BATON ROUGE -- The University of Arkansas must pull off the biggest upset in school history tonight to avoid a historic lowlight.
The Razorbacks (2-8, 0-6 SEC) enter today's 6 p.m. Battle for the Golden Boot against No. 1 LSU (10-0, 6-0 SEC) at Tiger Stadium as a 43.5-point underdog, the largest-known spread Arkansas ever has faced.
The Arkansas Razorbacks have lost 17 consecutive SEC games for the second time in the past decade. Here’s a game-by-game rundown of the streak, which would reach a school-record 18 in a row if the Razorbacks lose at No. 1 LSU today
Nov. 11, 2017;at No. 24 LSU;33-10;Tied 7-7 at halftime. Chark, Guice combine for 5 TDs.
Nov. 18, 2017;No. 16 Miss. State;28-21;Hogs led 14-0.
Nov. 24, 2017;Missouri;48-45;Hogs led 21-7. Bielema fired immediately after loss.
Sept. 22, 2018;at No. 7 Auburn;34-3;Special-teams disaster. Hogs led total yardage 290-225.
Sept. 29, 2018;Texas A&M;24-17;Storey intercepted at Aggies’ 26 on late drive.
Oct. 6, 2018;No. 1 Alabama;65-31;Tua throws 4 TDs, Tide outgain Hogs 639-405.
Oct. 13, 2018;Ole Miss;37-33;Hogs led 27-10. Rebels drive 97 yards for TD with 0:42 left.
Oct. 27, 2018;Vanderbilt;45-31;Hogs led 7-0. Vaughn scores 3 TDs.
Nov. 10, 2018;No. 13 LSU;24-17;O’Grady gets 2 4th-quarter TDs. LSU led 359-216 in yardage.
Nov. 17, 2018;at No. 24 Miss. State;Fitzgerald accounts for 5 TDs.
Nov. 23, 2018;at Missouri;38-0;Lock accounts for 4 TDs.
Sept. 7, 2019;at Ole Miss;31-17;Phillips 2 TD runs, 143 rushing yards.
Sept. 28, 2019;No. 23 Texas A&M;31-27;Hogs had 2 leads, stall in red zone late in game.
Oct. 12, 2019;at Kentucky;24-20;Hogs lose 13-0 lead. Bowden accounts for 274 yards, 3 TDs.
Oct. 19, 2019;No. 11 Auburn;51-10;Tigers led 298-52 in rushing, 491-234 in total yards.
Oct. 26, 2019;at No. 1 Alabama;48-7;Jones 3 TD passes, Harris 2 TD runs.
Nov. 2, 2019;Miss. State;54-24;Third straight loss by 30-plus. Bulldogs win 640-285 in total offense.
A loss would send the spiraling Razorbacks to their 18th consecutive SEC defeat, the longest conference losing streak in school history by one game.
The Razorbacks snapped a 17-game SEC skid with a 17-0 victory over No. 17 LSU on a cold, wet evening at Reynolds Razorback Stadium on Nov. 15, 2014. That Arkansas team, under second-year coach Bret Bielema, was on its way up as it went on to slam No. 8 Ole Miss 30-0 the next week.
That was then. This is now.
Former Arkansas quarterback Barry Lunney Jr. took the interim head coach title Nov. 10, giving him and the staff two weeks to try to restore confidence and pride into the program as Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek searches for a full-time replacement for the fired Chad Morris.
"It's been tough, sure," Lunney said. "It's very tough. It's a tough game. It's a grind. And a lot of work goes into each week in preparation, six days worth of it."
Lunney has taken advice from numerous mentors in the business, including his father Barry Lunney Sr., who won six state championships as a high school coach. Turner Gill, Bobby Allen and Ron Cooper have helped from the current staff, and Joe Kines -- the Hogs' interim head coach in Lunney's freshman season of 1992 -- also has offered words of encouragement.
"I learned and I saw firsthand what it looked like for a guy that was appointed as an interim coach to come in and to right the ship and to breathe life into our football players," Lunney said of Kines.
Kines took over one game into the Razorbacks' inaugural season in the SEC and engineered a 25-24 upset at No. 4 Tennessee in the midst of a 3-7-1 season.
Lunney inherited a team that has lost seven games in a row, beginning with a shocking 31-24 home upset against San Jose State and ending with a 45-19 defeat to Western Kentucky on senior day, which resulted in Morris being fired Nov. 10 with a 4-18 record in less than two seasons.
Lunney has preached positivity and pride against massive odds today. LSU averages 47.8 points and 556 yards per game behind Heisman Trophy front-runner Joe Burrows.
LSU Coach Ed Orgeron was reminded of his team's 24-17 victory at Arkansas last year as a big favorite.
"Don't underestimate them," Orgeron said was the lesson coming out of that game. "They always play well against LSU. We have to play our best game.
"We still have to play 60 minutes at the LSU standard of performance, and we haven't done that yet. Hopefully we can do that this week."
While the Arkansas players were off-limits for media interviews this week, seniors T.J. Smith and Hayden Johnson appeared on the radio show On the Air with Barry Lunney Jr. on Wednesday.
"Obviously, it's tough losing your head coach," the defensive tackle Smith told Chuck Barrett on the show. "All I can say is I love Coach Morris. It's tough to lose him. Coach Lunney has done a great job coming in and just revamping the energy with this football team and just making everybody feel at home and feel better."
Johnson, a tight end from Columbia, Mo., pointed out the side effects of the rough stretch.
"It's obviously tough losing your head coach," Johnson said on the show. "Me and T.J. and some of the other guys in the locker room, we've been through it before.
"You really just have to come together as a team and be like, 'We're going to get behind this new coach, whoever it may be.' Coach Lunney, he's big on relationships. He's been building those with everyone in that locker room for however long they've been here. ... We gave him a standing ovation. We're all behind him. We wouldn't want anyone else to have the job right now."
Arkansas has lost 10 consecutive "trophy" games against LSU, Texas A&M and Missouri, dating to a 28-3 victory over Missouri in the Battle Line rivalry on Nov. 27, 2015.
Morris lost all 14 of his SEC games, while Bielema dropped his final three.
The Razorbacks' last conference victory was one for the record books. They overcame their largest deficit ever -- 24 points -- in a 38-37 victory at Ole Miss on Connor Limpert's 34-yard field goal in the closing seconds on Oct. 28, 2017.
Lunney was on staff when fans rushed the field to celebrate their shutout victory over LSU to end the long SEC losing streak in 2014. The Razorbacks went on to win seven of their next 10 conference games.
"This is the second time I've seen [a 17-game SEC losing streak], and I've seen us break through that and on the other side become greater," Lunney said. "I believe this. I believe just beyond, just on the other side of your greatest obstacle, is a great breakthrough."
The Hogs' current 17-game SEC losing streak has come against stiff competition. Nine of the losses have come against teams ranked in the Top 25 of The Associated Press poll or the College Football Playoff rankings.
Eight of the losses have come at home, seven on the road and two against Texas A&M in Arlington, Texas.
The streak could have been snapped on several occasions. Arkansas led in six of the games, and led by double figures in four of them.
Perhaps the most deflating loss was a 37-33 setback on a rainy day in Little Rock on Oct. 13, 2018.
The Razorbacks led 27-10 late in the second quarter. Rakeem Boyd had a 69-yard touchdown during Arkansas' 17-point first quarter and piled up 109 yards on seven carries. But Boyd, second-team tailback Devwah Whaley and quarterback Ty Storey were all injured during the game and unavailable as the Rebels finished on a 27-6 run.
Quarterback Jordan Ta'amu directed a 97-yard touchdown drive in seven plays, with Scottie Phillips scoring the go-ahead touchdown on a 5-yard run with 42 seconds left.
The Razorbacks' 24-20 loss at Kentucky on Oct. 12 signaled the beginning of the end for Morris.
Boyd had a 74-yard touchdown run on the second snap. Arkansas dominated early but instead of building a formidable lead, the Razorbacks had just a 13-0 advantage, which Kentucky trimmed to 13-7 on receiver-turned-quarterback Lynn Bowden's 3-yard touchdown run with 55 seconds left in the half.
Morris elected to sit on the ball to end the half, a signal that the left lane, hammer-down style he espoused upon his hiring was running on fumes.
Losing in the SEC
The SEC’s longest losing streaks in football:
37 Sewanee 1933-40
33 Vanderbilt 1976-81
23 Vanderbilt 2000-03
22 Vanderbilt 1995-98
21 Miss. State 1965-68
18 South Carolina 1997-99
17* Arkansas 2017-19
17 Arkansas 2012-14
17 Kentucky 2012-14
17 Kentucky 1969-71
16 Ole Miss 2010-12
ARKANSAS AT NO. 1 LSU
WHEN 6 p.m.
WHERE Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge
RECORDS Arkansas 2-8, 0-6 SEC; LSU 10-0, 6-0
LINE LSU by 431/2
COACHES Barry Lunney Jr. (0-0 in first game as interim coach at Arkansas); Ed Orgeron (35-9 in third season at LSU, 51-36 in eighth season overall)
RADIO Razorback Sports Network
Arkansas junior running back Rakeem Boyd (center) is consoled after the Razorbacks’ loss at Kentucky on Oct. 12. Boyd has emerged as one of the SEC’s top backs, but the Razorbacks have never won an SEC game during his two seasons.
Sports on 11/23/2019
Print Headline: SEC wasteland