Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a past president and member of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
LIKE IT IS:
Hogs need more than just Marshall in West
Arkansas running back Korliss Marshall (33) runs the ball during their spring NCAA college football game, Saturday, April 26, 2014, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Sarah Bentham)
FAYETTEVILLE - Maybe the Arkansas Razorbacks’ Red-White game Saturday was a dress rehearsal for Sept. 6, when they will play Nicholls State in the home opener.
The hope was for 50,000 in attendance, but a liberally reported 30,000 were on hand.
At least the pregame experience in the stadium was much improved over past years, when it seemed all the music was aimed loudly at the students and the donors and season-ticket holders were pretty much ignored.
Saturday’s music was a variety from several decades. No, there was no Motown, but my era is not the demographic that any school is trying to lure into those empty seats. Several generations have been sold on the Arkansas Razorbacks for decades, but only recently has attendance started to slip.
Some of that might be attributed to the product on the field, and more can be traced to the competitive market for high-definition, big-screen televisions that have made them much more affordable. Combine that with every game being televised, no standing in line for the restroom, no $4 bottles of water and no knees sticking in your back, and it is easy to see why most universities all over the country have some concern about more fans staying home.
Those who came Saturday were not just supportive, they were curious. Some are probably still curious, just not about why Korliss Marshall is now a running back instead of a safety. His 59-yard touchdown run was the highlight of the day.
What the crowd lacked in numbers they made up for in enthusiasm. Fans traveled from all over the state to finally get a glimpse of their team, hoping to leave with a little hope that had gone AWOL after last season’s disappointment.
Maybe they got a little, but most likely they weren’t totally reassured. The scrimmage left no doubt there is some talent, just not enough to consider an Auburn-type dream season for 2014.
Brandon Allen had a rough start with an interception on the second play, although it was a deflected pass that was forced a little. It got rougher when his little brother completed two passes and led the Red team to a touchdown when he saw time with the first unit.
On its third possession, the Red team drove 73 yards on seven plays, all on the ground.
Marshall’s first two carries totaled 25 yards and were the first signs of offensive life. Starting tailback Jonathan Williams finished that drive with runs of 16 yards and 4 yards for a touchdown.
Mostly, though, talk radio was helped when true freshman Rafe Peavey completed his first two passes for 13 and 7 yards. In the end, none of the three quarterbacks managed any real separation in the competition.
All in all, it was about what one should expect from an intrasquad game, especially one featuring a team that hasn’t had a real game-breaker on offense in two years. Marshall appears ready to end that drought, though.
It wasn’t too disappointing or an exercise in futility. The third quarter was better, although that was part of the problem last season when the team struggled to put together four quarters of effort in a single game. It was obvious again that if Arkansas is going to compete with Alabama, Auburn and LSU, the Razorbacks are going to have to recruit a lot more speed.
Being big up front in the offensive line helps, but having a back turn a 4-yard gain into 19 yards is essential, and being able to move the ball through the air consistently is something that will be discussed almost daily between now and when the players report for fall practices.
Sports, Pages 25 on 04/27/2014