UA's Passing Game Still A Work In Progress

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas offensive coordinator David Lee had a simple game plan heading into Saturday night's season opener against Troy University.

The idea was to give the football early on to running backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. That would let quarterback Casey Dick get comfortable in the pocket, so he could then show off some of the changes in the passing game.

"For whatever reason, it didn't work out that way," Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said Sunday afternoon, only hours after the 46-26 win in Reynolds Razorback Stadium. "But it will happen."

Nutt admitted Arkansas' retooled passing game is still a work in progress.

Much of the talk heading into the season opener revolved around the changes that Lee had made to a passing attack that ranked 108th in the nation last season. But things didn't take off like Nutt had hoped they would.

While Dick got off to a fast start, completing 4 of 6 passes for 49 yards in the first quarter, he didn't provide the type of balance that Arkansas' offense lacked a year ago.

The junior completed only two passes for 21 yards in the second quarter, and the struggles in the passing game contributed to the No. 21 Razorbacks (1-0) settling for too many field goals in the first half.

"Did we execute totally, just perfect in the passing game? No," Nutt said. "But I think Casey will tell you he did a very good job on some different things with the run game, managing the clock. All those things I was proud of."

Dick completed 11 of 20 passes for 108 yards, though it would have been more had wide receiver Robert Johnson not dropped a wide-open pass on Arkansas' first series of the second half.

The Razorbacks finished with 157 yards passing, 42 of which came on a touchdown pass by running back Darren McFadden to freshman wide receiver Crosby Tuck with 5 minutes, 32 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

Thanks to a pair of 100-yard rushing games by McFadden and Jones, Arkansas gained 350 yards on the ground. But the 157 yards passing was just 9.5 yards more than what the Razorbacks averaged last season.

"To come out here the first game with three brand-new offensive linemen, without (wide receiver) Marcus Monk, I was pleased," Nutt said. "I know maybe a lot more people would want to see the ball (go) a little bit more to the wideouts, and we will.

"We will do that, no question about it."

Dick and the wide receivers will have two weeks to improve on the passing game. The Razorbacks have this week off before heading to Alabama for a highly anticipated showdown with new Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban on Sept. 15.

"Offensively, I thought we stopped ourselves too many times," Nutt said. "There were too many times where we missed an assignment, missed a block, missed a hot (route). All those things can be corrected."

Nutt admitted that Lee withheld some parts of the playbook on Saturday night, not wanting to give everything away to Alabama. Overall, though, Nutt said he was pleased with Lee's play-calling during the 20-point win.

There were a few plays, however, that didn't go as they were scripted. One, in particular, involved a chance for Dick to make a big throw to tight end Andrew Davie.

Dick had Davie open on a hot route, but the quarterback instead decided to throw a short pass to wide receiver London Crawford, which went incomplete. Nutt felt it was one of several missed opportunities.

Nutt also said there were a few times when Dick called an audible at the line of scrimmage and changed a pass play into a run.

"We really had intentions of probably throwing between 25 and 30 times," Nutt said. "... We anticipated maybe throwing a few more times to the receivers, but it didn't happen."

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