Arkansas 52, Northern Illinois 14

Korliss Marshall starts the night's scoring with a 97-yard kickoff return and ends it with a 27-yard TD romp as Arkansas uses a balanced attack to end Northern Illinois' nation's-longest road winning streak at 17 with a 52-14 rout Saturday night before 67,204 fans at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Just call this bunch of Razorbacks the streak killers.

In three consecutive Saturdays, Arkansas has now ended its own 10-game losing streak, put a halt to Texas Tech's 26-game home winning streak against non-conference foes and emphatically broke Northern Illinois' nation's-best 17-game road winning streak.

They did it with all three phases finding the scoreboard for the first time since 2009.

Korliss Marshall's 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown started the game, Darius Philon returned a fumble 14 yards for a score and the offense eventually got in on the act with five touchdowns and a field goal as the Razorbacks downed the Huskies 52-14 Saturday night before 67,204 at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

"I can't say enough about our preparation last week," Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema said. "I thought it was awesome to see our guys tackle Sunday and kind of move on from that last performance and jump into our preparations for Northern Illinois. I thought they did that on Sunday.

"We have a lot of guys committing themselves to Monday when we are off, lot of guys are doing what we call overtime in that they come over and get a lot of prep work on our next opponent," Bielema added, "and one of our goals was to win this game during the course of the week. It is something that we just kind of believe in. Guys really practiced efficiently Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and I think just came out today and hit on all cylinders."

Brandon Allen was 15-of-22 passing for 199 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for a score in three quarters of action as Arkansas (3-1) won its third straight game and set up a showdown next Saturday with sixth-ranked Texas A&M at the Dallas Cowboys AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The Razorbacks have lost two straight games to the Aggies (4-0) – who beat SMU 58-6 on Saturday – but have won the last three meetings between the two programs in games held in Arlington.

"I think the thing that awesome is Texas is a huge recruiting state for us so it is going to be huge thing," Bielema said. "I usually don't take kids to the stadium on Friday, but we will go on Friday and we'll have a chance to try and get through that wow factor and take pictures...I am definitely excited for our fans and our players."

Northern Illinois head coach Rod Carey was quick to praise Arkansas for its effort in ending his team's long road winning streak and also handing the Huskies their first regular season loss in 27 games.

"Give Arkansas a ton of credit," Carey said. "They are a fine football team. They came out and played disciplined football, made plays in the kicking game and didn't turn the ball over. You can really sum up the game with their ability to do that and not us. Once again, they are a fine football team."

The Huskies' win streak had wins at Big 10 schools Iowa, Northwestern and Purdue, but not against any SEC schools.

"We're proud of the streak," Carey said. "There is no question about that, but it's time to start a new one. That's the beautiful thing about when a streak ends, you get to start a new one and we're looking forward to that."

Arkansas linebacker Brooks Ellis was hurt in the first quarter and safety Rohan Gaines in the fourth, but both should be back next week along with senior wideout Demetrius Wilson, who was held out after an injury in last week's 49-28 win at Texas Tech.

"Demetrius Wilson tweaked his ankle at the end of last week's game and wasn't out there," Bielema said. "He tried to go Tuesday, tried to go Wednesday and you could just see he wasn't going to be there so to have a great performance against A&M, we needed to pull him out and go with Cody Hollister and let him and Kendrick Edwards know they are going to play and play a lot. Have the next man stand up.

"...He should be full go next week," Bielema added. "...I know Brooks Ellis got hit - (Martrell) Spaight hit him. He is a very dangerous player, even to our own. He didn't get back, but we should have him full go next week. We will feel good putting him back in."

Arkansas had a balanced attack with 215 yards passing and 212 rushing – a week after rolling up 438 yards of its 499 yards against Texas Tech on the ground.

"We always expect balance," Allen said. "We are not going to be able to run over every team. We go into every game expecting that kind of balance."

Marshall - who had a career-high 132 all-purpose yards to surpass his 112 last season at LSU - has had some of Arkansas' most electric plays in head coach Bret Bielema's 16-game tenure, but never officially found the end zone until this game. He scored twice Saturday.

The speedster from Osceola took the kickoff at his own 3-yard line and raced untouched to the end zone in an effort that made sure Korliss was no longer scoreless. He would add a 27-yard touchdown run to both open and cap the night's scoring. He took advantage of a clearing block by Jeremey Sprinkle

"I give Coach (Rory) Segrest a lot of credit," Bielema said. "He has been talking all week from the first time we met on kickoff return on Sunday about being able to hit that play and he saw it and had a great scheme and great execution. Obviously Korliss hit it full throttle and our guys did a nice job of getting a hat on a hat (blocking).

"I was kind of surprised they kicked into the wind," Bielema said. "If they were kicking with the wind, we didn't want to show it because we thought it would be a touchback obviously. But if they kicked into the wind, we knew we wanted to hit that runner going and it was great execution all way around."

Marshall wanted the momentum boost of a big return to start the game.

"To be honest, my goal is to hit one like that to start every game," Marshall said. "I am not promising that, but that's what we are trying to do. I'm known as a spark from last year and I want to start the game with a big one just like that one."

Marshall had to prove some ball security issues were over in practice to get his time on the field. He'd fumbled at Texas Tech and at Auburn.

"I had to get confidence back in me from my coaches," Marshall said. "They had to see me execute razor grip in practice. I kept a ball with me at all times. You put it on the ground, you jeopardize your playing time. I made (running backs coach) Joel Thomas look bad."

Trey Flowers and Darius Philon soon converged on Northern Illinois' quarterback David Hare, who was separated from the ball. Philon scooped it up at the 14 and ran it in for the score.

"Then to have Darius Philon get into the end zone, I was a little worried he might break into a little Alabama shuffle over there, but he is a entertaining player and was really into," Bielema said.

Philon was not quite sure what his coach was referring to with the Alabama shuffle reference.

"I don’t know what Coach B is talking about, but I appreciate him giving me a dance move that I’ve never heard of," Philon saiod, but at the same time, I knew I had to be mature about the way I got in the end zone and I was just thinking the whole time get the ball back to the referee and come back and do it the next play."

Henson's PAT made it 14-0 with less than seven minutes gone in the game.

That lead grew to 21-0 by the end of the quarter as Williams ran over several defenders while going 15 yards for a score with 21 seconds left in the opening quarter.

"In the first quarter - if I am not mistaken - we scored in all three phases - offense, defense and specials teams," Bielema said. "Any time that you can say that, that says a lot. All the parts in our program have equal time and are needed equally - offense, defense and special teams. It is a great teaching point for our guys." Arkansas put some reserve defenders in the game in the second quarter and Northern Illinois took advantage with an 8-play, 74-yard drive that culminated with Hare's 11-yard TD pass to Aregero Turner with 3:29 remaining in the second quarter.

The Razorbacks would get their three-touchdown lead back before half as Allen completed 6-of-7 passing on a 10-play, 71-drive. He was flushed out of the pocket, but found freshman wideout Jared Cornelius for the 10-yard score.

Henson was true on the PAT for a 28-7 lead with 49 second left in a drive that took 2:40 off the clock.

"Hey, how about that passing game for the doubters," Bielema asked. "Actually wanted to throw the ball more than we did but we passed it for about three yards more than we ran it so that is a great accomplishment and great coaching. I think our guys knew this week we were going to open it up a little bit with the passing game and formulate a plan out there.

"That end of the drive in the first half with the two-minute offense was awesome," Bielema added. "That was a real confidence builder for our guys."

It was the second straight week that Arkansas had ended the first half with a late score.

"I know they kind of flashed back into it, but I really felt that the drive at the end of the second quarter - for two weeks in a row - what we did to end the half really put the game out of reach in the second half," Bielema said.

Allen said the scramble to the sideline bought his receivers a little time.

"We got a little pressure, so I got out to give our receivers a chance to get open," Allen said. "I saw Keon Hatcher getting open, but I would have had to throw across my body. I didn't want that. So I waited a little longer and there was Cornelius."

The lead grew to 35-7 when Allen ran a bootleg in for a 2-yard score in the third quarter.

Arkansas freshman defensive back Henre' Toliver, who made his second straight start, stuffed a fake punt attempt by the visitors and the Razorbacks pushed the lead to 38-7 on Henson's 21-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.

After an on-side kick went out of bounds, Allen went up top for Hatcher (6 catches, 107 yards) on the first play to make it 45-14 and remove all doubt.

Marshall then capped the scoring with his 27-yard dash to pay dirt.

Jonathan Williams had 15 carries for 79 yards rushing, Alex Collins had 15 for 69 and Marshall 6 for 40 on the night.

Northern Illinois, which came into the game as nation's sixth-best rushing attack nationally, was held to under 50 yards rushing for most of the game and finished with 303 yards total offense (180 passing and 123 rushing) - after coming onto the game averaging nearly 550 yards total offense per game.

"They had a great rushing attack," Philon said. "I give them all the credit, but playing in the SEC, this is what we do. We defend the run day in and day out.

Linebacker Martrell Spaight was interested in what the Hogs did on the stat page in regards to the NIU running game. NIU averaged 3.8 yards per rush.

"They were averaging 325 and our goal is to hold them under three per run," he said. "That was our main goal. We were close. It's kind of like what we are going to try to do in the SEC, a very good running league. If we can do that, we'll have a chance to win games."

Flowers, Arkansas' pre-season All-SEC defensive end, led the Razorback defensive effort for coordinator Robb Smith with nine tackles.

"I think we made it a huge point of emphasis that last week we were playing a team that wanted to throw the ball first and then secondary kind of run, but this week this group definitely wanted to run it first and throw it second," Bielema said. "We knew we had to stop the run and did some adjustments up front that I thought really paid off. I thought our game plan defensively was really off the charts and really took it to them in the first quarter with a couple of nice adjustments that Robb and the staff made."

Arkansas has now had three blowouts since losing its season opener at Auburn.

"I think we have improved every day," Bielema said. "...All I care about is getting better. I just hit our guys up about it being a great opportunity tomorrow to get a jump on A&M and what they do and Monday is going to greatly affect Tuesday. It is the only way I know how to work through a season.

"I am excited and I think the guys are confident," Bielema said. "By no means have they arrived in any way, shape or form, but I think they have a certain mentality and an attitude that has not been here since I have been here and it is getting better every day. It is just a lot of fun to be around them. I used to dread Thursday academic meeting and now it is one of the greatest days of our week because here are certain kids that have made such gains academically and then you see them have success on the football field. It's like awesome."

Brandon Allen led an Arkansas attack with no turnovers.

Keon Hatcher hauls in a pass.

Korliss Marshall sails for the end zone.

Brandon Allen scores on a bootleg.

Jared Cornelius works the sidelines.

Brandon Allen sets the formation with an eye towards the secondary.

Darius Philon reaches for a tackle.

Alex Collins bursts into the open.

Jonathan Williams rolls for yardage.

Photos by Jason Ivester

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