It’s easy to forget that the Hogs were touchdown underdogs heading into Lexington. So why does a four-point loss at Kentucky, that went down to the wire, feel like the program took a few steps back after an open date and encouraging performance against A&M?
Such is our plight, Hog fans: Seemingly one step forward, three steps back. It feels that way because we let a wide receiver doubling as a third-string quarterback run wild on us. And UK wasn’t even very creative in setting him up to do so. It feels that way because our (latest) SEC losing streak is prolonged by what was considered one of the more winnable games left on the schedule.
It feels that way because despite Ben Hicks’ second-half grit and a few brief flashes this season, quarterback play isn’t the strength it was expected to be. And if our pattern holds true, Hicks will struggle early against Auburn’s stout D only to give way to Nick Starkel in the second half. (Not sure Matt Jones or Ryan Mallet or even Joe Ferguson could make much of a difference this week.) It feels that way after Rakeem Boyd takes the second play from scrimmage to the house but almost disappears the rest of the way. (Not sure I follow the “less is more” philosophy that seems to have been adopted by the staff regarding our playmakers.)
It feels that way because the opportunity to record progress in year 2 of Chad Morris is slipping away. Mississippi State and Western Kentucky in Fayetteville should be attainable, at least. At one time, most of us thought Missouri in Little Rock was too. And maybe they still are.
But the prospect of former Hog QB Ty Storey, now starting for a good WKU squad, leaving Fayetteville in November with a win is, well, so Arkansas. And yet another reason why the program — the once proud program that commanded national relevance at the bare minimum— feels stuck in a loop.
So, Auburn rolls onto the Hill Saturday for an early kick and likely some rain. It would also be “so Arkansas” for us to take Aubie to the wire. If somehow we did, could we finally learn to close?
Auburn’s defense should own the line of scrimmage and whoever is taking snaps for the good guys probably won’t be lonely. And remember our defense against UK’s adapted offense last weekend? The Plainsmen should pile up some ground yards this weekend. Gus may let off the gas late thanks to his friendship with Chad (and our role in his new raise and buyout), but we’ll have to try and survive an initial onslaught. We did hold Auburn to a season low 225 yards or so a year ago. We’ll have to pull off something similar Saturday, with another scoop and score or two, for us to have a shot.
Here’s hoping the state — players, coaches, fans — shows up with some pride on Saturday. Sadly, it’ll take much more. Our young pups are gonna get there….right? But probably not this week.