By Nate Allen
Special to the News-Times
FAYETTEVILLE - From his 2017 postseason December start, Chad Morris said he started stressing that the Razorbacks must finish.
Yet it seems for finishing that Arkansas' new coach still starts from scratch.
Just like the Razorbacks of former coach Bret Bielema failing to finish the 24-7 and 24-0 halftime leads losing 28-24 and 35-24 at Missouri and Virginia Tech in the Belk Bowl closing the 2016 season and losing 14-0 and 28-14 leads in 28-21 and 48-45 losses to Mississippi State and Missouri in Fayetteville that closed Bielema's tenure in 2017, Morris saw the Razorbacks fail to finish what they started.
At Fort Collins, Colo., last Saturday, Arkansas led Colorado State 27-9 midway through the third quarter.
Colorado State won 34-27.
The Rams scored the game-winning touchdown with eight seconds left.
"We always talk about it's all about the finish," Morris said at his Monday press conference leading into 1-1 Arkansas' game week hosting 2-0 North Texas in Saturday's 3 p.m. non-conference game at Reynolds Razorback Stadium. "That's what we train for, these moments, these opportunities. We'll continue to stress that. I know it's been a main focal point for us since coming here. It's all about the finish."
Whatever problems these Razorbacks had finishing before, they are his problems now, Morris asserted.
"It starts with accountability," Morris said. "I'm the head football coach. It's on me to fix."
From handling being ahead to handling the opposition coming back, the fixing works both ways, Morris said.
"Our inability to deal both with success and adversity in that ballgame was disappointing," Morris said. "Dealing with success is just as important as how you deal with adversity."
Morris didn't wait Monday to be asked as he was after Saturday's postgame about his decision to start the fourth quarter punting on fourth-and-inches from the 50 with his Razorbacks leading 27-17 and Colorado State's appearing helpless against Arkansas' running game.
Freshman punter Reid Bauer, helped by a CSU penalty, punted the Rams back to their 4, but CSU launched a 96-yard game-tying touchdown drive.
"I chose not to go for it on fourth down to start the fourth quarter," Morris said Monday.
"I felt at that time, and they were, that the (Arkansas) defense was playing well. And I thought the only way we could give them any momentum and get them back in this game was to give them a shorter field and get the crowd back in it. We did our job and got the ball down to the 4-yard line."
Even with the Rams tying it 27-27 on a field goal, his Hogs had a go-ahead chance, Morris said.
"We had 5:17 on the clock and the game tied we had the ball in our hands," Morris said. "And we had to punt it right back. We'll correct the bad and build on the good."
Much of the bad has been noted.
The good includes running up 299 yards rushing after netting but 80 yards rushing in the previous week's 55-20 victory over lower division (FCS) Eastern Illinois.
Junior running back Devwah Whaley set a personal best with 165 yards on 26 carries against Colorado State.
"Offensively, our player of the game was Devwah Whaley," Morris said. "He had a career night. I was glad to see Noah Gatlin (the freshman from Jonesboro) start at left tackle and played all snaps for us and did a really good job."
Gatlin started because 2017 starting left tackle Colton Jackson of Conway has been idled by July back surgery, though Morris said he might be ready to play this week and should be ready for the Sept. 22 SEC opener at Auburn.
Redshirt freshman Shane Clenin started against Eastern Illinois but missed the Colorado State game with an ankle injury. Clenin returns to practice this week and is considered "either or" with Gatlin as Saturday's starting left tackle against North Texas.
"Either or" also categorizes whether junior Ty Storey or sophomore Cole Kelley starts at quarterback.
Kelley started against Eastern Illinois, but Storey fared better off the bench.
Kelley fared better in the third quarter at Fort Collins, relieving Storey who played the entire first half.
Arkansas established little offensively in Saturday's fourth quarter.
Defensively, Morris Monday most cited D-linemen McTelvin "Sosa" Agim, the junior from Hope, and senior Armon Watts for their performances against Colorado State.
"Both are playing extremely well and being very disruptive," Morris said.
Morris was asked Monday about the North Texas game availability of senior defensive end Randy Ramsey, who still has not played in 2018 because of hamstring issues, and senior linebacker Dre Greenlaw (idled by a sprained ankle since making 10 tackles in the first quarter against Eastern Illinois).
"We hope to have Randy back this week," Morris said Monday.
"He was in green (limited practice) last night and working out a little bit, so we’ll see on that. We expect Dre to be back."