FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Chad Morris announced Monday that junior Nick Starkel will make his first start at Arkansas on Saturday against Colorado State.
Starkel started the second half and played the entire 30 minutes. He completed 17 of 24 passes for 201 yards and one touchdown.
“You know we felt like coming out of half, it wasn’t so much what Ben (Hicks) did or didn’t do,” Morris said. “It’s what Nick did. We were looking for a spark, something to get our offense moving, create some momentum, create some yards, give an opportunity for some big plays. That was our decision going into it and Nick will be our starter.”
Hicks started the game, as he did the Portland State game, and completed 7 of 16 passes for 98 yards. Arkansas trailed 10-3 at halftime and only had 137 yards of total offense. Arkansas finished the game with 361 yards of total offense.
Starkel was 4 of 5 for 48 yards with one interception in the season opener. Once again Arkansas is struggling to score in the first half of games. They only had 10 points against Portland State in the first half.
“Yeah we have,” Morris said. “We’ve talked about it. You know it’s something that we’ve got to continue to develop, and develop our offense. We’ve got to become – create our identity. We’ve got to be able to run the football. That’s No. 1. It always starts with running the football and creating explosive plays.”
Starkel was appreciative of the opportunity to play on Saturday night admitting it was easier to start the second half than go in late in the second quarter as he did in season opener.
“I didn’t know how long I was going in there,” Starkel said. “I just knew I was going in for that first play and that’s all I was hoping for. I just need a crumb. I just need a crumb. That’s all I’ve been saying.”
Starkel did have the wrong execution on a flea-flicker that was supposed to go to Treylon Burks who would have then passed to Cheyenne O’Grady. Starkel threw to Mike Woods instead.
“You know we take in several specials to every game,” Morris said. “That’s just what you do. When they work you look great, you look like a hero. Whey they don’t, then it goes completely the other way. The ball was supposed to go to the right, to Treylon.
“But again, some of the things that … you’re going to make mistakes. Nick threw the ball to the left, to Mike Woods. And as you can see, C.J. was never even looking on that side. That ball has never gone to the left on that case to Mike. So it was a mistake. We made a mistake on it. If it goes to the right, CJ’s wide open running down the field, you know, and we’re talking about something totally different right now.”
Starkel also threw a touchdown pass to Trey Knox that got called back due to ineligible receiver down the field.
“We did cover up a receiver,” Morris said. “It was just a simple trey formation for us and Treylon Burks lined up on the line of scrimmage. We’ve lined up in that formation 1,000 times, and he made a mistake. Again, that’s going to happen sometimes with some of these young guys. But again, that was a big play in the game. That was one of the three costly penalties that we had right there.”
Starkel was sacked once in the Ole Miss game while Hicks suffered two. It seemed the pass protection was better with Starkel in there, but did Morris see that too?
“I thought the ball came out of his hand quick, which helped the pass protection up front,” Morris said. “We did let him get hit after the ball was released too much. We have to keep him clean, especially in the fourth quarter. There was the one sack that he did not have a chance to get the ball out and throw it away. The one thing I did see, the ball came out of his hand quick. I thought, at that point, you kind of saw Ole Miss back off a little bit and give us some underneath stuff and loosen some things up.”
Morris was asked how Hicks and Starkel reacted when informed of the decision in the change?
“Well, like professionals,” Morris said. “I talked to Ben and just shared with him that it wasn’t, again…it’d be a whole lot easier for me to tell Ben that if he’s thrown three or four interceptions, and it wasn’t. It wasn’t so much what he did or didn’t do, it’s just what Nick did and provided that spark. That was the message.”