Even cursory glances at the plays called and the production of certain players would seem to suggest No. 14 Arkansas is holding back in the early season. No way, even in outscoring their opponents 103-10, the Razorbacks have featured everything and everybody they eventually will.
Teams don’t show all they’ve got in tune-up games. Most folks who pay attention to college football would agree that’s the case.
Doesn’t mean Coach Bobby Petrino wants to talk about it. In fact, Petrino did his best to shoot that idea down — with humor! — Thursday when a local TV personality asked about further opening up the playbook in the coming weeks, beginning with Saturday’s 6:30 p.m. game against Troy.
The exchange — which drew a hearty chuckle from most in the room — went something like this:
TV guy: “Going to show us a little more this week, Coach?”
Petrino (in a perfectly-timed deadpan): “Yeah, we’ve got to crank it up. We haven’t been getting enough points or yards so we’re working hard at it.”
Funny guy that Bobby Petrino. Seriously. I’m told the guy is a riot in real life. We get glimpses from time-to-time, little nuggets of comedy gold like his reaction on Thursday, which for some strange reason has me thinking about Arkansas’ season and playbook in terms of a comedy routine.
Think about it: Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Lewis Black, etc. don’t unload their best jokes in the first five minutes of a 30-minute set. Quality comedians craft a routine that features great material sprinkled throughout the show, keeping the audience entertained until the end, which usually features the joke built for the biggest laughs.
Remember last year’s regular season finale against LSU? Consider Ryan Mallett to Joe Adams on fourth-and-three in the fourth quarter as the closing line, the joke a comedian hangs onto specifically to bring down the house. Adams delivered the punch line with his 39-yard touchdown as the Razorbacks wound up winning 31-23 and clinched a spot in the Sugar Bowl.
So while this team has put up great numbers so far this season, we’ve hardly seen everything there is to see. The lack of a consistent running threat and limited amounts of downfield passing haven’t stopped the Razorbacks from putting up numbers that — like a really great episode of The Office — are a thing of beauty and can make people slightly uncomfortable at the same time.
A look at NCAA statistics (which we highlight each Tuesday in our “Ranking The Razorbacks” feature) reveals plenty of points and yards so far. Arkansas is No. 3 nationally and tops the SEC at 51.5 points per game. Those 368.5 passing yards per game rank eighth nationally and first in the league. Total offense? A paltry 549.0 yards and a disappointing (wink, wink) second in the SEC and eighth among all FBS teams.
Granted the 180.5 rushing yards per game are 38th nationally and rank No. 8 in the SEC need to improve. And we’d like to see Chris Gragg and Greg Childs stretch defenses a little deeper. How about a few more runs or maybe even a pass from wide receiver Joe Adams? That would be a nice touch.
We all know that just because we don’t see it now, doesn’t mean it’s not coming. Arkansas has enough in its arsenal to make folks look foolish for weeks to comes.
Troy Coach Larry Blakeney knows enough about Arkansas from this year and in remembering back to a 56-20 loss to the Razorbacks in 2009, to offer a compliment that is simple, but stands as high praise whether we’re talking play-calling or joke-telling:
“It’s what everybody tries to do, but they do a good job.”
What we’ve seen from the Razorback offense so far — even at its most basic — is no laughing matter.