hotspringssr.com

Wednesday
September 19, 2018

Arkansas is still Arkansas

This article was published September 10, 2018 at 4:00 a.m.

New coach, same Hogs. New setting, same story.

Michigan paid Arkansas $2 million to get out of a home-and-home series to recommence its rivalry with Notre Dame. The Wolverines then lost, 24-17, at Notre Dame on Sept. 1, and still got the better of the deal.

Arkansas fans were subjected to a form of torture Saturday night that could be deemed cruel and unusual punishment. They had to watch the slow, methodical, irrational implosion of a Razorback team with a comfortable lead against an obviously inferior opponent when it was harder to lose than it was to win.

It felt like Virginia Tech. It felt like Missouri. It felt like Toledo. It felt like Rutgers. It felt like Louisiana-Monroe.

It felt like Arkansas.

Arkansas gives away more wins than some programs average total wins per season. Fourth-quarter collapses have become as synonymous with the Razorbacks as the iconic logo itself.

I almost went with "Fear and loathing in Fort Collins," for the headline today, but it is unfathomable how the variables change and, yet, the formula remains the same for the choke artists of the South.

The Razorbacks led, 27-9, after a 64-yard pop pass to junior T.J. Hammonds with 7:28 remaining in the third quarter. Even the commentators noted how significant the collapse would have to be for Arkansas to lose.

That is a death knell for Arkansas.

The Razorbacks led, 24-0, at halftime against Virginia Tech at the Belk Bowl in 2016. They led Missouri, 24-7, at halftime a month earlier.

Arkansas led Texas A&M, 28-14, to start the fourth quarter in 2014. The margin was 28-7 midway through the third quarter against Louisiana-Monroe in 2012.

All were losses for the Hogs. You have to ask the same questions of offensive coordinator Paul Petrino, Jim Chaney, Dan Enos and now Joe Craddock.

Why did you stop running the ball? Why are you stopping the clock with pass plays?

Each crushing collapse requires regression you would not expect from coaches good enough to earn quality wins and build the lead in the first place.

Arkansas ran for 217 rushing yards on 36 attempts for an average of six yards per carry in the first half. The only reason the lead was just 13-9 was the team's continuing struggles in the red zone.

Junior Devwah Whaley had 80 yards on 13 carries on his own in the first half. He finished with 26 carries for 165 yards, but the Hogs ran the ball just 17 times in the second half for 82 yards -- that is an average of 4.8 yards per carry.

And yet Craddock and head coach Chad Morris repeatedly went away from the run on third down and refused to go for it on fourth down, up 27-17 with one yard to gain and, as the commentators repeatedly stated, a 6-7, 258-pound quarterback.

Last week's star, quarterback Ty Storey, set the tone on the first drive. He threw the first of two first-half interceptions, going 5-for-13 in the opening half and clearing the way for Cole Kelley to take over in the second half.

Kelley was credited with two touchdown passes on his first two passing plays, and he was inches away from going 3-for-3 with three touchdowns. The pass was called incomplete, Arkansas failed to score and the game turned on its head.

Then, you have to ask the same questions of defensive coordinator John Chavis as were asked of Paul Haynes, Chris Ash, Robb Smith and Paul Rhoads.

Why not pressure the quarterback? Why are the safeties playing so deep? What makes you think playing on your heels does anything other than usher the other team into the end zone?

The Arkansas defensive line was dominant through the first three quarters. Colorado State accumulated a total of zero yards on the Rams' first 16 rushing attempts. They ran for 40 yards on their last seven carries after the "Chief" went conservative.

Morris' head coaching record is now just 15-23. He was previously 14-0 in his career in which his team led at the half and 10-0 when leading after three quarters.

I named my column, "I Don't Know," because I am willing to admit when I don't know something. I don't know if Morris will find success at Arkansas. I do know he gave more evidence than ever to doubt he will.

I know the loss on Saturday is the kind that loses fans forever. It will take something monumental for Morris to win back some fans who checked out after the latest collapse.

I know its easy to preach hashtags like #HammerDown and #FullTiltBoogie. A rebuilding year has nothing to do with going for it on fourth down with an offense averaging six yards per carry.

I have said before this team has talent. Bret Bielema's biggest failure at Arkansas was failing to identify his best players and maximize their talent.

I said all along if Morris and his staff can just maximize the talent on the roster, they would be successful. Hammonds touched the ball a grand total of four times on Saturday.

Sports on 09/10/2018
comments powered by Disqus