Following a 34-27 loss to a winless Colorado State team on Saturday night the Arkansas fans are mad. It’s understandable, but it’s not really just that simple.
The general feeling of fans is they are tired of bad football. This program has been on a slide since the firing of Bobby Petrino. The best record since 2011 is 8-5 in 2015 under Bret Bielema. But even that team suffered a 16-12 loss to Toledo in Little Rock and then was pounded by Texas Tech 35-24 the following week in Fayetteville. The 2011 season was also the last time this team has beaten Texas A&M.
So it’s easy to see why fans are frustrated, but there’s one thing to remember. Chad Morris wasn’t the coach from 2012-2017. I saw several predictions from fans that ranged from 8-10 wins for this team. That was expecting a lot from a 33-42 football program the past six years.
Is that an excuse for blowing a 27-9 lead to Colorado State? Absolutely not. A reasonable expectation for this team was six wins and that included beating a Colorado State team in Fort Collins. Arkansas should have won that game so don’t take this as an excuse, it’s not.
The point of this column is to say while it’s understandable that fans are tired of seeing bad football. The thought that Morris, or any coach, was going to be hired and fix all the issues with this team this season aren’t reasonable.
I didn’t like the idea of punting on fourth and inches to start the fourth quarter. The defense had just surrendered a seven-play, 70-yard drive to the Rams that pulled them within 27-17. Arkansas had been moving the Rams off the ball on running plays for most of the night.
In fairness to Morris, if they go for it and don’t make it then Colorado State gets a short field. Even if Arkansas goes for it and makes the first down, there’s no guarantee they continue down the field and score. The biggest reason I would have gone for it is to give the defense some additional rest time.
But even at that when you pin a team at their own 4-yard line you can’t let them drive 96 yards on you. The Hogs simply didn’t play winning football in the final 22 minutes of the game on either side of the ball.
Of the two quarterbacks who have played, Ty Storey gives them the best chance to run the type of offense that Morris and Joe Craddock want. But you can’t throw two interceptions and behind receivers like Storey did in the first half and expect to win many games. Despite not passing well, Storey led the team to 15 first downs in the first half. They finished the game with 24.
Storey also had a 17-yard run on a third-and-four play at his own 26 in the second quarter. The drive ended with a field goal by Connor Limpert. The drive took 4:07 off the clock allowing the defense to get some rest.
The Rams had 99 yards of total offense in the first half and 330 yards in the second half. Despite not being on his game passing, Storey still moved the sticks in the first half. Once again, his play was far from perfect and I agree with Morris giving Cole Kelley the start in the second half. Once the offense got stagnant though I am not so sure I wouldn’t have gone back to Storey in the fourth quarter. But there’s no guarantee the outcome would have been any different had Morris done that.
Back to the original thought, while one gets the fans are tired of seeing losing football, it does no good to not support the team. Morris deserves the chance to get his type players in here and see what he can do. The way to get out of this hole is to recruit better and to the style of offense he wants to use here.
While if Storey and Kelley don’t get it done in the coming weeks, he may go to one of the younger quarterbacks, but they are going to need help too. The wide receivers and running backs dropped some passes from both Storey and Kelley that have to be caught. I am from the old school that if a wide receiver touches it he should catch it. Every pass isn’t going to be on the numbers. But if a pass hits you in the shoulder pads or facemask then you should have caught it.
Everything considered, the offensive line didn’t play bad in the game. They gave up one sack and that was in the fourth quarter. On that play, Arkansas has a third-and-four at its own 36 with the game tied at 27. Kelley rolled to his right and was sacked for a 12-yard loss. He had a receiver who was streaking down the field. You simply can’t take a sack in that situation. It’s third down. Throw the ball deep to the wide receiver. If he catches it great, but even if he doesn’t there’s a chance for pass interference to be called. Also, even if it is intercepted it’s not much different than a punt. If it’s incomplete, then you have a fourth-and-four at your own 36 not the 24.
North Texas comes to Fayetteville this weekend. They have one of the best quarterbacks in the nation not many know about. Mason Fine is a big-time quarterback. The Hogs will be challenged to the max this weekend and they need fans in the stands. While this reporter would never tell someone who has paid for tickets you should use them, but I will say if you aren’t going to use them then give them to someone who will.
Morris has coached two games at Arkansas and for anyone to give up on him this early considering the shape of the program the past six years is just unreasonable. Once again, Morris wasn’t the coach here the past six years so the blame for that part of Arkansas Football can’t be put on him.
He brought a new offense and defense to Arkansas and deserves the chance to right the ship. Two years isn’t enough to know what he can do, much less two games.