Follow Up: Has Brandon Allen Turned the Corner?


Earlier this season, I wrote how Brandon Allen could “turn the corner” during the Tennessee game. Which you can read by clicking here!

Since that article, the Hogs have played Tennessee, Alabama and Auburn. The record in those games are 2-and-1, with a win on the road at Tennessee for the first time since 1992, and a 4 overtime thriller and instant Hog classic against Auburn at home. The lone loss was against Alabama at Alabama, with the Hogs actually leading for 3 and half quarters before finally succumbing to the Crimson Tide.

Those three games I thought would be a good measuring stick as they’re all SEC teams and two of the three were on the road, which the past few seasons hasn’t exactly been the Hogs strong point. As noted above, the Razorbacks have won an SEC game on the road this season. That has doubled their win total in SEC road wins since John L. “SMILE!” Smith beat a tire fire of an Auburn football team at Auburn in 2012.

As many Hog fans are already very well aware, the injury bug has bit them HARD. Allen started the season without his number one running back Jonathan Williams, and by week three lost his top three returning receivers in Hatcher, Hollister, and Cornelius to various bone related injuries. Not to mention the loss of Kody Walker, the starting fullback and third string running back. Just recently getting back Walker for the Auburn game was huge, and the return of Cornelius expected back this week against UT-Martin. However, the Hogs lost Rawleigh Williams III to a season ending injury last week as well.

Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Allen coming into this season was expected to be a “game manager.” Before the injuries listed above, his job description was to hand the ball off to Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins, and occasionally throw “pitch and catch” crossing/slant/out routes to tight ends Hunter Henry and Jeremy Sprinkle. After doing that for a few series and getting the defense to come in to stop the run/short tight end routes, they’d throw a play action bomb to a hopefully wide open Keon Hatcher. Sounds pretty nice, right? Well, if if’s and buts were candies and nuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas. The injuries forced Allen to go from “game manager” to “play maker” in the span of 3 weeks.

During that time, Arkansas dropped three straight to Toledo, Texas Tech and Texas A&M in overtime. During that stretch Allen threw for as many interceptions as he did touchdowns, three each. You can read more in detail about those three games in the article I linked at the top of the page. However, long story short, he overthrew Hunter Henry in the End Zone twice and under threw a wide open Jeremy Sprinkle a few times in what would have more than likely been crucial TD’s.

Then came Tennessee, Allen threw for 11-for-24 for 219 yards and one TD. While Collins and RWIII ran for 100+ yards each. That’s the kind of balance attack we were hoping to see from the Hogs in week one. Allen managed the game, and didn’t turn it over and did what a manager was supposed to do for the most part. However, was he able to shake the monkey off his back? Well, yes and no. On a crucial third down late in the third quarter, Allen scampered out of the pocket and extended the play and put a perfectly thrown ball in the hands of a wide open Hunter Henry streaking down the sideline for a 50+ yard gain that put the Hogs deep into Vol’s territory. It looked like Brandon Allen finally made the clutch play he needed to make, when the Hogs needed him to the most.

During that same drive not six plays later however, with the Hogs up 4 and looking to go up by two scores. On a third and long in the Red Zone, Razorback fans saw the all too familiar site of Allen under throwing a wide open Jeremy Sprinkle. That led to a blocked field goal, the next play. The defense however was able to step up and Arkansas was able to hold on to the 24-20 win. So while Allen made a huge play on the drive, he also missed one. So hard to say he really turned the corner.

Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Then the Hogs took a trip to Tuscaloosa, to take on “Saban the Barbarian” and his band of Crimson Tide. This was the definition of a defensive struggle, the Tide’s front seven is probably the best and toughest in all of college football. However, the Razorback defense went blow for blow with them for 3 and half quarters before fatigue and the depth of Alabama were just too much for the young Hog defense. The Tide pulled away late and won 27-14.

On the day Allen went for 15-for-32 176 yards for two TD’s and an interception. That stat line put Allen’s QB rating the lowest of the season at 107.5, which isn’t by any means elite, but it’s not terrible. Also, it should be noted, at one point Allen had the longest run on the day for the Hogs at 8 yards. The Hogs offense was overwhelmed all game, you could have put Aaron Rodgers behind center and I don’t think it would have helped that much. That Alabama front seven is just that nasty. So, did Brandon Allen turn the corner? Have to give this a N/A, there really wasn’t much of a chance to make a big or clutch play, however, he did make a great play on a scramble out the pocket late in the fourth and found Dominique Reed, for a TD to bring the score a little closer.

Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Hogs got a fortunately placed BYE week before the “Gus Bus” rolled into Fayetteville. The game and match up reminded a lot of people of the Tennessee game, except this one was at home. The Tiger Plainsmen overcame a 14 point deficit late, and forced it into overtime. However, Brandon Allen did lead the Hogs on a crucial drive late in the fourth quarter to give the Hogs what at the time looked like a game winning Field Goal, with just over a minute left. After a somewhat “controversial” reversal of an Auburn fumble that got ruled an incomplete pass, the Plainsmen were able to hit a big 41 yard field goal to tie it up. Many Arkansas fans were bracing for the worst, as Coach Bielema hasn’t had much luck in overtime games. Including the Texas A&M loss in OT just a few weeks earlier. However, this time was different. After a quick score in three plays by Auburn, Arkansas was facing a fourth and three on the Auburn six yard line. That’s when Brandon Allen threw a perfect strike right into the chest of a well defended Drew Morgan in the End Zone. Allen came through in a clutch situation. Then, it just kind of “clicked.”

The Hog offense fed off the momentum and effort of Allen and Walker, who was running at will through the wore down Auburn defense. What may have been Allen’s best pass of the game, if not year, came on a two point play in the third OT, on a designed roll out. Allen fired a perfect ball into a very small window, in traffic, that found Jeremy Sprinkle. Following that up with a great throw to by Drew Morgan. Allen once again came up big on the two point conversion in the fourth OT, floating a ball right into the hands of a casted Kody Walker. The defense stepped up finally and sealed the win in the fourth OT after breaking up a fourth down pass. I think it’s safe to say, at least in this game, Brandon Allen did in fact turn the corner, and you could see the weight finally crawling off his back, when he met his dad mid-field.

Has Brandon Allen finally expelled his demons that has haunted him throughout this season and his time as a Razorback? For right now it seems so. The Hogs get UT-Martin on Saturday from the FCS. After that the Hogs go on a tough two game road stretch, going to an up-and-down Ole Miss team, followed by a trip to Death Valley to take on Leonard Fournette and the LSU tigers. Then two big home games to finish out the season in Mississippi State and Missouri.

If the Hogs are able to “right the ship” and make a bowl game, you can look back at the Auburn overtimes, and see where not just Brandon Allen, but the entire Razorback team were able to finally get a giant gorilla off their back.

Next: Hogs SG Breaks World Record for 3 Pointers