Acknowledging the start time for CBS’s coverage of The Masters, the self-imposed deadline for choosing between fast and fascinating pace of play or fastidious and familiar came and went.
At 2 p.m., more than four minutes remained in the first half of Arkansas’s Red-White game and the wait for a view of the “left lane … hammer down” offense was ongoing.
Based on Chad Morris’s reputation and his promise to pursue the record for number of plays in a spring game, expectations might have been too high. Tuning in, the snap from center was anticipated every “one-thousand-and-three” or “one-thousand-and-four” or so.
Didn’t happen. Often, quarterbacks Ty Storey and Cole Kelley spent time looking to the sideline to get the signal and then repositioning a teammate or two.
More than once, ESPN showed Morris signaling to the offense to speed up.
Following a 17-yard pass completion, viewers were told the situation was ready-made for a go-fast snap. Instead, seconds went by and the same announcer expounded on how this offense didn’t have to go fast, but could.
Before leaving the field for halftime, Morris mentioned the quest to create depth, to check out the second- and third-teamers and then added, “We’ve got to play faster. It has to be faster.”
Confirmation that the pace of play was disappointing was good to hear from the man in charge. So was his post-game quote concerning attitude: “Football is all about one play at a time. I saw some poor body language and we can’t have that. We can’t let one play affect three plays.” Saying something in public announces he will do something in private.
Considering the 12-minute quarters and a continuous clock in the second half, it was surprising that Arkansas snapped the ball 108 times. Throwing only 12 times in the second half helped.
The game was not without some impressive individual plays by athletes in red, particularly those defending the pass. Watching cornerback Ryan Pulley break up three passes and get flagged for questionable interference, it is clear why so much was made of his loss to injury last year.
Reacting to a receiver who had a step, Chevin Calloway turned, found the ball, and knocked away a pass with his right hand, and Kamren Curl broke up another when Kelley was late with the delivery. Both Kelley and Storey, who took the first snaps, missed an open Michael Woods for a touchdown.
Morris said the “some good” … “some bad” quarterback play was a snapshot of the performances of Storey and Kelley during the spring. He contends they might be trying to do too much at times and that they will find the answers if they defer to the system.
Morris has said that he will not choose a No. 1 until August and it is ironic that both quarterbacks threw for 126 yards. Storey completed half of his 14 passes and Kelley was only a tick better on his 19 attempts.
Also, know that praise for the defensive backs is tempered with questions about how many of Arkansas’s receivers have the ability to separate from coverage.
A disappointment last year, the offensive line didn’t exactly knock the defense off the ball when it was ones vs. ones or “good on good” as Morris says.
Defensive ends Randy Ramsey and Jamario Bell had two sacks each among the nine tackles for losses, but that might have been because the offense was restricted and new defensive coordinator John Chavis was given free rein to turn loose his group. In fact, TV viewers were told early on that Arkansas might call only a half-dozen plays the whole afternoon. Of course, when there are three options on many plays, six calls can result in a variety of runs and passes.
When Morris left the field at 2:13 p.m., the telecast was abandoned. Checking back later, the quarterback was redshirt freshman Daulton Hyatt, a free pass to concentrate on The Masters and the first-ever off-course wager with a sibling.
Sports Columnist Harry King can be reached at: email@example.com