It’s certainly not time to pronounce the offense Air Arkansas yet, but the Razorback coaches and players were happy with what they saw out of the passing game in last Saturday’s 48-13 win over UTEP.
Quarterback Brandon Allen was 14-of-18 for a career-high 308 yards and four touchdowns - with two going to Keon Hatcher, one to Drew Morgan and one to Jared Cornelius.
Allen also connected with his tight ends, Hunter Henry and Jeremy Sprinkle, for big gains as all of the receivers racked up a lot of yards after the catch.
“It’s awesome,” Allen said after Tuesday’s practice. “It makes my job a lot easier. I get the big numbers, but they’re doing all the work for me, so I don’t mind it. Those guys, they’re strong, they can break tackles, they’re good in the open field, so whenever they get catches, they’re looking to break one or two tackles and get a lot of yards.”
Allen also overthrew speedster Dominique Reed twice on deep patterns that could have piled up even more yards as Arkansas looked to throw all over the field
“Yeah, we hit them all,” Allen said. “Short passes, intermediate passes, deep passes. That’s kind of how our offense is. We’re going to run the ball, we’re going to throw the ball, we’re going to be pretty balanced. We’re not just going to be play-action, take a shot team. We’re going to be able to throw it all over the field.”
Arkansas wide receiver coach Michael Smith was obviously pleased with what his group got accomplished on Saturday.
“I thought the guys played a pretty good football game Saturday,” Smith said. “It was a great opportunity for us to put something on film and try to build off of it. That is our challenge this week, to be better than we were this past weekend.”
That group could be even better with the addition of freshman redshirt JoJo Robinson, who was suspended last week.
He was reinstated to the team on Sunday and could play this weekend according to Smith.
“He’s back and he is on a short leash,” Smith said. “He understands now, hopefully, what Coach Bielema, myself and his teammates expect out of him and what I have challenged him with is to come out and be the best JoJo you can be. Don’t try to be anybody else
“I want you to be the best JoJo you can be and I want you to be a good person, a good teammate and so on and so forth. If he is able to do that, JoJo is going to help us out because the kid does have talent, but there is a lot more that goes into it at this level
“I have coached a lot of guys at this level with tremendous talent that didn’t want to do right and it didn’t work out for them and I’ve coached a lot of guys with not a lot of talent that did right and it worked out for them.
“That is just all I am asking of JoJo. That ball that Drew caught could have been him, same thing with Keon, that could have been him.
“That is something that I challenged all the guys with is that when you get your opportunities you have got to take advantage of them. But if you are sitting in the stands, you are never going to get any opportunities.”
It is a group that certainly got a measure of respect from the national media after their performance on Saturday.
“I am hoping that when people see us as a unit that they will understand what we have, that we are a threat,” Smith said. “We haven’t arrived and that’s what I am challenging my guys with. We have to come out and play every day and do whatever we got to do to win.
“Everybody is acting crazy like we couldn't run the ball, but we still had an 100-yard rusher. UTEP presented the passing game to us and we took advantage of it.
“I understand that is what (offensive coordinator) Dan told you guys yesterday, we want to be a balanced offense. I mean Brandon only threw 18 balls.”
The offensive line kept Allen untouched, but it was a mixed bag according to Arkansas offensive line coach Sam Pittman.
Sebastian Tretola and Dan Skipper graded out well, but not the other three starting offensive lineman in Frank Ragnow, Denver Kirkland and Mitch Smothers
“Tretola and Skipper graded out real high,” Pittman said. “Then the other three guys graded out about average. Of the younger guys, Brian Wallace played well in his limited snaps.
“They (Tretola and Skipper) graded out at 86, which is you grade out over 85, we think we can win a lot of games.
“They played physical and won most of their battles. They played smart, no MAs (missed assignments). They protected the quarterback well. Sebastian particularly pulled really well and Danny pass protected well. We can win with those two guys if they play like that for the year.”
Pittman also thought the run game looked better than some.
“UTEP came in here and said, we're not going to let you run the ball,” Pittman said. “You're going to have to throw the football to beat us. The first play of the game they safety-blitzed us … It was kind of that way. Of the 20 passes they brought 15 blitzes.
“It was similar in the run game as well. Sometimes they brought more guys than we could block. … We averaged five and half yards a carry. We didn't punt until the fourth quarter or whatever it was. I can't really be disappointed.
“Obviously as a line coach you'd like to rush for 300 or 400 yards, but it's hard to rush for that many when you throw the ball out and the guy goes and runs for a touchdown. We're happy with that, too. There were three or four drives I think we had that were less and five plays. It's kind of hard to get into a rushing groove at that point.”