Arkansas led 27-9 midway through the third quarter on Saturday night against Colorado State, but fell 34-27.
Arkansas coach Chad Morris was disappointed in how the team let a big lead slip away.
“Disappointed in the outcome as I mentioned but more disappointed in the process that led to the outcome,” Morris said. “Our inability to deal both with success and adversity in that ballgame was disappointing. I’m the head football coach. It starts with accountability. That’s a big part of our culture. It’s the main pillar of our culture. Accountability – it’s on me. It’s on me to fix. This is an area that we discuss daily at every practice.
“It’s an area that every game as we start the fourth quarter I always call the team up and we always talk about it’s all about the finish. That’s what we train for, these moments, these opportunities. We will continue to address it. We’ll continue to stress that. I know it’s been a main focal point for us since coming here. It’s how we finish. It’s all about the finish.”
Arkansas made two first downs in the final 22 minutes of the game. They snapped the ball eight times in the fourth quarter. At halftime, Arkansas had run 49 plays to 31 for Colorado State. The Rams had 99 yards of total offense in the first half. Colorado State ran 42 plays compared to 26 for Arkansas in the second half and finished with 429 yards of total offense for the game.
The Razorbacks faced a fourth-and-one play to start the fourth quarter. Morris opted to punt and the Rams drove down the field for a 96-yard touchdown.
“I chose not to go for it on fourth down to start the fourth quarter.” Morris said. “I felt at that time, and they were, that the defense was playing well. And I thought the only way we could give them any momentum and get them back in this game was to give them a shorter field and get the crowd back in it. So we chose to punt it. We did our job and got the ball down to the 4-yard line and that’s what we wanted to do.
“Still with all that offensively we had 5:17 on the clock and the game tied we had the ball in our hands. And we had to punt it right back. So we’ll build on the good. We’ll correct the bad and we’ll get better. With 49 snaps in the first half it was disappointing that we could not stay on the field longer in the fourth quarter as we only had eight snaps. I think they had 28 snaps. So the defense spent entirely too much time on the field in the fourth quarter.”
On the play to end the third quarter, Arkansas faced a third-and-seven play with Cole Kelley throwing to La’Michael Pettway. The officials marked the bal inches short of the first down. That led to the decision to punt. Joe Craddock talked about that play and why Pettway was running a route short of the first down.
“On the play to Pettway, that actually is a 10-yard route and he cut it a little short on us,” Craddock said. “To me, I can’t really say a whole lot about the call. I did think, thought, that the ball was caught beyond the chains. I know they reviewed. We looked at it on film and it definitely looked like we caught the ball behind the chains. I know his momentum kind of carried him forward, but the ball looked to me like it passed the chains. But that’s what they called, and we were short and we had to live with it.
“Then later with the ball in our hand to go win the game, we call a play that we’ve been working since we got here. Cover two into the boundary should take our eyes immediately to the field, and we didn’t. We did have Jonathan Nance wide open on the hash there, that I wish Cole would have gotten over there to him. And he didn’t. I think he got a little fooled by the coverage for whatever reason.
“We had Nance right there open for about 8 yards on a third-and-3 or third-and-4 play. He was open for an 8-yard gain and we just couldn’t find him. Like I said, we’ve got to spend more time on that this week, third-and-medium type plays and make sure we shore up those routes and short up those reads and throws and be able to stay on the field on third-and-medium.”
One thing that led to Arkansas losing some games with Bret Bielema was seeing leads disappear in the second half. Morris was asked about that on Monday.
“I think the biggest message there is it’s all about the little things,” Morris said. “It’s the attention to details that when you’re up, how do you handle success? We did not handle success well. We lost our focus. We lost the attention of what got us to that point. The ability to create a sudden change moment, the ability to just come away with any type of points out of that it’s a whole other game. We were one stop and one score away from that thing being over with. When you lose focus and you lose attention to details, that’s the message.
“It’s not going to change. It’s not. It’s the way we address it every day. It’s the way we address it on the field going into the fourth quarter, that it’s all about the finish. It’s how we train. That we train for moments like this, and at some point we’ve got to break this cycle. There’s going to be a moment that we’re going to break it. But it’s there, it’s evident, and we’ve got to break the cycle.
“I don’t know what’s happened in the past, but this on my watch, and this how we approach things. As I shared with you earlier, it’s starts with accountability and it starts with me. Hey, it’s right here on me and I’ll continue to address it every day. I’ll continue to hold the coaches, I’ll continue to hold the kids accountable. And I assure you that we’ll get that fixed.”