Commentary: The Key Play

Should it have been called an incomplete pass, or was it a lateral and called by officials correctly? Here is what Clay Henry thought about the game's key play and the rest of the season. This is a commentary.

If I was a neutral official calling the game Saturday at Tuscaloosa, I think I could have easily called the play a lateral/fumble when Sorahan turned to throw the pass to Richard Smith. Here is what the official saw:

Rayn Sorahan turning to throw a pass to a man behind him with a defender jumping in his face. The pass was blocked almost immediately after it left his hand. You could not tell which way the pass was actually going. Plus, Sorahan throws it sidearm, which makes it tougher to tell direction. Richard Smith was trailing behind him slightly, but turning up field.

But, this is the reality. I've seen them throw this pass in practice a hundred times. Sorahan leads Smith slightly, so he can accelerate up field to catch the ball. It is always a little forward, and not a lateral.

However, you can not see this on the replay, and you cann't see in live, because it happens too fast. The pass is intended to go forward of the receiver, who turns into it. You do not throw it directly to him, but if that was the case it would definitely be a lateral.

When I saw the play developing, I was at the 30-yard line at my seat in the press box and I was looking right down the line. I could see Smith turning to look for the ball and Sorahan preparing to throw it. I've seen it over and over in practice. That pass would have been in front of Smith and it would have been a forward pass.

Again, having said all of that, I don't think it was a bad call by the official because he ruled on what he saw, and there wasn't enough evidence to call it anything other than a lateral based on where Sorahan was and where Smith was. But, knowing the play, I would suspect strongly that it was a forward pass.

But, the thing that is important to note, you must be good enough to survive a play like that. They were not. They gave up a TD on the next play. You just can't do that on offense, then give up the TD on defense on the next play.

And, we must also note that you aren't going to get every call. There are times you get some breaks like last year when we had 12 men on the field on a key play in the winning touchdown drive against Alabama. That also happened a few years ago in a winning TD drive at Alabama. You are going to get some good calls, some no calls and some bad calls, and must survive nonetheless. We didn't on Saturday.

This is a team that must play close to perfect because of offensive handicaps. They didn't even come close to that on Saturday. By the same token, they did some things in the line that make me think they have a chance to move the ball. I never thought this was going to be a great offense, but thought it might be an average offense. It was a bad offense in the first two games, and has now come closer to my expectations of being an average offense.

This offensive line made some big steps on Saturday. The change with Shawn Andrews, Mark Bokermann and Kenny Sandlin will help the offense ... if they continue to improve. I'm guessing that will happen. They stepped up as far as work in practice over the last two weeks. If they maintain that work ethic ... and I see no reason to believe they won't ... then this offensive line will do some good things the rest of the way. When I see Shawn Andrews block Saleem Rasheed, then I know he can block anyone in the SEC. The running game will improve, and I suspect that Cedric Cobbs will be part of the improvement.

If this offense can eliminate turnovers, the Hogs will win some games this year, perhaps as many as six. Right now, I'd think five victories is more along the lines of my expectations ... readjusted since the start of the season.

When I talk about my expectations for this team, I'm not talking what is acceptable. Those are different deals. I would never accept five or six victories at Arkansas. I hope this team surprises me, but those are my honest assessments on both the key play of the game and my expectations.


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