FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas senior wide receiver Jared Cornelius was wide open on a short out route during the Hogs’ first play against TCU. The pass from quarterback Austin Allen was on time and on target. It was exactly how Arkansas wanted to start the game, a gain of at least 5 yards and a catch for its top receiver.
Then Cornelius dropped the ball.
The play was a microcosm of the Razorbacks’ entire offensive performance in the 28-7 loss on Sept. 9. Sloppy, ineffective, frustrating and disappointing. Pretty much any undesirable adjective you can think of describes how the Hogs’ offense played, particularly in the passing game.
Those issues will have to be much improved if Arkansas wants any chance at beating Texas A&M this Saturday (11 a.m. CT, ESPN).
“I try to not drop a ball, but it happens,” Cornelius said. “I didn’t want to go out and drop the first ball, of course. But that’s why I put in the practice this week to make sure that never happens again.”
What he’s done since the TCU game is use the bye week to lose 10 pounds and catch 200 balls a day. He’s putting in extra work to make up for lost time.
Cornelius missed nearly all of preseason camp and a good portion of summer workouts with muscle tightness in his back. He played just seven snaps, all in the first half, during the Hogs’ season-opening win against Florida A&M.
“I kind of underestimated how much time and practice it takes to get back in the groove of things,” Cornelius said. “I don’t want to say I rushed into playing a game, but I definitely didn’t take enough time on my own catching balls, running routes and getting the dust off.”
But rather than use the injury as an excuse following the TCU game, Cornelius took ownership of his disappointing performance. He sent a text to coach Bret Bielema, offensive coordinator Dan Enos and wide receivers coach Michael Smith promising his 1-catch-for-2-yards effort, and the overall poor play of the receivers, would never happen again.
“I took the blame for it,” Cornelius said. “The receivers didn’t live up to what we’re supposed to do. We let a lot of people down, let the team down. That’s on me.”
Cornelius is down to 205 pounds this week. That’s a significant drop considering weight has been an issue for him over the past year. He has worked hard to keep it under control in order to maintain his speed and remain healthy. From the sounds of it, the 215 pounds he’d been playing at was too much.
Smith said Tuesday his top pupil hasn’t looked as good as he does now since last season, when he caught 32 passes for 515 yards and 4 touchdowns.
“I wasn’t going to ride him about it, because I know he was as down as anybody else about it,” Smith said. “But Jared Cornelius is fine. He’s going to be fine. I’m not worried about Jared.”