November 17, 2019

Paul Bowen

blood, dirt & angels Sports Editor Emeritus

The search is on for a new head football coach at Fayetteville two years after the last coach got cashiered along with the Athletic Director.  Chad Morris was by all accounts a nice man.  And nobody wants to see nice people get fired.  I don’t pretend to be an expert by any means, which makes my opinion just as valuable as the average listener to sports media.  But a couple, maybe three things, spoke out to me about the team under Morris.  Let me put this out there.

  • The first Red-White game:  Morris was touted as a board certified offensive genius when he was hired.  He promised the fans a wide open offense instead of Brett Bielema’s road grader approach to football.  “Left lane. Hammer down.” Remember? And so I tuned in to the Red-White expecting to see the ball get slung all over the place with the players hustling to the line of scrimmage to beat the defense to the snap.

What I saw was, well, chaos.  And not in the service of high octane offensive football.  Granted, they were playing the damn game during a late spring ice storm.  But still, it looked like to me that nobody was in charge down there on the field.  Little did I know how prophetic that feeling would turn out to be.  Left lane hammer down huh?  Little did I fully know that this icy scrimmage would portend “Right lane, blowing smoke and headed for the ditch.”

  • “Fair catch! Just kidding!”:  Everybody remembers that one.  A player for North Texas fielded a punt and just stood there.  Like he had called for a fair catch.  Only he had not and as the Razorback’s punting unit started to leave the field the admittedly ballsy kid for North Texas ran it in for a TD.  

They say that there is no such thing as bad publicity.  This is not true.  The last thing Hunter Yurachek needed to see on ESPN and all of the other sports shows was the Razorbacks look like idiots on a nationwide basis.  

I have seen a lot of football in my day.  I have never seen anybody even attempt such a trick play.  I suspect mainly this is because if the punting team is well coached in, nay has a passing familiarity with the Rules of Football, the fake punt return play will not only just not work but it may get your receiver killed.  Evidently North Texas saw something in the scouting reports that led them to believe that this would work.  

Again, I’ve never seen anybody try this.  Not to put too fine a point on it but nobody even tried this against John L. Smith.  I rest my case.

  • Western Kentucky:  Me, and everybody else knew Morris would be shown the door if he lost this game.  First of all the Hilltoppers play football in a smaller division and had sustained one loss to the University of Central Arkansas Bears.  Secondly, they were going to be quarterbacked by a young man named Ty Storey who left Arkansas in search of more playing time.  Finally, even Morris knew he would be fired if he lost this game because his boss basically told him so.

Naturally, Ty looked like Tom Brady against the inept Hog defense and the Hogs got clobbered at home by a team Vanderbilt would never have lost to.

While this was bad enough it’s what happened after the game that struck me.  Numerous Arkansas players hung around after the game to visit their former teammate.  Ain’t nothing wrong with that.  But the laughing and joking demeanor of the players down there on the field seemed to be the emotions of kids that no longer cared.  Or worse, were congratulating Ty on making the Head Man look like a fool.  

It is said that Morris had “lost the clubhouse.”  I think the aftermath of the Western Kentucky game was proof of that.

So Arkansas is looking for its 2nd head coach in 2 years.  I think the first bullet point for negotiations with any new prospect might “Falling for the fake punt return is grounds for termination for cause.”    

Sometimes you have to belabor the obvious.  

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