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Andy Hodges

Key players out means it’s next man up for Hogs

With changes all over the place against Tulsa, the Razorbacks still found a way to get past it all for a win on homecoming, giving this team a much-needed boost of confidence which could be huge.

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Chad Morris likes to keep things simple, really.

That’s why we always hear him talk about one game at a time, one day at a time, one practice at a time and one play at a time.

Then there’s always the next man up when somebody goes down and in Saturday’s 23-0 shutout over Tulsa, there were plenty of key players missing.

There was some warning on some like Ty Storey. Others, like offensive tackle Colton Jackson was literally a last-minute decision.

“We get news right before we head from the hotel that Colton (Jackson) had some back spasms,” Morris said after the game. “So he was out. We did not know that until the bus ride over here. We felt like maybe during warmups we could get him back, but he couldn’t go.”

They started Dalton Wagner and there wasn’t much noticeable difference.

“We played fundamentally great,” offensive line leader Hjalte Froholdt said later.

Arkansas offensive lineman Dalton Wagner, fighting to keep a block on Tulsa’s Trevis Gipson, didn’t have a lot of warning before starting Saturday. PHOTO BY TED McCLENNING | HITTHATLINE.COM

On the depth chart, Wagner was listed as Brian Wallace’s backup on the right side, but moved over to the left side when Jackson couldn’t go.

“The way you cross train those guys you have to play them in different positions, and they responded,” Morris said.

No change in the game plan and Arkansas ran for 196 yards net. They had 226 total, but 30 yards in losses kept it from being a really good effort. A misfire on a snap and a 10-yard loss by Rakeem Boyd accounted for most of it.

“We challenged out guys up front,” Morris said. “We needed to run the football, they’re a little bit different team than what we’ve seen all year long. Odd stack and they’re fits are a little bit different, but we felt like we could run the football. We put the pressure on our O-line.”

Now they’ve just got to figure a way to keep Boyd upright for an entire game.

Last week he aggravated a back injury. This week he became dehydrated while producing his first-half yardage. Boyd had just three carries early in the third quarter.

His replacements, Chase Hayden and Maleek Williams, just aren’t as good as Boyd. Keeping him in for four full quarters is going to be key over the rest of the season because they don’t have anyone as good as him with Devwah Whaley out after ankle surgery.

Chase Hayden looks for running room against Tulsa last Saturday behind a block from Cheyenne O’Grady, who is dealing with a hand to the face. PHOTO BY TED McCLENNING | HITTHATLINE.COM

But the defense stepped up and played the best it has all season. The got six sacks and Tulsa ended up with 42 yards in losses rushing.

Plus they had a goal-line stand at the end to preserve the shutout.

Senior Armon Watts, who’s been around a few years, is finally starting to shine. He won the Crip Hall Award on Saturday, the annual award given to the outstanding senior in the homecoming game.

“I feel honored,” he said later. “I know a lot of greats in the past have gotten it. To have my name mentioned is an honor. I come in every week and push myself and the other guys. It paid off this week and I don’t think there’s a better group that could’ve won today.”

Watts has gotten Morris’ attention, too.

“You know Armon is such an inspiration to young players,” Morris said. “Young players that stick with it. This is a young man that came in here and is just now seeing a lot of success. He could’ve quit, he could’ve transferred, he could’ve moved on; but nope, he loves the Razorbacks and he’s going to stick it out.

“A young man like that, you want the best with him. He’s shared his story with a lot of our young players. I’m proud of him and proud of where he is.”

This game was all positives, which many consider a little surprising. Yes, there were actually some thinking the Hogs were going to struggle in this game.

They really didn’t after the first quarter. Tulsa missed a couple of field goals and had a big play late, but couldn’t get in the end zone because of the defense.

It was a win in a season that’s not going to see a lot of those.

And maybe a big shot of confidence in many different aspects.

That could be the biggest takeaway from this one.

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