Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll. Murphy was the 2017 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
A long time coming: Hogs' Lindsey makes most of first action at QB
Arkansas quarterback Jack Lindsey throws a pass during a game against LSU on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, in Baton Rouge, La.
FAYETTEVILLE -- No matter what comes of the rest of Jack Lindsey's football career, he'll always have Baton Rouge.
Lindsey, a University of Arkansas redshirt junior, made his first career action at quarterback memorable.
The Springdale High graduate ran for 30 yards on his first play after subbing in for injured Nick Starkel early in the fourth quarter against then-No. 1 LSU. After a timeout, Lindsey stood resolute in the pocket and feathered in a perfect 24-yard touchdown pass over the middle to Mike Woods on the next snap.
Two plays, 54 yards, touchdown. Not bad for a long-time scout teamer who became Arkansas' fifth quarterback of the season working against mostly LSU starters on a well-regarded defense in perhaps the most hostile environment college football has to offer with a crowd of 101,000-plus on hand.
"I was obviously super excited," Lindsey said. "I hadn't played a game since 2015, against Conway High School in the state playoffs, so it was definitely very exciting to get back out there and play."
Lindsey is an active participant in this week's game plan, with last week's starter KJ Jefferson and Starkel both entering the short week in concussion protocol.
There's a chance he could face Taylor Powell, his former teammate in 2014 at Fayetteville, in Friday's season finale against Missouri in Little Rock. Powell is the top backup for banged-up Missouri quarterback Kelly Bryant.
"That's going to be really cool because he's my best friend," Lindsey said. "We ... grew up together, always competed against him. We've kind of been chirping back at each other. It's just fun and games, but really excited to play him."
Lindsey impressed teammates with his ability to come in cold, after a four-year layoff, and move the team.
"Jack, that guy right there is the perfect example of when hard work meets opportunity," senior defensive end Jamario Bell said. "Jack, he's just been a quiet guy ... just trying to learn the offense.
"He got in and you see what he had. He brought us a spark."
Said center Ty Clary, "He's just going to go out there and play. I don't think he's worried about the politics of college. Sometimes, college football is political in who plays. He's not worried about that. He's ready to go out there and throw the ball, just go out there and spin it."
Lindsey, in his second year as the primary holder for placekicks, has studied film and broken down defenses and attacked game plans at Arkansas the past four years while building up his body.
"It's kind of been a long time coming," Lindsey said. "I was kind of a pipsqueak. I was small. My first year, I really didn't belong here. You can ask all the other guys.
"I was looking around at all these other quarterbacks who were a lot better than me, so I just tried to keep working on my craft, getting bigger and stronger. I always felt that I had the mental grasp of the game down, but I just lacked physical ability."
Interim Coach Barry Lunney Jr., an Arkansas quarterback himself, likes Lindsey's makeup.
"He's got a lot of personality and our players really gravitate toward him," Lunney said. "But he just knows what's going on. He knows where to go with the ball. He knows the offense in and out.
"He's kind of got the 'it' factor when it goes to those types of things. He's just kind of a football junkie with a really high IQ and it was good to see him go in his first action really ever in a game at quarterback and I thought he handled it extremely well."
A legacy signee for the Razorbacks, Lindsey is the son of Lyndy Lindsey, an Arkansas tight end from 1988-91, and the grandson of Jim Lindsey, a running back on Arkansas' 1964 national championship team.
"Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to play here," he said. "There was no question. I was either coming to play football here or I was going to school here. I wasn't going to play football anywhere else. This is the place I wanted to be."
Lyndy Lindsey was in the end-zone stands at Tiger Stadium when his son entered with about nine minutes left in the game.
"For your first pass to be for a touchdown is one thing, but for it to be against the No. 1 team in the nation at their place, it was just awesome," Lindsey said. "It's kind of like those two plays are a storybook deal."
The response after Jack Lindsey led touchdown drives on each of his first two possessions at LSU was overwhelming.
"I got 305 text messages in 15 minutes," the elder Lindsey said. "It was crazy."
Springdale Coach Zak Clark, Jack Lindsey's uncle, who worked with him as offensive coordinator at Fayetteville High and head coach at Springdale, said he was not surprised by his former pupil's production.
"You know, he's always been able to move the ball," Clark said. "The little I've watched of their spring football, fall camp, every time he goes in he moves the ball.
"I can't say I'm surprised, but it's still exciting to see it. He's worked hard and he's earned his opportunity. Unfortunately a lot of times things just don't work out, even when you get an opportunity. But, hey, fourth quarter against LSU, he finally got his chance to go in there and he played great."
Clark said he spoke with Austin Allen, another Fayetteville High and Arkansas quarterback, about Lindsey's showing at LSU.
"His quote was, 'He's the only guy who makes the easy look easy,'" Clark said. "That's kind of Jack. If there's an open hitch route, he's going to throw it. If it's the Power Read, he's going to make the right read. He just kind of moves the chains."
Lindsey made the perfect decision on the Power Read on his first snap, the 30-yard gain. On his second play, the offensive line gave great protection, long enough for Woods to run a second-tier curl, then break it open down the middle.
"Whenever we motioned to empty, I saw their defense give their empty check, so great job by the O-line and Mike ran a great route and was wide open," Lindsey said. "I think Bugs Bunny could have made that pass. That was a great job by Mike Woods, the O-line, everybody."
Lyndy Lindsey said his son took the right mental approach to being a scout teamer.
"It's just his endurance with all of this that is just amazing," he said. "His dream has been to do what happened Saturday night and play for the Hogs ever since he can remember. That's just been his dream and he got to do it."
He added that his son's ability to pick up and understand schemes skipped a generation.
"He's got this gift and it may have come from my dad, the brain power of understanding everything," Lindsey said. "I didn't have that. I was a little bit more of a meathead. He's got that. He picks things up really, really quick.
"We'll be watching Sunday football and he'll be telling me what they're doing on defense. I'm just sitting there looking at it, and he's understanding what they're doing."
In a tiny sample size -- he was in for 12 official plays plus two others that resulted in pass interference against LSU -- Lindsey posted a 264.6 pass efficiency rating, more than double any other Arkansas quarterback this year.
"I know his DNA, I know who he is," Lunney said. "I know that when he's gotten opportunities in scrimmages he's always kind of been that guy that's made a play a little bit.
"Now he hasn't been perfect. If he would have been his opportunities may have been already come a little earlier."
Lunney is not tipping his hand on the quarterback situation again this week, which has been a weekly scenario the last three games.
Missouri Coach Barry Odom has seen the Razorbacks cycle through quarterbacks during the team's tape study.
"There's a bunch of guys that could play and probably will play," Odom said. "So I think what you look at is their tendencies on when one of them is in the game. Does that change your calls a little bit. Is one of more of a runner? Does one throw more to the right than the left? Does one have a favorite target? We're still trying to get all that information to see how best it fits for us on how we're going to call it."
Sports on 11/27/2019
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