Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
Razorbacks offense disappears after halftime
Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen scrambles during the first quarter of a game on Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014 at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala.
FAYETTEVILLE --Arkansas’ offense — like some of the team’s coaches — had trouble moving after halftime in Saturday’s season-opening 45-21 loss at Auburn.
Razorbacks’ offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr., linebackers coach Randy Shannon and defensive backs coach Clay Jennings weren’t able to leave the Jordan-Hare Stadium press box and go to the locker room at halftime because they were stuck in an elevator.
Chaney, in his 26th season in coaching, said it’s the first time he hasn’t been in a halftime locker room with his team. He displayed a sense of humor about a stressful situation with the game tied 21-21 at halftime.
"Well, we got in, the elevator started coming down and it stopped," Chaney said Sunday. "We just sat there a while. Hung out. Played some cards and then went on to the second half."
Chaney said he wasn't upset at Auburn about the elevator problem.
"Not one bit," he said. "You learn in this profession you control the things you can control and everything else you can't control is completely out of your hands.
"My attention is solely on making sure we come out and perform at a higher level in the second half of football and address those issues. That's 100 percent where my mind is at."
Auburn held Arkansas to 61 yards in total offense in the second half after the Razorbacks gained 267 in the first half, but Chaney said his absence from the locker room at halftime didn't impact the game's outcome.
The coaches in the elevator communicated with the other coaches or players in the locker room on cell phones.
Chaney said there wasn't time to get to the locker room even if the coaches had taken a different elevator that was working.
"From that point on, you've got to run through the stands at Auburn and across the field -- and for me to go 50 yards is probably about seven minutes," he said. "So I figured, 'To hell with it, I ain't going to make it.' "
So what was the difference in the second half?
Why couldn't the Razorbacks move the ball effectively as they did in the first half when they rushed 21 times for 151 yards and Brandon Allen completed 9 of 14 passes for 116 yards and 2 touchdowns?
Chaney said he made similar calls, but the Razorbacks were not as sharp and clean as they were in the first half.
"You've got those decisions to make as a play-caller," he said. "Do you go with a whole new script and try to give the defense something they haven't seen before? Or do you go back to the stuff you like you were kicking their hind end with in the first half?
"Well, I went the latter, and it didn't appear to work. The next time, I'll go with new plays and they won't work, and people will say, 'Why didn't you just the ones that were working?'
"It's a double-edged sword you live by, and whatever the play is, the execution needs to be there, and that's what we just lacked in the second half."
Chaney said he had a long talk with the players Sunday about sustaining success for the whole game.
"I felt like we played with a lot of energy, a lot of passion, a lot of belief in the first half," he said. "I didn't sense we had that confidence and that swagger about us in the second half.
"I felt like we were a little out of sorts. We lost our way a little bit. We lost some identity."
Arkansas had three first downs in the second half, when it rushed eight times for 2 yards.
"It's tough when you're running the ball the way you were in the first half, come out and all of a sudden it's disappeared," Chaney said. "You're behind the stakes a lot, and it forced us to have to throw the ball a little bit more than we like to."
Chaney said Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson came with more pressure up the middle starting in the second quarter, but that it didn't begin slowing the Razorbacks until the third quarter.
"We were handling the blitzing and the pressure a lot better in the second quarter, and we didn't handle it well in the third quarter," Chaney said. "We made some mental mistakes on critical plays, and against a good opponent, you make one mistake at the line of scrimmage, and the play doesn't work."
Chaney finally made it to Arkansas' locker room with 9:55 left in the game, when lightning was seen within 8 miles of the stadium, causing play to be suspended for one hour and 28 minutes.
The coaches, Chaney said, took a different elevator than the one on which they were stuck.
"They wanted to say, 'We got this one fixed,' " Chaney said. "I said, 'No, we'll go on a different one.' "
Chaney stayed on the sideline to call plays when played resumed as the Razorbacks tried to rally from a 38-21 deficit. He said it didn't make sense to go back to the press box.
"I knew we were in the two-minute mode and the menu drops down," Chaney said. "We called two-minute drills in practice every day with me on the field, so I don't think that was a big issue at all."
Chaney said the offense's struggles in the second half didn't erase the positives of the first half.
"You don't look at it in a vacuum," he said. "There's still a lot of good stuff that took place.
"So you try to build on that, you try to correct mistakes on the other plays and do the best you can. Move on the next day and go back to work. That's what we do."
Sports on 09/01/2014