State of the Hogs: Allen's "Swag"

UTEP loaded the box and Brandon Allen accepted the gifts in the passing game, just as a fifth-year senior quarterback should in the season opener. It led to an easy Arkansas victory.

FAYETTEVILLE — Brandon Allen doesn't worry about pleasing everyone, but when it comes to his go-to receiver, he tries to provide what's asked. If Keon Hatcher wants the ball in a specific place, he obliges. And, when it comes to attire, he can do that, too.

"I told him in camp a couple of weeks back, he needed to show a little swag," Hatcher said. "He comes out there with the long-sleeve T-shirt, can he do better than that? How about just the one sleeve (on his passing arm). He gave me what I wanted."

Oh, yeah. And, that's not just the arm sleeve. Allen put the ball on the money on all six passes to Hatcher. The two seniors clicked on all six throws, good for 106 yards and two touchdowns. There was a 20-yarder with 3:47 left in the first quarter and a 38-yard bomb that ended all doubt just 5:17 before halftime.

That accounted for a lot of the highlights on Allen's 10 of 13 first half for 256 yards. He finished with 14 of 18 for 308 yards and was never close to an interception in an antiseptic performance in a 48-13 victory over Texas-El Paso in the opener Saturday before 67,708 at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

Allen missed Dominique Reed on two bombs and also was high on two end zone throws to his tight ends. He had perfect protection and was never touched except for a goal line run call when freshman offensive lineman Josh Allen, playing fullback, went the wrong way and collided with the quarterback.

"The sleeve, that was all Keon," Allen said. "I would have never done that if he hadn't said something. It was 100 percent his idea. I'm into making him happy. He wanted it, I gave it to him. I would have never thought of it."

Maybe that's just a sign that Allen is a little more confident. Head coach Bret Bielema said he noticed a "different" Allen in his Saturday morning pre-game meeting, something he does with his top two quarterbacks every week.

"He was different," Bielema said. "I can't tell you exactly what it was, but he was better than he's ever been. When you are around someone a lot, you get an idea. He was calm and composed. I would think it's also about what I saw between the two brothers. Both of them were the same, no non-sense. No smart alek stuff and sometimes you get that between them. You know, they've been with each other for their whole lives."

Brandon Allen said it's all just a matter of confidence.

"I probably am not as nervous any more," he said. "I've been through a lot. It's just experience. I've done all of this."

Junior linebacker Brooks Ellis has known Allen for most of his live, too. The Fayetteville products are tight. He sees the same thing.

"I really don't think anything bothers Brandon any more," Ellis said. "He's so confident. I think stuff that you might think would bother someone, doesn't with Brandon. He doesn't hear the noise. That's what I see."

Brandon said the only thing that threw him off was in pre-game when he was asked to deliver the talk to the team just before the kickoff.

"I got thrown under the bus on that," Brandon laughed. "I wasn't ready for that. I just went over some things that Coach (Dan) Enos said. It was about leaving no doubt and it's your first chance to leave a first impression."

Allen thought he might have jinxed himself with August talk that he could not over throw the electric Reed. That happened twice on deep throws.

"Yeah, that's probably about right," Allen said. "We'll work on that. The two throws to the tight ends that I missed, I'll probably be up tonight thinking about those two. They haunt you and I missed them.

"But we did alright. Some things to work on, but a good first game. What I wanted us to show is that we can be balanced. They were wanting us to throw and Coach Enos went right to it.

"We had only one bust all day. That's when the freshman in the zone play on the goal line didn't hear the call and went the wrong way. He'll get that figured out. That's pretty good for an opener, one bust."

Hatcher said there couldn't have been better throws on his six targeted plays.

"BA put it on the money every time for me," Hatcher said. "And, we took advantage of what they gave us. You thought they were going to blitz and play cover one, man everywhere. You couldn't ask for more as a wide receiver.

"I come out of the huddle and see press, cover one, well you just think, it's money. I got to get my money.

"Brandon did what I expect him to do. That's how he plays. I'm very proud of him. He'll even get better. I felt good. It was good to get out there and play a different team.

"I loved my bros at wide receiver. Drew Morgan got him a screen and took it to the house. Jared Cornelius got a screen and did the same thing. Me and Drew were out there blocking for Jared. They did what they are supposed to do with that.

"We talk about it some, how no one gives our wide receivers any credit. People are down on Brandon. But we don't dwell on it in our room. We do have a chip on our shoulder and we want to prove people wrong. We do know what the media says about us.

"I will say that this was a good game, but it was UTEP. It wasn't the SEC. We don't want to say anything about them, but we have to do it in the SEC.

"I do think there were highlights. Brandon going four of four on the first drive was pretty good. That gets everyone in rhythm. We answered a couple of critics."

There were no turnovers for the UA offense. The defense forced three turnovers and took over on downs with a fumbled punt snap. The Miners finished with just 204 yards in total offense.

Junior college transfer Jeremiah Ledbetter led the Hogs with eight tackles, chasing down plays in the alleys both ways. Middle linebcker Josh Williams, strong side linebacker Khalia Hackett and weakside linebacker Brooks Ellis each had seven stops.

The Miners fooled the linebackers with a few misdirections in the first half, but those seemed to be corrected with some halftime adjustments, Bielema said. He was pleased with Williams in the middle.

"I'm happy with Josh," Bielema said. "He's the answer there. We moved him back 10 days ago. I think our best two are Brooks and Josh. But we are getting good things from Khalia and Dwayne (Eugene) at strongside and the freshman, Dre Greenlaw is coming on. We are going to have a hard time keeping him off the field."

There were a few missed tackles, but Bielema said he'll take the blame for holding off on scrimmages in August.

"That's on me," he said. "We didn't tackle (to the ground) much and eliminated two-a-days. So that could have been the reason there."

There were no injuries. Tight end Alex Voelzke (tweaked back) and cornerback Cornelius Floyd (hamstring) were held out.

Wide receiver JoJo Robinson did not dress out after being suspended. Bielema said the first-half suspension was for summer mistakes, but there were more issues during the week that eliminated the second half, too.

"This week, some things popped up," Bielema said. "He got that corrected in 24 hours. We'll see. This train is moving forward and it's day-to-day with him. We aren't going to have distractions that was one of our 16 goals, eliminate distractions."

Bielema was pleased with the work of Enos, the new play caller and quarterbacks coach. There was some joking on the sideline that there might be more quick strike in the offense. Some of those long, time consuming drives of the last two years may be less frequent.

"We were getting the defense back out there after five or six plays," Bielema said. "Clay Jennings has a real dry wit. We were talking about that and he said, 'Coach, you hired him.' I about threw up on myself.

"Dan is aggressive. Our offense came out humming. (UTEP) came out with a lot of pressure and Dan went right after them."

Arkansas had six penalties, two of them holding calls. Most of the others were on special teams, something Bielema said are correctable and generally take place in early games.

"We had a couple of hands to the face and a retaliation play," he said. "Those are young mistakes and we'll get them fixed in quick fashion."

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