Things started out so well for new Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen. In wins over UL-Lafayette and Samford, the sophomore completed 24-of-39 passes (61.5%) for 355 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. You really couldn’t ask for much more from a newbie.
But then came a shoulder injury against Southern Miss. He missed his team’s loss at Rutgers. And since returning to action his stats and his team have gone right down the tubes.
In losses to Texas A&M, Florida, South Carolina, Alabama and Auburn — all ranked foes when he faced them — Allen has completed 55-of-136 (40.4%) for 679 yards (135.8 per game) with four TDs and six INTs. Naturally, a starting quarterback will bear the brunt of the criticism when an offense struggles and Allen is no exception.
“You know the only criticism is probably coming from our fanbase and the media. There is no criticism coming from the coaches. We see what he goes through. We know what he’s dealing with. In my opinion he has probably shown me as much — to assure me that he is for sure the best player for the job right now. Any criticism he gets is just people that don’t have knowledge.”
Bielema also pointed out his quarterback’s toughness last Saturday. Against Auburn, Allen suffered a large cut down his leg. He missed one series to have the wound “stapled together” and then returned to action. According to The Baxter Bulletin, Bielema said he “quickly looked away” when he saw the nastiness of the injury.
Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney — who was in the pressbox and missed seeing the cut while it was fresh — backed Bielema’s assessment. “You can’t question this kid’s courage or toughness… Oh, he’s pretty tender right now. Someone takes a chunk out of your leg, it’s going to hurt for a while.”
Razorback fans might not be able to question Allen’s toughness, but you’d better believe they’ll continue to question his on-field play. That goes with the position, whether all of Arkansas’ offensive woes should be dumped at Allen’s doorstep or not.