FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas has lost senior defensive end Dorian Gerald for the season.
Chad Morris talked about Gerald’s injury on Saturday that landed the defender in the hospital.
“Dorian Gerald strained an artery in his neck in the second quarter,” Morris said. “Very strange injury. He’ll be on blood thinner and will be out the rest of the year. We hope that he’ll be released from the hospital tomorrow. Late tonight or tomorrow.
“We spent some time there Saturday night and Sunday in the hospital with Dorian and his family. Credit Dave (Polanski) and our training staff and our doctors for being spot on and on point with everything.”
Gerald finished Saturday’s game with one tackle and a pass breakup. He only played the first half.
Morris was asked if he could tell when and how the injury happened?
“No, not really,” Morris said. “There was nothing that showed up as far as a hit whether it be a concussion type, there was none of that. It could have been as easy as you neck getting strained in a certain way. We don’t know. It just kind of puzzled us all. It was very frightening. But it was very strange.”
Is this an injury where his career could be finished?
“I think we’re a little early for that,” Morris said. “I think it will not be something we’ll know for quite some time. I think that we’re several months away from knowing that as tests will continue to be run. He does have a redshirt opportunity, and we’ll definitely exercise that.”
John Chavis also talked about Gerald’s injury.
“You really feel for Dorian,” Chavis said. “He has prepared hard in the offseason. That won’t go to waste. He’ll have an opportunity to redshirt and be even better next year. Hey it happens. In this game you get injuries and you’ve got to get people ready.”
“That’s why in the fourth period we played a lot of young people. If we sit there and don’t get them in the game, and then all of a sudden we have to get them in the game and they haven’t been there it’s gonna be different for them. We have talked even back in the spring about building depth and that’s obviously a part of it. You don’t like to lose anybody, but we’ve got to get the next guys up ready to go.”
It appears now that senior defensive end Jamario Bell will get the start on Saturday. If he indeed starts it will be his first career start following Saturday’s game where Bell finished with one tackle, 0.5 sack, 0.5 tackle for loss and a quarterback hurry.
“He did fine,” Chavis said. “Nobody played perfect, but he did a good job for us. We had some young kids in there that did as well. We’ve got to prepare them all, but yeah he did a good job for us.
“Yeah I would think so (start the Ole Miss game), maybe. I say maybe, but he was certainly he was the next guy up in the game and I don’t think that will change.”
Offense Struggled Finishing Drives
The offense had it moments against Portland State. The Hogs rushed for 204 yards and two touchdowns while passing for 191 yards, but only managed 20 points.
Morris talked about the offense’s performance against the Vikings.
“Offensively, we had 11 possessions and we had four 10-play drives or more, which was really good,” Morris said. “We had four drops and of those four drops, two were key third-down drops where we had momentum and we were moving the ball down the field and to have two drops on third down was tough. Our focus for game one was executing our base offense and running the football.
“We were very basic by design, for a few reasons. One of those being week one and a lot of unknowns. And two was some of the scheme and the way that they aligned, there was some uncertainty and some of the things, how they’d play us on the back end of things. So by design we were vanilla, especially knowing we were going into a conference opener this next week. So we had a chance to pull away and get a little bit more of a comfortable lead in the first half, right before half and come away with points. Had a chance to get 10 points if not 14 points, two touchdowns in less than two minutes and we came up with none. We got down in the red zone and had an interception on a ball that I know Nick (Starkel) wishes he had back. And we mismanaged the clock. I took full responsibility for that after the game. We’ll get that cleared up.”
Joe Craddock echoed what Morris said about the offense.
“One of the biggest things we look back on is we had some good drives. We were moving the ball successfully,” Craddock said. “It’s been, the finish. We’ve got to learn to finish the drive. And I don’t think we did a very good job with that.
“I know without taking a knee at the end we had 11 possessions and we moved the ball about seven plays, averaging seven plays a drive. So that shows me we’re moving the ball. We’ve just got to learn how to finish when we get down in there. That’s what I told our guys yesterday. We’ve got to learn how to finish. We’ve been talking about that for a while. It’s just something we’ve got to keep harping on. Something we’ve got to go do.”
Craddock talked about how the quarterbacks graded out in the game and the overall play of Starkel and Ben Hicks.
“The quarterback evaluations, both graded out OK,” Craddock said. “The biggest things that hurt there grade was not carrying out their fakes enough. We knew going into the game that Portland State would have an extra hitter in the box and we would have to do some things to try and make them miss a couple of times or a quarterback carrying out his fake trying to hold that guy a little bit. I think both of them could do a better job with them. Carrying out their fakes was the biggest technique issue. They lost points on their grades for that. Missed assignments. there were a couple of those, not many. Just a couple of small things we can get cleaned up per game plan type stuff.
“I don’t think Nick did anything to overtake Ben. I think if he goes in and throws a touchdown over the top instead of an interception we may be talking something different. I think Ben played good. He protected the football and managed the game. Obviously he missed a couple of throws. You are never going to play perfect no matter who’s the quarterback. Whether it’s Joe Montana or Bret Favre, you are not going to play perfect.”
“It’s just about hitting the balls that are there. I know there were a couple of balls that Ben would like back. I counted about five drops and about three throwaways. So you take that away from his stat line the you guys look at, he’s up there in that 66 range of completions. The three throwaways, I’ve got to call a better play. The five drops, we’ve got to make those plays. We’ve got to execute and be more sharper and execute those plays and we’ll be OK. It was the first game for everybody. I made mistakes, they made mistakes. It’s what it’s all about, getting better. That’s what we’re going to focus on this week. Getting better and getting ready to go play.”
Arkansas will practice on Tuesday. They face Ole Miss on Saturday night in Oxford at 6:30 p.m. on the SEC Network.