‘Talented’ Allen giving balance to Hogs’ offense

Published 12:03 pm Friday, November 6, 2015

Hugh Freeze didn’t need to glance at any stats to know how good the quarterback his defense is about to go up against has been this season.

Brandon Allen’s film spoke for itself.

“He’s got to be up there just from the films I’ve watched,” Ole Miss’ coach said. “He’s pretty talented.”

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Allen leads an Arkansas offense that’s got some similarities to the usual ground-and-pound teams head coach Bret Bielema has had going back to his Wisconsin days. But the Razorbacks are a viable threat through the air now thanks to play of their senior signal caller.

No. 19 Ole Miss will get its look at the Razorbacks’ newfound balance when it hosts Arkansas on Saturday (2:30 p.m., CBS).

Behind the biggest offensive line pound for pound in all of football, the Razorbacks (4-4, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) are eating up their usual yardage on the ground. Running back Alex Collins is 40 yards shy of 1,000 for the third straight year for the SEC’s fourth-ranked rushing offense.

When defenses have concentrated too much on stopping Collins, Allen has made them pay.

Allen, who will make his SEC-leading 34th career start Saturday, has thrown for 2,034 yards with 15 touchdowns against just five interceptions, which has him leading the league in efficiency. Only Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly and Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott are throwing for more yards per game (254) and accounting for more offense a game (268) than him.

“He’s going to throw it away or get rid of it before he gets lost yardage or a negative play,” defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said.

The Rebels (7-2, 4-1) are all too familiar with Allen, who will face Ole Miss for the third time. An injury sidelined Allen for most of last year’s 30-0 drubbing of the Rebels, but he still completed five passes for 87 yards, including a 25-yard score.

“He threw it pretty well against us last year also,” Freeze said. “I think they just committed themselves to be more balanced, and he’s a talented kid that obviously just when he’s given his opportunity has produced.”

Preventing Allen from clicking with his receivers, specifically All-SEC tight end Hunter Henry (409 receiving yards) and Jeremy Sprinkle (222), starts with slowing down Collins to put the Razorbacks in predictable downs and distances. Ole Miss is allowing just 3.3 yards per rush in league play and will get some more help Saturday with the return of safety Tony Conner.

“Hunter Henry is a special player, but their running game, we’ve just got to stop that running game,” safety Trae Elston said. “If we stop that running game, then they can’t just play-action. So that’s what we’re going to focus on.”