SEC Praises Budda

Arkansas rookie running back Alex "Budda" Collins, the SEC's leading rusher and sixth nationally, is named the league's Freshman of the Week on a Monday when Razorback head coach Bret Bielema announces he expects several Razorbacks to return from injuries for this week's game with Southern Miss and finds out the start time for the Sept. 21 game at Rutgers.

In just two weeks, Arkansas freshman tailback Alex Collins has showed the SEC what all the fuss was about.

Collins leads the league and is sixth nationally in rushing with 303 yards on 45 carries through the first two games and was named the league's Freshman of the Week on Monday after rolling up 172 yards on 24 carries on Saturday in the Razorbacks' 31-21 win over Samford Saturday night in Little Rock.

"I've watched Alex for three years," Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema said. "He's a very gifted player. He can turn a play in a minute. Obviously a very emotional young man that feeds off that. He's a guy that, I think, feeds off the emotions of the crowd."

About the only thing Collins did wrong was get a unsportmanslike penalty after his fourh-quarter touchdown – his first career one.

"I didn't appreciate what he did, but when you know Alex, you'll see," Bielema said. "If I had gone up to him before the game and said 'now when you get your first touchdown don't' … he wouldn't have done it. But he kind of explained to me, he kind of popped up, saw it, and he was running through there. He expected to get hit. Didn't get hit.

"So I think we had a really good conversation about that," Bielema continued. "He's a very, very warm kid so he loves the crowd. I think he plays off the crowd very, very much."

Collins has been part of a two-headed rushing attack combined with sophomore Jonathan Williams, who is third in the league with 277 yards rushing on 35 carries with a pair of touchdowns.

That duo have become the first pair in school history to both rush for over 100 yards in each of the school's first two games.

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Arkansas will play Southern Mississippi this Saturday at 11:21 a.m. on the SEC Network and found out it will have a 2:30 p.m. CST kickoff at Rutgers on Sept. 21.

The Razorbacks' first road game of the year will be televised by one of four networks – ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPN U. That is something that will be decided after this weekend's games are completed.

Rutgers is 1-1 after Saturday's 38-0 home win over Norfolk State.

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Bielema lauded what he has seen from starting quarterback Brandon Allen, who is third in the SEC with five touchdown passes and 17th nationally.

The redshirt sophomore has completed 24-of-39 passes for 355 yards and five touchdowns.

His 14.79 yards per completion ranks fifth in SEC and 16th in the NCAA while his quarterback rating of 180.3 is fifth in the SEC and 18th nationally.

"Well, first, he continues to impress us with how he handles the game," Bielema said. "I think there's probably some guys in his situation that may have not been able to rebound the way he did (from 2012). But he made a couple of critical throws when we needed to (on Saturday night).

"His second pass for a touchdown was really a nice read and react," Bielema added. "So he's continued to move forward. I think that he's got an understanding that he can run the ball now for a first down, which he did two different occasions, which makes you feel really good. So, again, just another step forward for him."

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Clearly Allen has developed a connection with senior wideout Javontee Herndon, who has eight catches for 143 yards and three touchdowns, which is the same amount of scoring catches he had in the first three years of his career.

Tight end Hunter Henry is next on the list with five catches while no one else has caught more than three. Bielema was asked if Allen was focusing on Herndon too much.

"Nooooo," Bielema stressed. "I would say, for instance the first touchdown, I thought he was going to go in the flat, but he was patient and waited for, the way that the corner bit up, that allowed (Mitchell) Loewen to get open. He saw the crease for the touchdown.

"Then the second one, I thought he was going to actually try to run it," Bielema added. "Then I think he thought you know dumping it. Then the way the corner reacted there, he waited for Herndon to settle down in the back of the end zone and that was a great read and reaction off of both of those guys."

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Bielema was asked for his take on his first game in Little Rock, a place the Razorbacks flew home from instead of taking buses. "We got back almost two complete hours (later)," Bielema said. "We had two planes that flew back, smaller planes....I flew back basically with all of our ones (first-team players). We were back about an hour and fifteen after we left the stadium. That was the first run. Hoping the second one is even better.

"The next plane was behind us about 15 minutes and the buses got in about 1:30 (a.m.)," Bielema added. "I was at my house at about 11:30 and the buses didn't roll into town about 1:30."?

He was asked what he thought of the crowd of 47,358.

"I never really feel the crowd," Bielema said. "Our players do and I think they feed off of it. I at times in pregame could definitely feel it. I thought it was a very, very positive experience.?

"When I first mention we were going to through a walk through down at the stadium, everybody was like no, no, no, no, you won't be able to get in there," Bielema added. "But I am glad we did. Our kids show that and I think it kind of gave them some juice in the afternoon. Then when we returned three hours later or four hours later, it was absolutely awesome. They were into it in the fourth quarter.?

"Obviously we had some empty seats, but that is going to to come with A) having success and B) our opponent," Bielema continued.

Bielema touched on two recruiting issues that come into play when Arkansas has a game in Little Rock.

"The only negatives are things that Little Rock can't control," Bielema said. "Obviously you can't control the crowd and there are two NCAA rules that are a big concern.

"First is that we can not invite high school coaches to the game by NCAA rules," Bielema added. "That is a huge hit for us in recruiting. The other thing is that we can't take official visits. For instance, two of our biggest official visit weekends are erased because we can't have official visits in Little Rock.?"

He noted that Arkansas would love to be playing the two weekends in Fayetteville that it is in Little Rock this season because of the byes of some of its top recruits.

"We did our top 12 recruits left on our board, six of those guys have bye weeks when we have home games, but both of those bye weeks are weeks when we are in Little Rock," Bielema said. "So it erases the chance to have them on campus for a home game and that is very, very frustrating and it is hard to work through it. You don't want that to affect recruiting in a negative way."'?

He refused to say the crowd number was disappointing.

"No," Bielema said. "I have been in some great stadiums where there have been less than 47,000 and they were great environments. I was at Kent State – and I don't know what they are at, but it is somewhere around there – and they were some of the loudest venues that I have ever been a part of in the Big 12 and specifically there.

"I think it is not the number, it is the attitude and energy that those people bring," Bielema added. "I think you saw Little Rock bring a lot of attitude and energy and very, very enthusiastic to be there."

Alex Collins

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