Arkansas' Bielema committed to Allen despite woes
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP)
Brandon Allen earned the starting quarterback position at Arkansas with a stellar spring practice under first-year coach Bret Bielema.
Allen has largely struggled since then, including a 4-of-12 passing effort for 30 yards in the Razorbacks' 52-7 loss to South Carolina last week.
Despite Allen's struggles - he ranks 13th in the Southeastern Conference in passer rating - Bielema is committed to the sophomore as the starter for Arkansas (3-4, 0-3 SEC).
It's a job that doesn't get any easier this week when the Razorbacks, who have lost four straight games, travel to face No. 1 Alabama (6-0, 3-0).
''It's difficult at the quarterback position at times when things aren't going your way,'' Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said. ''It's such a polarizing position. When you're winning, everybody tells you how good you are and it's all because of you. When you're losing, they tell you how bad you are and it's all because of you.''
Arkansas has done plenty of losing of late, though it hasn't all come on Allen's watch.
The Fayetteville native, who beat out former teammate Brandon Mitchell for the starting job during the spring, suffered a sprain in his throwing shoulder during the first quarter of the Razorbacks' third game of the season - a 24-3 win over Southern Mississippi.
Backup A.J. Derby replaced Allen for the remainder of that game, as well as the following week when Arkansas saw a 17-point second-half lead disappear in a 28-24 loss to Rutgers.
Allen returned the following week and performed well in the Razorbacks' 45-33 loss to Texas A&M, throwing for a career-high 282 yards and three touchdowns. However, he's struggled mightily since - completing a combined 21 of 53 passes the last two weeks against Florida and the Gamecocks.
He also threw interceptions that were returned for touchdowns against the Aggies and Gators, narrowly avoiding the same fate for a third straight game against South Carolina - when Victor Hampton was stopped at the 6-yard line.
Despite the struggles, Bielema said Allen remains the ''best option'' at quarterback for the Razorbacks.
''Let's be honest; you have got to deal with reality there,'' Bielema said. ''If there was a guy I thought would give us a better chance, we would play him.''
Allen has now completed 64 of 133 passes (48.1 percent) this season, throwing for eight touchdowns and five interceptions.
Part of Allen's completion struggles are as a result of an inexperienced receiving corps that has dropped several passes over the last two games. Also, Bielema said he's been unable to go through a full week of practice since injuring his shoulder against Southern Mississippi on Sept. 14.
Allen was 26-of-44 passing (59.1 percent) prior to his injury, and he's just 38 of 89 (42.7 percent) since - though the competition level has also risen as of late.
The sophomore said he's improved each week since the injury and that he's been ''full-go'' this week leading up to the game against the Crimson Tide. He also said the recent struggles haven't caused him to question his ability at all.
''I have no doubt in myself and in my teammates, so we're ready to get going. All it takes is one game for us to get it going again, and things will start clicking again for us.''
Allen's first and only start last season came against Alabama while replacing an injured Tyler Wilson at quarterback. The then-freshman suffered the same difficult fate as many of his teammates in the 52-0 loss, throwing a pair of interceptions while finishing 10-of-18 passing for 60 yards.
He spent much of the offseason addressing that game, along with how he expected more out of himself this season as the starter. The numbers certainly haven't showed that this season, though there's only one number Allen is concerned with.
''You know, those don't bug me as much as the losses do, for sure,'' Allen said. ''Sure you see them and you want to do better than that, but the biggest thing that bugs me is the losses, not the passing efficiency.''
Chaney pulled Allen aside following last week's loss to South Carolina, offering up words of encouragement for the first-year starter and telling him to move on to the next game.
''I know he felt bad about the way he played, but he'll bounce right back,'' Chaney said. ''He's a young, resilient, confident kid that wants to do good. He's got to go out on the field and perform well, and he's aware of that.''