Jim Harris’ First Take: Brandon Allen – Playmaker


Jim Harris’ First Take: Arkansas Razorbacks 24, Tennessee Volunteers 20


It figured that when the fourth quarter arrived in this one — with two teams matched up who had shown no ability to make plays late either on offense or defense or in special teams to win a game — we might see the ugliest 15 minutes of football before a non-loser emerged. True to form, it wasn’t pretty, but it turned out that Arkansas’ 24-20 lead through three quarters was indeed enough to hold up in Knoxville, Tenn. Arkansas failed to put away the Volunteers, and the Vols didn’t show any ability to take the game from the Hogs as well in the final 15 minutes. Tennessee, for the third time in its three losses, couldn’t hold a double-digit lead, but this time a 14-point edge had evaporated by halftime, as the teams were deadlocked at 17 after 30 minutes. The difference was the steady control that both Arkansas lines established as the second-half wore on. The Razorbacks’ defensive front figured out the Vols’ running game and the defense allowed less than 100 total yards in the second half, while the offense controlled the football for more than 20 minutes after halftime. The Razorbacks also found a second back to hit the 100-yard mark in freshman Rawleigh Williams III, while main threat Alex Collins had 154  yards on 27 carries, and Arkansas doubled-up Tennessee in rush yardage. Meanwhile, Brandon Allen completed just 11 passes, but most accounted for big yardage as he threw for 219 yards (or 19.9 yards per completion). Tennessee’s struggles in its passing game, even if the Vols gained 232 yards in the air, was most notable in that running backs Jalen Hurd (3 for 51) and Alvin Kamara (4 for 40) were the Vols’ leading receivers.

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema picked up his first SEC win on the road. It also marked the first game for Bielema at Arkansas that he won when the margin was seven points or less; he’s been 0-9 coming in to Saturday’s game. Brandon Allen was 0-8 as a starting quarterback in games decided by 7 points or less entering Saturday night. Arkansas’ last road win in the SEC came in John L. Smith’s interim year, a 24-7 win at Auburn against a Tigers team that would finish 0-8 in the conference. Dominique Reed scored his first touchdown as a Razorback on a 33-yard catch and run through the Tennessee defense in the second quarter that tied the game at 14.

The victory also was just Arkansas’s second ever in Knoxville and the first since a 25-24 upset of a No. 4 ranked Tennessee in 1992.

Where were the holding calls? Arkansas had been besieged by penalties against its offensive line and several other players for the past three weeks, all losses. In two of the games, touchdowns were taken off the board because of penalties.

However, on Saturday night the Hogs were penalized just three times for 20 yards, or 10 fewer flags that were thrown last weekend against Texas A&M. Not a single foul was for holding, and no offensive lineman drew a flag.

Interestingly, the referee for the game was Marc Curles, who still is infamous among Hog fans for officiating the 2009 Florida game where questionable flag after flag seemed to deny the Razorbacks an upset of the No. 1 ranked Gators in the Swamp, and Curles’ crew that day was so bad the SEC suspended it for three games.

It’s doubtful Arkansas fans will have anything negative to say about Saturday’s officiating in Knoxville, even if an obvious late hit on Brandon Allen during the game was ignored. Officials caught a later one.

Junior receiver Drew Morgan, who was coming off a career night in Arkansas’s 28-21 loss to Texas A&M last weekend in Arlington, Texas, stepped up big again with five receptions for 110 yards, with a long of 52 yards. Morgan also dislocated his shoulder in the first half but stayed in the game the rest of the way, hauling in two second-half passes to help the Hogs to the victory.

Two of the biggest plays of the game involved Brandon Allen using his feet with his arm — and they don’t include several quarterback keepers that were keep to drives as well. The first came in the second quarter on a third-down snap from the UT 33 when Allen worked the width of the backfield looking for a receiver, rolled to his left and near the line of scrimmage, then lofted a ball to a nearby Dominique Reed, who took the throw and zipped through four potential tacklers to a touchdown that, with the PAT, tied the game at 14. In the third quarter, again on third down, Allen got the Hogs out of their end of the field with another similar scramble to the left before spotting Hunter Henry behind the Vols secondary. Henry made a tough catch, then rambled for 51 yards on a possession that ended with a field goal from close range being blocked.


Both teams could kick themselves for miscues in the kicking game. Tennessee’s Evan Berry returned the opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown, aided by Razorback Duane Eugene slipping on the soaked and slippery turf (Knoxville was hit by three days of rain, and it rained during the game as well). When Eugene fell, it opened a crease in the coverage, and Berry raced through the opening, then hit the right sideline and eluded Lane Saling, the Hog kicker, to race the distance.

But Tennessee left points on the field when field goal kicker Aaron Medley botched a short field goal, hitting the upright from 28 yards. He would hit the upright again in the second half, but this time the ball fell through the uprights for one of his two makes on the night.

Arkansas got a short field goal (26 yards) from Cole Hedlund as the half ended to tie the game at 17 — an onrushing Tennessee lineman somehow still missed the football — but Hedlund had a 22-yard attempt in the second half blocked when it came out low. That kick would have extended Arkansas’s lead to 27-20.

That block probably had a lot to do with Bret Bielema calling for a surprise fake on a fourth-quarter field goal attempt when the Hogs bogged down near the Tennessee 10. Adam McFain came on for the attempt, but the Hogs tried some trickery with the holder flipping it to McFain, who attempted to run wide to the right (the ball was set on the left hashmark), and Tennessee stopped him at the 7, just short of a first down.

The field goal fakery came one play after Brandon Allen had, yet again, missed a wide-open Hunter Henry in the back of the end zone with a pass five feet higher than Henry’s outstretched hands — shades of Arkansas’ loss to Toledo.

Arkansas’s defensive front obviously was geared the entire night to keeps its pass rush discipline so as to not let Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs find lanes to scramble. For most of the night, it was outstanding.

Early in the game, however, Tennessee found Arkansas playing too loose and not setting an edge, allowing bruising running back Jalen Hurd to run wide on the Hogs for big gains. Tennessee had no trouble driving for a touchdown on its second possession for a 14-0 lead.

The Hogs make quick adjustments as the quarter changed, and the Hogs’ defensive front managed to seal the edge better. Ends Tevin Beanum and Jeremiah Ledbetter had outstanding games from the second quarter on. 

The stat sheet may not show it, but junior cornerback Jared Collins had an outstanding game. Collins late in the first quarter had tight coverage on a third-down throw in the end zone that went incomplete, and Tennessee bungled a short field goal attempt on the next down for one of the defense’s stops of the Vols in the red zone in the first half. Later, in the second quarter, Collins knocked the football loose from receiver Preston Williams, and Tevin Beanum made the recovery for the Hogs at their 6 to end another Vols march into the Hogs red zone. Late in the game, Collins wasn’t fooled by a halfback pass attempt deep, and he had tight coverage on Tennessee’s final play, another Dobbs deep pass that went awry.


Arkansas wasn’t without its usual head-scratcher moments that have plagued the Hogs in the past three weeks, all losses:

  • Arkansas went ultraconservative with a 24-20 lead in the fourth quarter, yet still tried a fake field goal instead of getting a short kick that would have made it 27-20.
  • Some of that ultraconservative calling near midfield include not once, but twice calling draw plays on second-and-3 with Alex Collins as the ball carriers. While Collins is terrific in certain calls, draw plays have never suited him. On the first one, Collins was dumped for a 3-yard loss.
  • Again, Brandon Allen couldn’t deliver a pass to a wide-open Hunter Henry in the end zone late that would have sealed the game. Arkansas failed to score a point in the fourth quarter for about the gazillionth game with Allen.
  • Despite all the play-it-safe style of attack late, the Razorbacks played their ace card, a misdirection pitch to Alex Collins on third-and-short to get the game-clinching first down and were able to run out the clock after taking over with 2:32 to play and Tennessee with three time outs.
  • Arkansas had a little more than a minute to cover the field late in the first half and, thanks to a late-hit penalty on the Vols for hitting Brandon Allen out of bounds, the Hogs moved into short field goal range to tie the game at 17. Arkansas did it while leaving three timeouts uncalled, and the Hogs wasted at least 15 seconds of the clock after the first play of the drive, a quarterback draw by Allen.

All that awaits the Razorbacks (2-3, 1-1 in the SEC) is an Alabama (4-1, 1-1) that is obviously refocused after a poor performance in a home loss to Ole Miss two weeks ago. Alabama routed Georgia in a much-ballyhooed showdown that fizzled early, 38-10 in Athens, Ga., on Saturday. The Hogs and Crimson Tide meet at 6 p.m. this coming Saturday in Tuscaloosa.

Brandon Allen and Alex Collins in win over Tennessee


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