FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas coach Chad Morris and his two coordinators met with the media on Monday.
They were obviously asked about Saturday night’s embarrassing loss to San Jose State and how such a future performance can be avoided. Morris said there has to be accountability from the top on down.
“As I said after the game Saturday night and after watching film, our performance was completely unacceptable,” Morris said. “We got out-coached in every phase, we got out-played in every phase. We got out-executed. It was completely unacceptable and embarrassing.
“Everyone is being held accountable and it starts with me. The only thing we can do is go back to work. Our total focus is on getting this football team prepared ready today to be able to compete at our standard for this Saturday against Texas A&M.”
Morris was asked more about what he means when he says holding people accountable?
“Well, I think it’s the performance at all levels from everyone,” Morris said. “That’s what we’re talking about. And being able as a coach to get your guys to play at a very high level. That’s what I mean holding coaches accountable.
“Holding players accountable is to get in there and to execute the plan and continue to play, and play fast and play hard and take care of their preparation. We get them 20 hours a week. Three of those count as games. So it’s accountability for everybody to make sure that we’re not overlooking anything or any aspect of our program or any opponent. So that’s on everybody, myself included. This is a head coach all the way down to the equipment.”
Morris talked about the shortcomings on offense against the Spartans.
“Offensively, we had five turnovers and two missed fourth-down conversions,” Morris said. “That’s seven possessions of not getting any points. Two of those in the red zone. It’s hard to beat anybody when that happens. I thought we were too inconsistent.
“We decided late in the third quarter that we were going to turn it on. It was just a little too late at that point. I was proud of the fight to rally back and tie the game up. I felt at that point we were going to win the game. But we waited too late to get that done.”
Morris also talked about the defensive effort on Saturday.
“Defensively, I thought it was a tale of two halves,” Morris said. “First half we gave up incredibly … we bent too much. We gave up too many key third-down drive-continuing plays that allowed for scoring opportunities.
“The defense responded in the second half, basically shutting them out all the way up to the last drive of the game. We couldn’t come up with a play and they did. And they were able to convert a first and 15 on that last drive.”
As far as rallying to tie the game at 24 and then letting San Jose State go 75 yards in five plays John Chavis talked about that.
“There was a couple of plays that happened,” Chavis said. “Two back shoulder throws. There was a couple of plays before that. Then we got a back shoulder throw, then got another and they were in field goal range after that. Those things are gonna happen.
“Am I surprised? Yes we didn’t expect that to happen to make plays, but obviously either we didn’t have the right call or somebody didn’t execute. That’s what happens. It’s not the first time. When you coach 42 years you’ve seen it before. Haven’t had many like that, but I’ve had enough that I understand when certain things align it’s gonna happen. We’ve got to be able to get the quarterback off the spot. But even with the back shoulder throws he was getting rid of it pretty quickly.”
Morris felt the team had good practices last week and didn’t see the team playing that way on Saturday night.
“The preparation last week, I thought we had a good week of preparation in practice,” Morris said. “I thought our guys responded coming off the win over Colorado State. I didn’t see that. No, I did not see that coming through the preparation that we had.”
San Jose State finished the game with 503 yards of total offense. The Arkansas defense couldn’t put pressure on the quarterback and the receivers were catching the ball in front of the coverage.
“They did a good job getting rid of the ball quickly,” Chavis said. “It’s hard when it’s not all, but a lot of quick game. It’s coming out quick and the receivers did a good job of running routes and getting open and getting the ball. We made some adjustments at halftime that made it a little bit better for us, but it wasn’t enough.
“We didn’t get anything we didn’t expect in terms of their attack. We knew they were gonna get rid of the ball quick. Quarterback get it out of his hands. We knew they had a receiver coming back that is a dynamic player so there was nothing we didn’t already know. We just didn’t play well enough. We didn’t coach well enough. When I say we didn’t play well enough, understand that’s not on the players, that’s on me. We’ve got to preparing and have them ready for every situation that can happen. We didn’t do good enough job of that.”
Chavis has been on the sidelines since the second half of the 2018 Mississippi State game. He had said previously he’s more comfortable in the press box. It appears he could be back upstairs on Saturday.
“We’ve talked about it, and I could be upstairs this week,” Chavis said.
Nick Starkel was off on several throws Saturday night. He obviously had the five interceptions, but he also had several passes sail on him. Joe Craddock talked about that.
“Everybody has a bad day,’ Craddock said. “It’s hard to explain. I’ve played quarterback. Any quarterback you talk to will tell you the same thing. It’s all about trying to overcome those throws. You know a week ago Nick is throwing slants, he’s throwing out routes, he’s throwing all kinds of things on the money.
“And obviously he was (throwing) a little high the other night. So we just told him just trust your protection. I think that was the biggest thing, trust your protection, keep your base, try to step into your throws. I think a lot of the high throws were just off his back foot. So it’s just about finding a way to overcome a bad night and maybe take a check-down or two. You saw Nick do that. That’s going to happen but as you grow as a quarterback you have to learn to overcome those things and still make it happen and go win the football game.”
Morris also talked about where the team is mentally after losing another non-conference game at home to a team they were favored to beat.
“Well, No. 1, we came back in here yesterday to go to work,” Morris said. “From a mental standpoint, I wouldn’t expect anything different than these guys to show up and respond. Their back was against the wall after Ole Miss and they came out and had an incredible week of preparation. I feel that this was a huge learning experience for everyone involved and where we are in our program right now.
“So I don’t expect anything but for us to set our jaw and get ready to go. Your back’s against the wall and the only thing that matters is, as I mentioned earlier, the total focus is on the people in this building and getting them prepared to be the best we can be this Saturday. That’s what it is. It’s about a response right now.”
Arkansas will return to the practice fields on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. Arkansas and Texas A&M will kick off at 11 a.m. on Saturday and televised on ESPN.