Hogs' Morris: Rotating QBs not a worry

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Tuesday, September 11, 2018
Arkansas Razorbacks quarterback Cole Kelley (15) practices his throw before a football game, Saturday, September 8, 2018 at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo.
Photo by Charlie Kaijo
Arkansas Razorbacks quarterback Cole Kelley (15) practices his throw before a football game, Saturday, September 8, 2018 at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The University of Arkansas will head into a home game against 2-0 North Texas on Saturday with its quarterback situation unsettled after uneven performances from both Ty Storey and Cole Kelley last week.

In the Hogs' 34-27 upset loss at Colorado State, the two quarterbacks combined to go 11-of-22 passing for 138 yards, with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. For the second consecutive week, the backup performed better than the starter.

Coach Chad Morris said he hopes to settle on a quarterback starter soon, and he's not looking at the daunting schedule ahead, just the next game in line against the high-flying Mean Green.

"We had an opportunity on the road to get a good win and we were unable to do that, but the season's not over with," Morris said. "There's no mindset in this building that anybody's walking in this door thinking that these guys can't achieve and have a great season ahead of us.

"But we're only going to do that by having the best day we can have today and continue to focus on the little things. I know it sounds like a coach cliche, but that's exactly the way this program's going to get turned around. It's not going to be anything that's going to be some big revelation. It's going to be a focus of daily little decisions that are made over the course of time. That's how we're going to get this right."

Morris said rotating quarterbacks three games into a season is not ideal, but he did it in his final year as offensive coordinator at Clemson with Cole Stoudt and DeShaun Watson. He was asked at his Monday news conference how much of a concern it is now.

"I don't know if it's so much of a concern as it is [looking for] the guy who's going to lead this football team," Morris said. "Playing two quarterbacks is really not something I want to do, but it's something right now, until we can get that guy who can get this team moving and getting us on schedule and creating the momentum and the spark it's going to take, it'll be a week-to-week process right now. I hope to settle in and get a guy going."

Offensive coordinator Joe Craddock said the freshmen behind Storey and Kelley have not gotten a ton of reps the first two weeks of the season, but that Connor Noland likely would be the third quarterback in a game at this point.

Storey took a strong week of practice into Fort Collins, Colo., and went 5 of 13 for 36 yards with 2 interceptions. He threw behind an open La'Michael Pettway on the third play of the game for his first interception, then got pressure in his face from a blown protection that led to the second pick just before halftime.

Storey took all 49 offensive snaps in the first half, while Kelley took all 26 in the second.

"Ty's not going to lose any confidence. He's a confident guy," Craddock said. "He didn't play terrible the other night. I thought he did some really good things that he can build on.

"We've got to help him out on a couple throws that I thought some of our receivers could have made a play on. He's going to come right back. He's a winner, he's a sharp kid, and he wants nothing but success for the University of Arkansas."

Kelley had the better statistical game, completing 6 of 9 passes for 102 yards and 2 touchdowns. However, he also missed a couple of open targets that could have been difference-makers. On the 28-yard deep ball to Jordan Jones in the end zone that was ruled out of bounds, tight end Jeremy Patton was running free, Craddock said.

On a third-and-4 pass in the fourth quarter, Jonathan Nance was open on a hash, Craddock said, for about an 8-yard gain but Kelley misread the coverage and didn't find him.

Kelley was on the field when the Razorbacks went 1 for 5 on third-down conversions. The only made conversion in that time was his 3-yard run on third and 2 from the Arkansas 42 early in the third quarter.

Arkansas went 0 for 4 on third downs the rest of the way, needing 12, 7, 8 and 4 yards. All four were pass plays and only one was completed -- a third-and-7 throw to La'Michael Pettway that went for 6 yards on the final play of the third quarter -- and Kelley was sacked for a 12-yard loss on the last of those.

For the season, Kelley is 15 of 21 (71 percent) for 194 yards, with 3 touchdowns and no interceptions, while Storey is 17 of 30 (57 percent) for 297 yards, with 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.

Morris said the quarterback rotation at Clemson wasn't settled until after the start of conference play in 2014.

"At some point that's what we're going to find and we're going to run with it," he said. "If it's this week, it's this week. If it's next week, it's next week, but it'll be at the right time.

"Playing quarterback, you know, there are so many intangibles that come with it that sometimes are out of your control. Some of the circumstances dictate themselves, but we want to find the guy and let him settle in and go with it. So, that's the intent and we'll see when that happens."


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