LITTLE ROCK — It sleeted Saturday when new Arkansas Coach Chad Morris first saw assembling what would be an announced 7,000 that appeared perhaps slightly more numerous than estimated at War Memorial Stadium.
Though the sleet stopped, it was still 35-degrees cold with a biting wind and occasional snow flakes drifting in the air but the fans stayed on to see Morris’ Razorbacks play their Red-White intrasquad game in their lone appearance here until the Oct. 13 SEC game against Ole Miss.
“It just shows you the passion level,” Morris said. “Sure, if it was 72 and partly cloudy, we might have had a lot more people out here. But you know what, here’s what I say: When it’s 72 and partly cloudy, everybody’s an All-American. But when it’s snowing outside, how are we going to respond as a football team? I was so pleased when you’re able to get out there and see our fans and just excited just to come out and to just see it and see this program advance and moving forward. I saw some really good effort and energy today.”
Morris seemed as pleased that his team wasn’t discussing the weather as with those fans that weathered it to attend.
“Nobody in that locker room talked about what the weather was like before the game and that’s what it’s all about,” Morris said.
Morris saw some fair weather level performances through the foul weather and some plays he doesn’t want in any weather as the Razorbacks continue to the Monday and Wednesday practices conclusions to spring practice adjusting to a new staff and new schemes.
“I saw some really good things and saw some bad things,” Morris said. “But that’s part of it. If this this was our 10th spring ball together, I’d be saying the same thing.”
Morris kept the entire offense, whether first team, second team or third team, as the White and all three defensive units as the Red.
The White won, 27-25 on a system scored conventionally for the offense with defense awards three points for a fourth down stop, two points for a three and out, and one point for a sack or tackle for loss.
The defense would have been awarded the same six points plus a try for a PAT had it scored a touchdown which almost happened defensive end Jamario Bell of Junction City knocked the ball loose whacking quarterback Ty Storey’s arm. Defensive end Michael Taylor returned it to the end zone but was ruled to have stepped out of bounds at the three for a 35-yard return.
Storey, the fourth-year junior from Charleston who opened with the first offense against the first defense though third-year sophomore Cole Kelley also would do some first-team quarterbacking, completed 7 of 14 passes for 126 yards including a 53-yard touchdown to tight end Cheyenne O’Grady.
O’Grady later caught a 5-yard TD from Kelley.
Redshirt freshman running back Maleek Williams tallied a third-quarter 2-yard touchdown on a third unit vs. unit drive quarterbacked by redshirt freshman Daulton Hyatt, 2 of 2 for 24 yards. Walk-ons Jack Lindsey, 2 of 3 for 37 yards including a 31-yarder, Austin Aune, 1 of 2 for 23 yards, and Carson Proctor, 2 of 5 for 18 yards, also quarterbacked in the second half.
First-team running back Devwah Whaley, 8 carries for 62 yards before sitting out the second half, and Williams, 15 for 62 yards, led the rushers.
“Early on I felt like the offensive line did a great job of opening holes and giving me lanes to run through,” Whaley said.
O’Grady, also known as C.J., caught the only touchdowns while junior La’Michael Pettway, 6 catches for 91 yards including a 34-yarder from Kelley while withstanding a monster hit from safety Micah Smith, led the receivers.
“I thought Pettway made some plays today and that was really good to see,” Morris said, also citing tight ends O’Grady and Grayson Gunter, a 20-yard catch.
Defensively, Bell, two sacks among his four tackles, defensive end Randy Ramsey, two sacks and praised all spring by Morris and praised again by him Saturday stood out while first-team cornerback Ryan Pulley broke up three passes, nickel back and Jacksonville High grad and former Cleveland Indians baseball prospect D’Vone McClure broke up two, cornerback Chevin Calloway broke up one down to the ground against freshman receiver Michael Smith, and cornerback Nate Dalton broke up one.
“They made some plays on the ball,” Kelley said of the defensive backs. “We took a lot of shots today. We were testing them and they answered it. We completed a few of them but they made some good plays. You hit the wideout with the ball in the air they weren’t quitting like Chevin breaking that one up on the ground.”
Morris also was impressed.
“Our entire defensive line (minus top player Sosa Agim attending a family member’s funeral) brought pressure, especially when we were trying to run the ball,” Morris said. “Our corners and Kam (safety Kamren Curl) broke well to the ball.”
What about quarterbacks Storey and Kelley?
“I thought it was kind of what we've seen all spring,” Morris said. “We saw some good. We saw some bad. Saw some plays that should have been made and I saw some really good throws.”
Walk-on Chris Lopez of Rogers, kicking 31 and 38-yarders, kicked the game’s lone field goals.
Though he’s “had a really good spring,” Morris said, incumbent place-kicker Connor Limpert missed a 32-yard field goal attempt and kicked the opening kickoff out of bounds.
“Our special teams have got to improve,” Morris said. “That (a kickoff out of bounds) is unacceptable.”