to the practice fields today.