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Game 1 – Portland State at Arkansas

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Let’s start off with prayers for the Anderson Family and ASU football team. Arkansas State University head football coach Blake Anderson lost his wife this month in a courageous fight against breast cancer, by far one of the worst things to happen in Arkansas collegiate sports since the passing of the great Paul Eells. Even with all of the good and bad seasons, nothing matters more than family. Wendy Anderson was not just a loving wife and mother; she was the mother of the Red Wolves football team. A head coach’s wife becomes the mom to every player that her husband coaches, so not just Coach Anderson losing a loved one the state of Arkansas and the Red Wolves football team also lost a big part of their team. Best of wishes going forward for ASU and prayers and love goes out to the Anderson family in dealing with the loss of a member of their family. Breast cancer is a horrible thing to ever be diagnosed with, and takes far too many strong women from families each day. Coach, we are with you through everything; stay strong, you are not alone. I know myself, having lost my mother-in-law to her 10-year fight with breast cancer. I hope that one day we can find a cure for this horrible disease and end the fight with all cancer. For the start of the season, we are not just Hog fans or Red Wolves fans we are together as one.

 

#NotFightingAlone

Coach Chad Morris, following a 2-10 (0-8) season, has some work to do after not getting his full offense installed last season. This year, he has more of his own recruits joining the Razorbacks this year. We are looking forward to seeing our Hogs take the field this year.  We begin with a Big Sky opponent, an FCS school that knows they are coming here for a check, not a win. 

Photo by Andy Shupe of Whole Hog Sports

Let’s get to the real questions: is our O-line and overall defense going to make any changes to prepare for a tough SEC schedule? Portland State last year averaged over 200 yards per game rushing, with a duel threat quarterback leading the way who has been in the offense for a few years now. We should get to see if Sosa Agim, Scoota Harris, along with a young and hungry secondary, can lead this team as they should. 

We have heard all fall about Agim being disruptive and the defense getting better. What we really need to see is our secondary come out and shut down the opposing passing offense. We do not need to see our corner backs playing 10-15 yards off the receiver. To be a good defense in the SEC, you have to play bump and run and this should be a good test to see where we stand. Yes, they are very young and will get beat, but we have the talent here with more to come. In this first game, we want to see them get rowdy and HOG wild early in the game with the Chavis defense starting hard and fast. Not showing too many schemes to everyone but still putting their defense to the test. Leave a few secondary players one on one sending the blitz to disrupt this QB. This should be a good thing to do considering they are primarily a  rushing offense. We should see many run blitzes and many third and long downs for the Vikings in week one. 

Starkel or Hicks
Photo courtesy of 5 News Online.

The big question over the past few weeks is Starkel or Hick to start the first game of the season. Chad Morris has said himself that Hicks knows the system but Starkel has a bigger arm. Hicks will come out to start the season, due to his knowledge of the offense and history with Coach Morris, but it will be his job to lose. In the end, I believe Starkel will be the starter. It takes a special kind of football player to play in the SEC, which is considered the top Power 5 conference in college football today. We also need to be able to see Jones and Jefferson get some snaps, but not until the 4th quarter when the game is well underway. Without announcing a starting QB until game week, there were questions that Coach Morris still wanted to figure out. Who will be the leader of this team this year? For the first time in many years, there is not a single starter coming back on offense that started game one in 2018.

We know our backfield with Boyd, Whaley, Hammonds, and Hayden coming back so that is not a question this year. Still, everyone wants the offense to be better than it was in the past few years without just the talk of recruits coming and offense getting better. The main worry is our offensive line. Will the o-line be able to keep our QBs upright and give our Wide receivers time to be able to get open? Do we now, even though they are young have the wide outs to be able to create space on their own? We will not know this until week 2 against Ole Miss, the first true SEC test on the road, but this week we want to see no penalties and our QB’s jersey staying Cardinal Red and white with none of the new grass on their uniforms unless they choose to take off running and slide before contact. 

The Portland State defense has not faired good at all against any Power 5 conference over the past few years, so we should be able to see a lot of young kids play with a lot of success before the first true SEC road test. One of the best things is going to be able to get young talent in the show to the fans and to keep spirits up to get back to a bowl game this year.

GAME PREDICTION
The hogs should not have a problem getting out to a big lead to start the game.  With the youth and ability to run the football PSU should move the ball a little on the ground giving the Hogs a good few series to learn and develop the youth on the roster. Hogs need to start 1-0 with a blowout win at home before the road test in week 2.
 
Portland State 17,  Arkansas Razorbacks 49

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Justin Garrison
http://naturalstatesports.com
Football Sports Writer for Natural State Sports Co-Host of Thursday night live show "The Sports Junkies" along side Steve Hinson