EDITOR'S NOTE: The Sentinel-Record will follow up with a head football coach of a local high school after each regular season game this season for the Arkansas Razorbacks. The second installment features Cary Rogers, head coach of the Centerpoint Knights.
The Arkansas Razorbacks built up a 27-9 lead over the Colorado State Rams midway through the third quarter Saturday in Fort Collins, Colo., but 25 unanswered points in the final 18 minutes of the game gave the hosts their first win over a Southeastern Conference team since 1992.
It was the 14th time since the start of the 2012 season Arkansas (1-1) lost after leading by 10 or more points in a game. Colorado State (1-2), a member of the Mountain West Conference, last beat an SEC team in September of 1992, winning 17-14 at LSU.
"I'm in the getting-second-guessed business, so I try not to do too much," said Centerpoint head football coach Cary Rogers. "I thought when they were in control there in the second quarter and the start of the third quarter when they stretched the lead out to 27-9, it looked like you expected.
"It looked like an SEC team playing a Mountain West team. They were just lining up and rolling over them, basically. I know they ended up throwing for two touchdown passes, but the basis of it for that quarter and a half or so was just running all over them."
The Razorbacks had 217 rushing yards in the first half, including 80 yards on 13 carries from junior Devwah Whaley in the first half.
"It was premised on running the football," Rogers said. "When it seemed to go south and they lost control of the game, it seemed to hinge on a couple of things. They weren't as effective running the ball or they did not try to run the ball as much. Then, they got exposed, as they have for a few years, in pass defense.
"Hopefully, that will get better, but, of course, that is a Mountain West strength through the years. You have to be prepared for that. I felt like when it was, 27-9, it seemed like we could have run the ball on them through the end of the game and at least trade touchdowns."
The running game flourished as the offensive line fared much better than it did the week prior when Arkansas ran for just 80 yards on 36 attempts in a 55-20 win against Eastern Illinois in Fayetteville. Rogers said the coaching staff likely challenged the line and the running backs in practice.
"It is known as a different style of football," Rogers said. "You've got SEC football versus the Mountain West, which has always been known for throwing the ball around and wide open offenses. I think it was a combination on us focusing more on it and they do not see it week in and week out, so they are not as prepared to handle it."
Arkansas led, 27-17, at the start of the fourth quarter with a fourth-and-one situation at midfield. Head coach Chad Morris opted to punt instead of going for the first down with an offense averaging more than five yards per carry.
"I have no doubts that we are going to get better and he knows what he is doing," Rogers said. "From a high school perspective, the whole fourth-and-a-foot at midfield and punting the ball was odd, or it was against most high school coaches' notions.
"Of course, it is a different brand of football, but given how we had run the ball, I would have liked to see them line up and take a shot at finishing them off."
Momentum shifted midway through the third quarter. A punt return by Deon Stewart set up Arkansas in Colorado State territory, but the Razorbacks were unable to add any points.
"You go in with a game plan thinking you can do this or that," Rogers said. "Midway through the third quarter, Colorado State started getting some extra people up and started coming with corner blitzes to try to get extra people up to stop the running game.
"It is not like they were not making adjustments. I am sure the Arkansas staff felt like they were running the ball on them, now they are bringing in an extra man and they stopped us a play or two. So, they started throwing the ball a little bit."
Cole Kelley was 2-for-2 for 89 yards and two touchdowns on his first two passes after taking over in the second half for starter Ty Storey. Kelley was 4-for-7 for just 13 yards through the rest of the game.
"Give Colorado State some credit," Rogers said. "They changed and did not keep doing the same things that let Arkansas run all over them. I think what happens from a coach's standpoint is you know you have been running on them, you see them dedicating more people to the run and you think, 'Okay, now we can throw on them.'
"That is kind of Chad Morris' M.O. We are going to spread out, but we are going to run it until you get enough up there and, then, we are going to throw it. Really, it was a big portion of what he has said he has done as an offensive coordinator. The formula was there."
Arkansas led Colorado State, 15-6, in first downs in the opening half, but the Rams led the Razorbacks, 15-9, in the second half. The Hogs were 4-for-10 on third downs in the first two quarters, but only 1-for-5 in the second half.
"Hindsight is 20/20 and, looking back, we should have kept running it, but the other side of that is the formula that got Chad Morris the Arkansas job was in place," Rogers said. "He ran the ball until they were going to stop it. It is hard to fault him for doing what he has always done and that got him the job."
Colorado State's offense heated up in the third quarter. The Rams were only 2-for-8 on third downs in the first half, but they converted on 4 of 7 third downs in the second half.
"It did seem like they started to lengthen the field," Rogers said. "It seems like they threw downfield more. Then, they started running some crossing routes. It seemed like they were getting a lot of throws around 15-20 yards deep or so toward the middle of the field. That seemed to be a difference."
Arkansas was unable to pressure Colorado State quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels in the second half.
"You always get nervous about quick scores," Rogers said. "You don't want to give those up. When they started to air some out, everybody wants to play a little deeper."
"For an 0-2 team, they could have easily packed it in at 27-9," Rogers added. "They kept fighting."
The loss led to unexpected pressure on Morris in just his second game with Arkansas.
"Everybody is going to be antsy and coach Morris is used to that," Rogers said. "That is the nature of the beast in college coaching. I think the takeaway is keep working on the basics of what you want to accomplish. I think the formula was there.
"I don't think there is any need for them to deviate. I think he knows what he is doing. You have to preach the same things you do at any level -- finishing, not getting complacent. Maybe there was some complacency on the players' part. We see it in high school. You are always ready to get a big lead and you tend to let off the pedal a little bit."
Rogers said the performance that produced the 27-9 lead included some positives for the team moving forward.
"I think you will see them continue to expand," Rogers said. "You've got new coaches, new coordinator and I think they are still feeling that out and getting the basics in. Based on his history and John Chavis' history, I expect the Hogs to get better every week and we will be a good SEC football team in a couple of years.
"It is obviously not there yet. Good SEC teams do not lose to 0-2 Mountain West teams. People just have to be patient. If the cupboard was full, there would not have been a coaching change. You have to have a little patience."
Sports on 09/11/2018
Print Headline: Coach's Corner: Arkansas at Colorado State