Sandy’s run eases discomfort of Red-White

By: Wally Hall
Published: Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Lifelong Arkansas Razorbacks fan Canaan Sandy runs the ball for a touchdown Saturday afternoon during the Red-White Game at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
Photo by Michael Woods
Lifelong Arkansas Razorbacks fan Canaan Sandy runs the ball for a touchdown Saturday afternoon during the Red-White Game at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.

A lot of attention was focused on the quarterback play in Saturday’s Arkansas Razorbacks Red-White game because for the past 16 years that has been where almost every play started.

From Clint Stoerner and Matt Jones to Ryan Mallett and Tyler Wilson and, of course, others, the expectation was they could make the throw or run that would make a difference.

Fans wanted to see if the quarterback situation was improved over last year’s dismal showing - though not just by the quarterbacks - that resulted in a 3-9 season. One reason for optimism is that it is believed starting quarterback Brandon Allen was dinged up for the majority of the year.

On Saturday, Brandon,his little brother Austin, a redshirt freshman, and true freshman Rafe Peavey were less than stellar.

Some of it was on them. Decisions have to be made quicker and throws more accurately and with more zip.

Some of it wasn’t on them.

The receivers have to get more separation from defenders. That’s a must. On too many downs, quarterbacks forced a throw because no one was really open. Part of that might have been that the defensive backs are playing defenders closer than last season.

There is more than one problem when the Allens combine for only 153 yards passing on a total of 15 completions on 24 attempts (Austin had one series with the first team and went 3 for 3) to seven different receivers.

Having quarterbacks wearing the green jerseys might have distorted some of the stats, like nine sacks by the Red defense, since the whistle blew as soon as one hand touched a quarterback.

It certainly kept Peavey from showing his escapability and ability to run.

Coach Bret Bielema and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said before the scrimmage they were not going to open the whole playbook, and that was evident in the first half. But they appeared so frustrated at halftime they called more plays in the third quarter, and Bielema ditched the idea of using a running clock in the second half, instead stopping it as if it were a real game.

Lastly, the offensive line has to get stabilized.

Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper, who established themselves as starters during their freshman season, are progressing and ready.

The other three spots have seen more changes than Obamacare.

At every news conference this spring, it seemed news came out about somebody different was playing center because Luke Charpentier, the best center, was needed at one of the guard spots.

This might be a case of some guys needing to dedicate themselves even more tothe strength and conditioning program. Or going to Ben Herbert, who heads up that department, and just asking what they can do more of to get better.

Bielema’s offense starts with the linemen more than it does the quarterback.

Yet, amid all the scrutiny from fans, Bielema did stick to one thing, and that was letting Canaan Sandy score a touchdown.

Sandy was named to ESPN’s Fan Hall of Fame last season for his devotion to the Razorbacks. He once got his entire church to call the Hogs.

He has Down syndrome, but nothing stands in the way of his passion for everything Razorbacks. He talks his mom into taking him to as many Razorback Club meetings as possible, and sometimes that means driving for several hours, as well as games.

Bielema has said every time he’s turned around this spring Sandy has been there.

Sandy is known among members of the media for his hugs and expressions of “I love you.”

Late in the third quarter, Sandy took a handoff from Brandon Allen and went 50 yards for the touchdown and all of the Razorbacks ran into the end zone to celebrate with him.

His touchdown became a national feel-good story and turned a so-so spring game into a lifetime memory for one special fan.

Sports, Pages 17 on 04/29/2014