Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen was impressive in the opener against Louisiana-Lafayette, completing 15 of 22 passes for 230 yards and 3 touchdowns.
He got off to an equally impressive start against Samford last Saturday. But the sophomore couldn’t maintain the same pace the rest of the game.
After completing 4 of 5 passes for 73 yards and 2 touchdowns, Allen went 5-for-12 for 52 yards the rest of the game. It included a third quarter where Allen missed on five of seven passes as Arkansas was outscored 14-0 to fall behind.
Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney chalked it up to Allen “pressing a little bit.”
“He didn’t do it consciously, but everybody kind of knew where we were there,” Chaney said about the tight game. “You’ve got to breathe and let the brain work a little bit. And I think he learned a lot in that situation.”
Chaney said Allen did settle down to complete two critical third-down passes late in the third quarter, helping them march downfield for what proved to be the game-winning touchdown drive. The two completions were Allen’s last of the game, leaving Arkansas to move into its run-dominated fourth quarter.
The Razorbacks didn’t attempt a pass on their final 22 plays.
“I think we’re right - doing fine,” Allen said. “We’re just able to really get the run game going there at the end of the game, so we didn’t need to pass that much.”
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said Monday he was impressed with Allen’s performance even though the quarterback didn’t produce big numbers for the second straight week. He said Allen continued to grow as Arkansas’ leader.
“I think there’s probably some guys in his situation that may have not been able to rebound the way he did,” Bielema said. “But he made a couple of critical throws when we needed to. … So he’s continued to move forward.”
2. Nothing Better
Bielema didn’t seem to mind the fact his team was trailing in the second half to a Football Championship Subdivision opponent Saturday.
In fact, Bielema told his coaching staff Sunday “you couldn’t have scripted anything better” with the 21-17 deficit against Samford.
“I know it’s not laid out the way that everybody wanted it,” Bielema said. “But for me to have a team that faced adversity, that was behind in the fourth quarter, that had battled through some injuries before the game started as well as some guys that got playing time during the course of the game … It was as good as we could ask for, and our guys responded with a win.”
Bielema said Arkansas’ issues weren’t “physically driven.” Instead, he chalked them up to mental mistakes like penalties, turnovers and missed assignments.
So the deficit forced players to shake off those issues and “lock themselves in” down the stretch. Chaney said the response was impressive.
“The good teams always have a certain amount of resolve and a certain amount of grit to them,” Chaney said Sunday. “It was interesting to see how we were going to come back from that. I think we came back and we started swinging.”
3. Line Play
Arkansas’ offensive line put together another solid performance against Samford, paving the way for a 300-yard rushing effort. But offensive line coach Sam Pittman said there was one thing he noticed that must improve this week.
“We have to protect the quarterback better,” Pittman said. “We didn’t handle their twist games as good as what we’d like to, so that has to get better. We didn’t give up a hit or a sack on the quarterback, but we were too loose at times in protection and gave up a couple hurries. We’ve got to get that thing taken care of.”
Arkansas allowed one sack against Samford and two through two games.
4. Extra Points
TE Austin Tate (shoulder) and LB Otha Peters (arm) both practiced Tuesday after Bielema said both were scheduled to undergo X-rays on their injuries Monday. Chaney said Tate is “not out there doing a lot. He is involved a little bit but I don’t know his status going into the game.” … Freshman DB Alex Brignoni said via Twitter he will undergo surgery today. Brignoni is redshirting this season.