Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen wasn’t even watching Hunter Henry’s heave that led to a fourth-and-25 conversion – and eventual win — against Ole Miss a year ago.
Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema saw the desperate lateral, which eventually led to the 53-52 overtime win over the Rebels , but he’d prefer something less dramatic this time around.
“If we could make it less wild and be effective, I’d like that,” Bielema said.
Bielema might get the result he wants when No. 22 Arkansas (4-2, 0-2 Southeastern Conference) tries for its third straight win over No. 12 Ole Miss (3-2, 1-1) on Saturday night, but good luck convincing anyone another shootout isn’t in the works.
That’s thanks in large part to the presence of Allen and Chad Kelly of the Rebels, the SEC’s top two quarterbacks in passing efficiency halfway through the season.
Kelly’s play this season has hardly been a surprise after his breakout first go-round as the starter for Ole Miss a year ago. Allen, meanwhile, entered the season as a relative unknown outside of Arkansas after serving as his older brother’s backup the last two seasons – including for last year’s shootout in Oxford.
The junior has done everything the Razorbacks have asked of him and more in his first season as the starter, leading the SEC in touchdown passes with 15 and throwing for 400 yards in a 49-30 loss to No. 1 Alabama a week ago. And he’s done so despite being under considerable pressure behind an offensive line still trying to establish itself after replacing three starters from a year ago.
“I feel like I am watching the same guy,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said, comparing Allen to his older brother, Brandon. “I think they are extremely accurate, extremely tough, have a great understanding of defenses. The ball goes to the right spot, it’s accurate. Just a really good player.”
Some things to watch for as the Razorbacks try to win three straight over the Rebels for the first time since winning four in a row from 2004 to 2007:
▪ Kelly has thrown a touchdown pass in 18 straight games, which is the longest streak in school history and tied for the fifth-longest active streak in the nation.
▪ Kelly’s favorite target this season is tight end Evan Engram, who has caught 30 passes for 479 yards.
▪ Arkansas allowed six sacks and 12 quarterback hurries against the Crimson Tide last week, and the Razorbacks have given up 13 sacks on the season – one less than they gave up in each of the last two seasons.
▪ They face another difficult pass rusher on Saturday in Ole Miss junior defensive end Marquis Haynes, who has three sacks through five games as well as three quarterback hurries.
Ole Miss at Arkansas
When: 6 p.m. Saturday
Where: Fayetteville, Ark.
Radio: 103.1 FM