Arkansas set to face former head coach Chad Morris
FAYETTEVILLE — The game many Arkansas fans have had circled all offseason is finally here.
Fresh off their first SEC win in nearly three years, the Razorbacks will hit the road again to play No. 13 Auburn at 3 p.m. CT Saturday.
It’s the annual showdown with Arkansas native Gus Malzahn, a polarizing figure in the state, but this year’s matchup has an additional source of intrigue because of the Tigers’ new offensive coordinator: Chad Morris.
When asked about it Monday afternoon, first-year coach Sam Pittman downplayed the angle about the Razorbacks facing their former head coach, comparing it to their season-opener against Georgia.
“I don’t know how (Morris) will feel about it, you’ll have to ask him,” Pittman said. “But I was the O-line coach at Georgia and we played them, so it’s not really a big deal. We’re just trying to compete and win the football game.”
In less than two seasons as Arkansas’ head coach, Morris went 4-18 and failed to win an SEC game. His 14 SEC losses without a win were tied for the second-most by a coach to start a career in conference history.
Morris likely would have broken the record set by George MacIntyre at Vanderbilt from 1979-81, but he was fired following a 45-19 loss to Western Kentucky in which former quarterback Ty Storey accounted for 290 yards and three touchdowns for the Hilltoppers.
That loss also gave Morris as many losses to Group of Five opponents (four) as he had total victories. The Razorbacks ended up losing their final two games under interim coach Barry Lunney Jr. to cap a second straight 2-10 season.
When Arkansas knocked off No. 16 Mississippi State to snap its 20-game SEC losing streak, it was its first victory in any game since beating Colorado State in Week 3 last year.
Morris was almost immediately criticized for the “Club Dub” celebration in the locker room after beating the struggling Mountain West program coming off a 3-9 season and on its way to a 4-8 mark that ultimately led to a coaching change.
There was certainly a lot of celebrating inside the visitors locker room at Davis Wade Stadium on Saturday, but linebacker Bumper Pool said the road win over a ranked SEC foe felt much different.
“Club Dub celebration is never acceptable,” Pool said. “The work that we put in, this win is a lot different. It's not a surprise. We beat a SEC school and we feel like we earned it because of the work we put in. We're not going out there and winning this game just because it happened.”
The Razorbacks will try to continue that momentum with another road game against a ranked team, which is how Pittman is treating it - the same as the Mississippi State game and the Georgia game before that.
“It’s just another football game to us,” Pittman said. “We won’t mention the fact that Coach Morris was the head coach here. They know it.
“Some of them probably loved him and some of them probably didn’t, just like any coach. We’re going to take a business approach to it and go out there and try to do our best.”
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