It’s never a good sign when the most memorable moments of a head coach’s career are instances of sheer special teams ineptitude.
Nobody will ever forget North Texas’ fake fair catch that resulted in a 90-yard punt return TD and got the Mean Green rolling to an eventual 44-17 rout of Arkansas in 2018.
That moment in Hogs special teams infamy might have been eclipsed on Saturday just as the wheels were starting to come off in the Hogs’ 51-10 loss to Auburn. Down 0-17 with fourth down on their own 41-yard-line, Chad Morris’ Hogs coughed up something that didn’t digest well:
It appears Hogs punter Sam Loy was trying to pass it to someone, but the push pass actually went straight to Auburn linebacker Chandler Wooten.
Its headline: “If you need a good laugh, watch this embarrassing fake punt attempt by Arkansas.”
Here are some other headlines that tumbled forth, heaping more embarrassment onto the Hogs football program:
*CBS Sports: WATCH: Arkansas’ worst fake punt of all-time leads to easy interception by Auburn
NBC Sports: WATCH: Arkansas dials up worst fake-punt pass ever
*Fansided: Arkansas further embarrasses themselves with brutal fake punt
Yes, this was brutal. All the worse because Chad Morris mentioned in the post game press conference they had been working on it for two weeks:
“Yeah, not the result we were looking for. It was something that they had shown. And we actually have been working on that for a couple weeks. I thought, at times, we maybe needed something to get us kick started. We just weren’t moving the chains and maybe needed something to give us a spark. I knew we were going to have to try to steal a possession somewhere. Luckily they missed the field goal so that didn’t hurt us.-Chad Morris on fake punt attempt vs. Auburn
Yet, as horrid as this was, and as bad as the national pundits made it out to be, it may not be the most embarrassingly bad fake punt attempt in Arkansas history.
Fayetteville’s most embarrassingly good pizza
In 2014, Blake Anderson, the Arkansas State Red Wolves coach, called a fake punt play that involved Red Wolf Booker Mays acting like he died on the field. The so-called “fainting goat” play also spectacularly failed, ending in Mays getting crushed upon self-resurrection and an interception:
Just like in Arkansas-Auburn, Arkansas State was playing a vastly superior opponent in Miami. A-State ended up losing that game 20-41, and afterward Anderson said it was all in good fun:
The fainting technique “was strictly just for fun,” he told Sports Illustrated. “We’re willing to laugh at ourselves and have a good time. We do a lot of crazy stuff. We’re just trying to keep the kids’ energy up and smiling and laughing. It was a great way to have fun all week. [Mays] did a good job with it.
Those Red Wolves ended up winning seven games, and were just two years removed from the 9-3 season under Gus Malzahn in 2012. Since then, Arkansas State has won between seven and nine games each season.
At this point, the Hogs can only dream about winning that many games in a season. Forget getting back to the “mountaintop” when it comes to the Razorback program. Just getting back to Houston Nutt-era level mediocrity looks like it will take at least a couple more seasons at this rate.
More from Chad Morris after the Auburn loss:
On looking somewhat competitive between the horrible start and the horrible finish:
“I thought that once we stabilized and we went on a span there for about 32, 33 minutes to where our defense was playing exceptional, and we only gave up 3 points. I would have liked to have seen us keep some momentum right before half. We were able to capitalize on some opportunities, and we should have come away with some points before half. But we challenged our guys at halftime. That we needed a stop and to get the ball back to the offense and then see what we can do. We did that.”
“We went and got a three-and-out. That was a credit to the way our defense was playing. We were able to go on a 17-play drive and come away with some points. We should have got the ball in the endzone. But we were at least able to come away with some points. When that happened, we had some momentum.”
On not playing KJ Jefferson or John Stephen Jones at quarterback…
“When it got late in the game like that, it wasn’t fair to any of those other guys to go in in that moment. I felt all week long as we got through the week, the understanding of the protections, I was very comfortable with Ben. I never felt like the wheels actually came off, that never crossed my mind. I felt like our guys continued to play extremely hard.”
“We gave up some big plays and we made some substitutions there at the end to try and get some young guys in on the defensive side of the ball and they were able to crease one on us. Not the results we wanted and definitely not the way we wanted to finish that game.”
On how the offense can improve in the next five games:
“We’ve got to be able to capitalize on the shots when we do take them and really we’ve exhausted a lot. A lot of RPOs are happening right now, we’ve got to make sure we’re doing a good job reading those RPOs right and this is a good football team we went against this week too. We’ve just got to go back to work.”
“I knew, I didn’t feel like we could get the ball running effectively inside, we were trying to get the ball out on the edge. That was the game plan coming in and we knew their speed was good, but they were able to stabilize the outside run game too for us. We’ve just got to go back to work and make some plays.”
Ben Hicks on playing at Alabama next:
“You don’t get a lot of opportunities to play the number 1 team in the country at their place at night. So, we will just try to go out there, have a good game plan and cut it loose and have fun. We are just going to play our tails off like we have been.”