QB's fire doused

Allen’s return as starter doesn’t help Hogs

By: Bob Holt
Published: Sunday, November 12, 2017
Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen throws a pass between the arms of LSU linebacker K'Lavon Chaisson during a game Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017, in Baton Rouge, La.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen throws a pass between the arms of LSU linebacker K'Lavon Chaisson during a game Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017, in Baton Rouge, La.

BATON ROUGE -- Austin Allen is a well-respected captain by his Arkansas teammates, but the fifth-year senior quarterback showed a different side of himself before Saturday's game against LSU.

The normally calm Allen gave a fiery pregame speech.

"He's not a guy that comes out of his shell a lot, so when you see him be emotional and ready to go, it helped everybody on the team," junior tight end Jeremy Patton said. "We weren't expecting that.

"He's a very calm and composed guy. He's not really a fiery guy. He's a fierce competitor, but he's calm.

"So to see him get hyped up and and get everybody ready to go, it gave us a lot of energy."

The fire burning within Allen was understandable.

Allen returned to the starting lineup after missing the previous four games because of a right shoulder injury.

"I mean, five weeks ago I didn't know if I was ever going to suit up again," Allen said. "So just being back out there, it's one of those things where it's all I've wanted to do with my life."

While Allen was excited to play again, it was a tough game as the Tigers beat the Razorbacks 33-10 to drop the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville to 4-6 with home games left against Mississippi State and Missouri.

"I know he's frustrated," Razorbacks Coach Bret Bielema said of Allen. "Now you're looking at a senior that's got two games at home.

"Obviously, Fayetteville has been his home for a long time. He's got a tremendous feeling for this university, for Arkansas and I have a hard time believing he won't take today's learning experiences and try to play the best two games of his career here at the end."

Allen completed 13 of 23 passes for 140 yards on Saturday in his 19th career start. His incompletions included some misses on deep passes, but he didn't blame that on being rusty or his right shoulder being at less than full strength.

"I don't think that really affected me too much," Allen said of the five-week layoff. "It was different things they were doing on defense, bringing some pressures we hadn't seen.

"You've got to make the big plays when they're there, and that's kind of what it came down to today for sure.

"It was just one of those days. You can't miss those."

Bielema didn't announce a starting quarterback this week between Allen and redshirt freshman Cole Kelley -- who replaced Allen the previous four games -- but he said Allen took first-team reps all week with Kelley slowed by a toe injury he suffered against Coastal Carolina.

"Cole came in on Sunday and his whole foot was pretty discolored and he had a pretty significant turf toe," Bielema said. "Nothing structurally damaged that needed surgery or anything like that.

"At that point didn't know if he'd be able to play. Austin we knew from Sunday forward was our starting quarterback.

"He had some things he had to work through out there. I give him a lot of credit for battling himself back. .. He didn't know if one day he'd get a chance to play again, so to get him back out there was a big deal for him."

Kelley played on Arkansas' final two series and completed 3 of 10 passes for 36 yards. He drove the Razorbacks to the LSU 25, but on fourth-and-9 was intercepted by Andraez Williams in the end zone.

Bielema said Kelley went into the game because he does well running the hurry-up offense and can "sling it around pretty good."

Kelley led game-winning drives at Ole Miss and against Coastal Carolina the previous two games.

"I just thought there in the fourth quarter he'd been there and done that the last couple of weeks," Bielema said. "I thought we'd lean on that and try to get some spark at the end.

"That's why we did it. But nothing from benching Austin or anything like that. Just wanted to get a guy who had been there a second chance."

Bielema said Kelley was limited in practice throughout the week.

"Cole did a nice job of coming in and rehabbing," Bielema said. "He did take half the reps on Wednesday, but couldn't go Thursday, couldn't go Friday. Got himself in position he could go today."

With center Frank Ragnow out for the season after suffering an ankle injury against Auburn on Oct. 21, Allen is now the only senior who plays significant snaps for the Razorbacks on offense.

"It gives everybody that much more confidence," Patton said of Allen's return. "He's a guy that when he makes a mistake, you almost don't expect it.

"Having that rock there for our offense is a really big deal, especially since Frank's not there anymore. So we need that senior leadership on the offense."

Patton said Allen was poised during the game.

"Austin's not going to change," Patton said. "He's a pretty consistent guy.

"He's good, he's smart and he makes great reads. We've just got to protect him a little bit better and run the ball more to help him out."

Allen said it wasn't an added challenge to have his first game in a month be on the road against LSU, which is ranked No. 24 in the College Football Playoff poll.

"It's why you play in the SEC," he said. "You want to play teams like that. It's what you signed up for."

Allen was sacked once and took some hits, but said he felt fine physically.

"I felt good enough to play," he said. "I felt 100 percent. I just missed some things. Missed those deep balls in the second half, and I've got to hit them.

"I thought the offensive line played pretty good. I thought they blocked their tails off all day. The running backs picked up the blitzes and ran hard.

"We just couldn't get it done today."


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