If you showed up at Saturday's Red-White game or watched it on TV expecting improvement from starting quarterback Brandon Allen and the passing offense, you no doubt left highly disappointed in that area.
But if you were looking for explosive things from Korliss Marshall, a swarming defense headed by Deatrich Wise – who had five of his team's nine sacks - and stayed long enough to see the 50-yard touchdown run by ESPN Hall of Fame Razorback fan Cannan Sandy that came in the second half of the Red's 61-22 win over the White, you left with a smile.
In fact, the dash by Cannan that ended in a score and the mobbing by the entire Razorback squad was easily the best moment of the day and left Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema emotional when talking about it in the press room afterwards.
"Well, I've gotten to know him," Bielema said. "He's been at a bunch of Razorback events with me. He's on a world tour, I think. Every time I turn around he's there. He's just one of those contagious personalities. I can't remember what Razorback Club we were at and he was there … was it Little Rock? … and we were playing catch and the idea kind of popped into my head then.
"... I said, 'hey, let's do something. Let's try to recognize him,'" Bielema added. "It's a huge accomplishment. I couldn't see our guys. He had a Michael Jackson dance move he was ready to break out. We rehearsed it at halftime in here. So I don't know if he got that on live tv or not. You talk about a ham? He wasn't about to come off that field. He was enjoying his limelight for eternity."
Senior offensive lineman Brey Cook loved the effort from Sandy, who is from Cave City and has been traveling with his mom Ginger to Arkansas games for over 30 years ad will be one of three fans ESPN inducts this year.
"That was a blast, that was awesome," Cook said. "That is special. That is why you play football, things like that. That was huge. We heard about it yesterday and all the guys were pumped up. As it kind of happened, it was kind of surreal moments. It was awesome to be a part of."
That was the good, the bad was how his first team offense performed in the first half as Allen was just 5-of-11 for 21 yards with a pair of interceptions – including one on the first drive of the game that went through Keon Hatcher's hands and into those of defender DeAndre Coley.
"I thought the part that was frustrating for me, just the first half, we just kind of looked like we were sleepwalking a little bit," Bielema said. "Some guys weren't ready to roll. They actually picked it up very well in the second half, I thought, in the way that we executed. There were definitely some exciting guys out there to watch.
"Obviously 33 (Marshall] has been impressive to us throughout fall camp," Bielema added. "I think him, and (fellow backs) Jonathan Wiliams and Alex Collins, those three guys are pretty special. They all have a different little make up to them that makes them exciting to get into the plays. I thought B.A. came around in the second half."
On the other hand, the first-team Red defense not only stymied the White team offense, but also scored off a couple of turnovers – an interception of Austin Allen by Rohan Gaines and an Austin Allen fumble that resulted in a Darius Philon score.
Those two plays came right after Marshall's 59-yard touchdown dash and gave the Red team three scores in less than 30 seconds.
"I thought our defense - the one thing that's shown up throughout the course of spring and out there today, they're definitely a little bit more physical," Bielema said. "They run to the ball very, very well. There's some guys that lay some pads out there and it was exciting to watch them.
Marshall (6 carries, 99 yards) had the day's other best dash – the 59-yarder in which he barely got touched while racing into the end zone. It is something he only got to do on a kickoff return last season.
"It feels really good considering that I didn't get a touchdown last season," Marshall said. "I got to get in here and show some of my skills and let everybody see the real speed. I feel pretty good about today's game so we all are going to continue to move forward."
The first-team offense had been stagnant to that point with Allen (12-of-21, 108 yards, 2 picks and a touchdown) struggling mightily out of the gate.
"The first quarter, we started off a little slow the first quarter, but that's my role – to be the spark, to hype everybody up, to get a good play – and I just do a good job playing my role," Marshall said. "It is just like every time I get the ball I just think run fast, get at least 3, 4, 5 yards a pop would be good.
"I actually got the ball and there was a hole right there and the safety was also coming down the field, but I got a great block from my buddy Luke – like a great block," Marshall said. "He made the key block to me like getting out and then rest of it was like athletic ability.
"The offensive line does such a great job up front that just about every time I touched the ball, it was a positive play," Marshall said. "I don't recall any negative yardage plays so I give all my credit to the offensive line."
In addition to Marshall's 99 yards, Williams added 8 carries for 78 yards while Brandon Allen had 3 carries for 13 yards and Alex Collins 4 carries for 13 yards.
Bielema was asked how he would be able to share the carries.
"Wishbone?," Bielema joked. "I think that 33 is very, very good when the ball is in his hands. The growth he has to make is what he … you know, pass pro, some stuff on first and second down that when the ball isn't in his hands he just has to become a complete back. But I think that will be a matter of time. He just hasn't had time to master it, to be quite honest.
"On the flip side of it, I think 32 (Williams) and 3 (Collins) realize that's a pretty good player and everybody wants the ball," Bielema said. "The neat thing for us, those three guys give us valuable ready-made guys right now going into fall camp and we can spend the entire summer thinking through that process."
Brandon Allen did have a better second half as he completed 7 of 9 passes for 87 yards and a touchdown.
"I got with (offensive coordinator) Jim (Chaney) at halftime and talked to B.A," Bielema said. "We did water down, obviously we didn't run our entire offense, either throwing the ball or running the ball. So we were pretty vanilla. But I wanted to have him get in some rhythm, some play-action passes.
"I think B.A. is a guy that, it's just not his game to sit back there and throw drop-back passes," Bielema said. " You want to move him around in the pocket, get him with some play-action, helps him get in rhythm a little better. I thought our guys caught the ball extremely well in the second half. I thought 81 (Cody Hollister) and No. 1 (Jared Cornelius), I wanted to get them involved in some plays and that's what happened."
Austin Allen was 11-of-17 for 139 yards with a touchdown while taking five sacks and two turnovers while true freshman Rafe Peavey was 4-of-9 for 42 yards and took 4 sacks.
"You know, both of them just have to continue to get better," Bielema said. "They're a long ways away from being SEC ready. But both of them are kids that learn very, very well. They want to be successful and they're quarterback junkies. I know they're in with Jim all the time, as much as they can. We do have a lot of growth at that position to take."
Hatcher led the wide receivers with 5 catches for 52 yards while Drew Morgan had 4 for 39, Eric Hawkins a 45-yard TD on the last play of the first half, Hollister 3 for 61 and a touchdown, Cornelius 2 for 19, tight end Hunter 2 for 21 and Damon Mitchell - a former quarterback - had 3 catches for 27 yards.
Linebacker Brooks Ellis and Martrell Spaight both had 9 tackles while Davyon McKinney, Gaines, Carroll Washington and De'Andre Coley all had a pick each.
Wise was not one of the players brought into the media room, but certainly let his play do the talking.
"Obviouly Deatrich Wise continues to make strides," Bielema said. "Deatrich is so long, if he can get you locked out and extended, I don't care how good of a pass pro you are, he's going to cause problems. The one thing with the one defense going against our two offense, I knew there was going to be some issues. You obviously would do some things to help them, protection-wise in the scheme if you're going into a game.
"... He's definitely been making progress," Bielema continued later. I think (defensive line) Coach (Rory) Segrest and him have honed in....As we saw last year, he had some flashes on third-down pass rush. Again, he creates mismatches because he's so long and really does a nice job of converting into the pass rush from a run stance."
Bielema also thought his secondary was better and that some of those sacks were coverage ones.
"There were contested -- you know both of B.A.'s picks were balls that were basically broken up at the reception and balls that were in the air and that's how you create turnovers," Bielema said. "I thought our guys are playing a lot tighter in coverage, they're using their hands better.
"One dramatic change that I thought we did out of season in just philosophy wise on defense was getting our hands on receivers and re-routing them and challenging them at the line of scrimmage, which is going to pay off," Bielema added.
Brooks Ellis fights through for a tackle.
Cody Hollister had three catches.
Darius Philon rushes the passer.
Patrick Arinze turns the corner with a touchdown catch.
Austin Allen rolls out.
Jared Cornelius turns the corner after a catch.
Brandon Allen turns back for a receiver.
Korliss Marshall slices into the open on a 59-yard TD run.
Photo by Jason Ivester, Hawgs Illustrated
Red 61, White 22
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