Arkansas running back Alex Collins showed plenty of big-play potential during his college football debut last Saturday, rushing for 131 yards on 21 carries.
But Arkansas coach Bret Bielema was impressed by other moments from the freshman that weren’t exactly flashy. One of them included a modest 3-yard run on third-and-2 play with the Razorbacks holding a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter.
“The third-and-short plays that he got, where he just stuck it up in there, knew where the chains were going to be and got it were big-time plays,” Bielema said.
Arkansas knows Collins can break big plays and showed his potential in the 34-14 win against Louisiana-Lafayette. His first carry went for 13 yards and Bielema said Collins was a “hiccup away from going the distance.” Collins added three more runs of 13 yards or more throughout the rest of the game.
But the 5-foot-11, 206-pound Collins also showed toughness in getting to the first-down marker in a short-yardage situation. The success on third-and-2 came on the third play of Arkansas’ final drive. It helped the Razorbacks move the chains on what proved to be a 14-play drive that ate 8:50 off the clock late in the fourth quarter.
Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said he was impressed with the freshman’s ability to get tough yards as well during other points.
“What I thought was the most pleasing thing Alex did is in the fourth quarter, we ran some perimeter play to the right and he dropped pad and lifted on a defender and he finished the run real strong and that was good to see,” Chaney said.
Bielema said Collins wasn’t perfect. He pointed to security on a couple of occasions, saying Collins was “loose with the ball” and that is a “big-time issue.” But the big runs — and the tough runs — were all part of an impressive debut for the freshman.
“The positives definitely outweighed the negatives,” Bielema said.
Take that back
Chaney typically jots down six or seven play calls he questions after a game. One of them from Saturday’s win came late in the second quarter, when he called for a quarterback keeper near Arkansas’ goal line.
After a 1-yard loss on a run play by Jonathan Williams, quarterback Brandon Allen lunged forward on the keeper for 2 yards. Louisiana-Lafayette used one of its timeouts immediately after the play, setting Arkansas up with a third-and-9 play from its own 5-yard line with 1:16 left in the half.
“I was trying to get the ball out so if something bad were to happen we’d be able to punt the ball from the 5,” Chaney said. “And it probably wasn’t a very good call.”
It didn’t hurt the Razorbacks. Allen completed a third-down pass to tight end Jeremy Sprinkle and Arkansas kicked into its 2-minute offense. The Razorbacks capped the drive with Zach Hocker’s 34-yard field goal at the end of the half.
“When you get a little room and you made a few big plays, then we move into our 2-minute offense,” Chaney said. “That’s what we’re trying to do. That was the one thing on Sunday, I don’t feel like we were real smooth moving from base offense into 2-minute and we’re going to work on that on Thursday.”
Sullivan’s status undetermined
Samford coach Pat Sullivan’s status for Saturday’s game remains undetermined while he continues to recover from back surgery. Sullivan — who also missed the opener — had a cervical fusion performed on July 12 to reduce chronic back pain.
Assistant head coach Bill D’Ottavio, who also is the team’s defensive coordinator, said Monday there has been “no decision yet” on Sullivan’s status. Sullivan announced last Tuesday he would not be available for Samford’s opener.
“We have contact with Coach and we talk to him as much as possible and he is certainly involved in all that we do,” D’Ottavio said.
It’s not the first time the Bulldogs have played without Sullivan, who played quarterback at Auburn and won the 1971 Heisman Trophy. The coach missed last season’s game at Chattanooga with pneumonia. D’Ottavio led the team then as well.
T-shirt launcher update
Arkansas will not use a T-shirt launcher for Saturday’s game in Little Rock after a marketing intern was injured last week.
Arkansas issued a statement on the intern, who was injured in the first quarter when a T-shirt gun discharged on the sideline. The intern was treated by medical personnel at the stadium and then was transported to the hospital, where Arkansas said he was released over the holiday weekend.
“At the time of the discharge, the launching device was not in the process of being fired and was lying on the turf,” the Arkansas athletic department statement said. “Medical personnel were present at the scene and responded immediately. In accordance with the intern’s privacy rights, the University of Arkansas does not plan to comment on any further details relating to this matter.”
Arkansas’ statement also said a decision regarding any further use of T-shirt guns “will be made in the future.”