FAYETTEVILLE — Redshirt sophomore quarterback Malik Hornsby provided a spark for Arkansas on Saturday.
Hornsby completed 8 of 17 passes for 234 yards, two interceptions and one touchdown. He also topped Arkansas’ rushing chart with eight carries for 114 yards. The plan to use Hornsby as a wide receiver in addition to quarterback hasn’t gone off as planned. Last week, Sam Pittman announced that Cade Fortin was the backup quarterback instead of Hornsby. However, Hornsby entered the game on Arkansas’ second series and provided spark to the offense.
“Yeah, I talked to Malik again,” Pittman said. “Kind of had a Monday meeting with him last week. He certainly earned that spot on Saturday. I just gave him his choice whether he wanted to stay where he was as the two quarterback now or whether he wanted to move to wideout or if he was interested in moving to corner. Obviously, the team needs some defensive back help.
“He’ll have to explain more than I can with it, but there was a big weight lifted off his back I think with the way he performed. I think he validated what he thought about himself as a quarterback and what the team did. He wants to stay right there and be ready if needed at quarterback and not necessarily do the wide receiver/quarterback and all that stuff and be ready when needed as the No. 2 quarterback.”
Pittman was asked if that meant there wouldn’t be different packages for Hornsby?
“No, I don’t think so,” Pittman said. “It didn’t work, it didn’t work for him. I think he wants to be a quarterback, and we were forcing a little bit into needs. I think we felt like our needs were a little bit more at wide receiver than what they may be. He wants to be a quarterback and that’s where we’re going to play him. I think because, even at practice, we took him away from that, and I don’t think it helped him at practice. I think he can become what we all think he can be at quarterback if we just leave him there. I gave him that choice and that’s what he chose, and honestly I was happy he did.”
Defensive back Myles Slusher didn’t make the trip to Starkville after being injured against Alabama. In addition, Jayden and Khari Johnson both went down with injuries against the Bulldogs. Pittman was asked if he was optimistic getting Slusher back for BYU?
“Oh, man,” Pittman said. “I had a talk with him this morning, as well. I mean, I thought he would be a little bit further along yesterday, to be perfectly honest with you, than what he was. So I don’t know.”
Pittman was asked if he had any update on the Johnsons?
“I don’t,” Pittman said. “Well, I don’t know that Khari will be available. Jayden could be. We’re not going to practice him today. Khari probably not. Jayden, I don’t know. We’re holding him today.”
Pittman also provided an update on quarterback KJ Jefferson who was withheld from the Mississippi State game.
“Yes, it’s a normal week,” Pittman said. “He can’t get hit today would be that protocol, but he never gets hit in practice, so he can go ahead and do his full thing today.”
Slow Starts Concerning
Arkansas fell behind Alabama 28-0 before scoring and then this past week they also trailed 21-0 before scoring. Arkansas got off to a fast start against Texas A&M, but also started slowly against Missouri State being down 17-0. How concerning are these slow starts?
“We focused it last week, too, it just didn’t work,” Pittman said. “I appreciate the question, I do, because it is a concern to us. It might be even to a taking the ball if we win the coin toss. We’re such a defer team because I like having the ball coming out of the third quarter, but the bottom line is I think we have to do a better job offensively, on having our openers solid, concrete, practice them over and over and over. I know they change a little bit with down and distance, but we have to have our 10 plays in there that we’re going to run. And depending on down and distance, get our kids to believe in those plays. We have to execute, I get it. And we do that, but I think we have to make a stronger concentrated effort on that.
“Defensively, we just have to make plays. Last week was a little bit different because we kicked the ball out of bounds, had a 15-yard penalty on a back of the helmet penalty. We hurt ourselves. We’ve obviously got to be better at details as a staff, and that’s myself. But yes, to answer your question, we have to get out – we can’t go into halftime down, one week 21, and last week, whatever it was, 11. We just can’t. We’ve got to start faster.”
Arkansas will take on BYU on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and televised on ESPN. Both teams have spent much of the season ranked, but each fell out of the polls following weekend losses. BYU fell to Notre Dame. They are 4-2 while the Hogs are 3-3.