Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
Pad-popping finish leaves Hogs whooping, hollering
Arkansas running back Alex Collins runs drills during practice Saturday, April 5, 2014, at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas’ first spring scrimmage ended with a big bang on safety De’Andre Coley’s fumble-causing collision with walk-on running back Connor McPherson for the third takeaway of the day.
Coach Bret Bielema ended the 101-play workout before a couple thousand fans at Reynolds Razorback Stadium on the spot with a teachable moment - the importance of big plays and momentum - and no significant injuries.
“I wanted to really stress to our guys how one play can change momentum,” Bielema said. “Coley came flying in there, and obviously the ball was loose on a big hit.You saw that defensive reaction, so I pointed it out to our players.
“That defense came off the sideline just whooping and hollering and the offense came out like Ned in the first reader. I just wanted to show them how much difference there was because of that one play.”
The Razorbacks worked in almost perfect football weather, cool without much breeze on a sunny day, and quarterback Brandon Allen capitalized. Allen completed 17 of 20 passes for 247 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception, all with the first offense against the top unit on defense.
Allen’s scoring pass was a 67-yard strike over the middle on a third-and-12 play to tight end Hunter Henry, who shook free from a Davyon McKinney tackle near mid-field and took it all the way to the end zone.
Allen completed 12 consecutive passes for 182 yards - after opening 5 of 7 for 65 yards - but his last throw was intercepted on a good read and break by safety Alan Turner.
“He’s got so much composure,” Bielema said of Allen. “What I love there, not that I wanted to see it, but when we had a couple of guys jump offsides he really let the huddle have an awareness of what we needed to do and what was expected. You like to have your quarterback step up in that fashion, and I think he’s done it.”
About half the scrimmage was situational work on first-, second- and third-down plays, and the other half featured true move-the-ball action.
Second-team quarterback AJ Derby, working against the No. 2 defense, directed an 80-yard touchdown drive in the latter half, finding tight end Alex Voelzke on a short fade route to cap the series. The nine-play touchdown drive featured a 23-yard diving catch from Drew Morgan, another 21-yard catch from Morgan and three carries for 31 yards by Denzel Evans.
The defense made an impact with 11 sacks, although some of them were whistled dead generously on touches on which a quarterback could have escaped the pocket. Ends JaMichael Winston and Tevin Beanum and cornerback D.J. Dean had two sacks each.
In addition to Turner’s interception of Allen, linebacker Daunte Carr intercepted a throw tipped by linebacker Otha Peters and intended for Voelzke on Derby’s first pass of the day.
Coley’s big hit on McPherson, which left the running back on the field for a few seconds with trainers rushing out to see to him, led to a fumble that was recovered about 15 yards down field by Matt Dodson.
Safety TQ Coleman had two pass breakups.
The first offensive unit’s full-field possessions were marred by a series of offsides calls, partially because of adding more variety to the snap counts, Bielema said.
Allen and the starters converted 6 of 12 third downs from varying distances during situational work. Derby and the second offense was 3 of 6 on third-down conversions. Austin Allen and the second unit converted 1 of 6 third down plays.
Evans led the runners with 53 yards on eight carries. Alex Collins had a 25-yard burst among his eight carries for 38 yards. Starter Jonathan Williams was limited to the situational work and had five carries for 7 yards, which was impacted by a 6-yard loss when he picked up a muffed snap on the sixth play of the workout.
Morgan made 2 impressive catches on his way to a team-high 5 receptions for 109 yards. Henry had four catches for 91 yards and fellow tight end Jeremy Sprinkle grabbed three catches for 73 yards. Freshman Jared Cornelius, a mid-term enrollee, had four catches for 60 yards.
“I thought Jared Cornelius made some exceptional catches,” Bielema said. “What you saw today is what we’ve been seeing all spring.”
Scrimmage statistics At Reynolds Razorback Stadium
SCORING Hunter Henry 67 pass from Brandon Allen Alex Voelzke 3 pass from AJ Derby
PASSING Brandon Allen 17-20-1, 247 yards, TD, AJ Derby 8-13-1, 145 yards, TD, Austin Allen 5-10-0, 69 yards, Damon Mitchell 3-6-0, 33 yards, Rafe Peavey 3-3-0, 36 yards
RUSHING Denzel Evans 8-53, Alex Collins 8-38, Connor McPherson 6-20, Kody Walker 2-15, Jonathan Williams 5-7, Derby 1-6, Patrick Arinze 1-3, B. Allen 8-(-14), Mitchell 4-(-16), A. Allen 5-(-26)
RECEIVING Drew Morgan 5-109, Hunter Henry 4-91, TD, Jeremy Sprinkle 3-73, Jared Cornelius 4-60, Walker 4-27, Cody Hollister 3-43, Keon Hatcher 3-18, Alex Voelzke 3-15, TD, Collins 2-18, Kendrick Payne 1-22, Scotty Thurman 1-21, Will Duncan 1-20, Conner McPherson 1-8, Kohl Slaughter 1-5
INTERCEPTIONS Daunte Carr 1-0, Alan Turner 1-0
SACKS JaMichael Winston 2-13, Tevin Beanum 2-13, D.J. Dean 2-12, Karl Roesler 1-8, Carr 1-7, Otha Peters 1-7, Ke’Tyrus Marks 1-7, Martrell Spaight 1-4, Deatrich Wise 1-4
TACKLES FOR LOSS Winston 3-14, Beanum 2-13, Dean 2-12, Spaight 2-8, Wise 2-5, Roesler 1-8, Carr 1-7, Peters 1-7, Marks 1-7, Carroll Washington 1-6
PASS BREAKUPS Tiquention Coleman 2, Peters, Tevin Mitchel, De’Andre Coley
FORCED FUMBLE Coley RECOVERED FUMBLE Matt Dodson
Sports, Pages 21 on 04/06/2014