In what could be the last Homecoming game of both of their careers, junior Alex Collins and senior Brandon Allen both put on a show.
Collins rushed 16 times for 173 yards and a career-high five touchdowns while Allen passed for 265 yards and two scores and ran for another as Arkansas routed FCS school UT Martin 63-28 on Saturday before an announced crowd of 64,206.
“It was a win we prepared for, earned and were expected to get,” Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema said. “I think you want to come out of here injury-free, you want to feel good about what you did.”
Allen was named the Crip Hall Award winner for as the outstanding senior player in the homecoming game for Arkansas (4-4) while Collins - who has 960 yards rushing this season - is a potential high NFL draft pick if he decides to bolt after the season.
“I was really proud of the way our guys handled their preparation,” Bielema said. “When you are playing an non-SEC school, everybody is going to take you down that path of playing an FCS opponent.
“I thought they really just locked in with preparation. We talked during our bye week about how there were six games in front of us and we were going to take it one day at a time, one game at a time and I thought they did that.”
The game marked the return of sophomore wide receiver Jared Cornelius, who broke his arm in the third game of the season, but came back and had 4 catches for 33 yards as well as a 33-yard punt return on Saturday.
“He has been really good,” Bielema said. “You always get concerned when someone comes back after sitting out for so long. He has really been able to practice for the last couple of weeks fairly well. He is a guy, who even though he wasn’t officially cleared to play in a game, has been out there catching balls.”
Back-up quarterback Austin Allen tossed his first career touchdown pass while former back-up quarterback Damon Mitchell (3 catches, 66 yards) caught his first career one, Jeremy Sprinkle had two touchdown receptions and junior speedster Dominique Reed’s only catch was a 71-yard bomb for a score.
Collins - who had a 63-yard dash for a score - had help on the ground as Kody Walker (8 carries, 56 yards), Denzel Evans (6 carries, 48 yards) also toted the ball as did redshirt freshman Juan Day (4 carries, 17 yards), who made his career debut after two knee injuries.
“Some guys got reps today that hadn’t been out there a lot,” Bielema said. “It was really cool to see J-Red, Jared Cornelius, do some things.
“I think Alex responded really well to last week (two fumbles) and obviously had a lot of touchdowns today. BA played exceptionally well.”
UT Martin (5-3), who lost to Ole Miss 76-3 in its season opener, did have 519 yards total offense - a season-high for a Razorback foe - on a day when Arkansas put up 591.
Skyhawks quarterback Jarrod Neal was 30-of-43 for 380 yards with one touchdown against an Arkansas defense that was led by linebackers Dre Greenlaw (10 tackles) and Brooks Ellis (eight tackles and an interception.”
“As for our defense, I will give credit to UT-Martin,” Bielema said. “Their quarterback, a senior, I think he really understands the game and you can see that on film. He is a very accurate passer and understood where they wanted to get the football.
“At times we were a little frustrated defensively, but overall I thought they played pretty well.
“…Really the majority of the fourth quarter we were playing guys that never play for us and I think they racked up almost 200 yards so there are some things there where you basically just have to wait for the game to get done.”
UT Martin head coach Jason Simpson gave Arkansas plenty of props.
“First of all, I thought Arkansas was a first-class place,” Simpson said. “Ever since we rolled in here, everything has been first class. Appreciate the opportunity. Great treatment.
“Obviously they had a good team. They played hard, very physical, had explosive players. Defensively we just couldn’t get enough stops. 591 yards and only 56 plays.
“Big runs are coming out of it, big passes. Disappointed in that. Our guys competed, just couldn’t make enough plays.”
The win moved the Razorbacks to 4-4 overall, 2-2 in SEC play ahead of next week’s 2:30 game at Ole Miss.
“I just wanted to say thanks to the homecoming crowd,” Bielema said. “They did a great job today and I know it is so special for the alumni to come back for homecoming and get a chance to enjoy the weekend. Hopefully they were able to do that.”
Bielema also took time to mention the passing of former Arkansas player Darrell Brown, who is given credit as the first African-American football player in the South.
“I also was told today of the passing for Darrell Brown, who has history here at Arkansas,” Bielema said. “He started something that obviously has become pretty prevalent in today’s world and my thoughts go out to him and his family.”
Arkansas was without three players during the game with D.J. Dean out with a toe injury and both wide receiver Kendrick Edwards and safety Santos Ramirez suspended.
Bielema noted that both Edwards and fellow wideout Jojo Robinson had been dismissed from the team and released to find another place to play.
“Kendrick and Jojo, I released those guys to a couple of schools that they can pursue,” Bielema said. “The good thing is they have five official visits now so they can take a look at some other programs and I will do everything I can to help them and get them on the right track so their story can end positive.”
Wide receiver Drew Morgan (shoulder) and offensive lineman Dan Skipper (elbow) were both banged up during the game.
“Drew banged his shoulder earlier in the game and it was sore from the week before,” Bielema said. “Right before the end of the third quarter, I named off about five or six guys that I wanted pulled from the game and obviously he was one of them."
Collins had rushing touchdowns of 2, 6 and 5 yards to get Arkansas out to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter and added a fourth one of 3 late in the second quarter as the Razorbacks went ahead 35-7.
He then ripped off his 63-yard scoring dash that made it 56-21 with 18 seconds left in the third quarter.
“He had a big toe injury and Nike worked great with us and got us some special shoes on Wednesday and he really felt comfortable on Thursday,” Bielema said. “I thought as fresh as his legs were he might have a big day today and getting him out in the fourth quarter uninjured and not to re-injure that toe was a big deal.
“And now to be able to go into SEC play and close this thing out and to have him at full strength is big and I think Kody Walker is playing extremely well as well.”
Brandon Allen had touchdowns passes of 49 to Damon “Duwop” Mitchell and 71 yards to a streaking Reed.
“We tried a couple with BA and him and they finally hooked up on that one,” Bielema said. “I thought it was really good composure by BA. He has to take a little time, step up in the pocket and launched it.
“They have been really good during practice. If you ask BA, he has probably been more impressed with Dominique the last three or four weeks. He comes to practice, his study time and his work ethic are excellent.
“We had an academic meeting again the other day and the kids just continues to do everything we ask him to do. I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
Austin Allen’s lone pass of the game came on his first place of the game and wound up in the arms of Sprinkle (2 catches, 67 yards), who was his second option, and that made it 63-21.
“We wanted to throw one more to Hunter Henry (2 catches, 55 yards) and (offensive coordinator) Dan (Enos) said he told Austin to throw it to Hunter in the flat, but Sprinkle was wide open. We didn’t really want that one to go as far down the field,” Bielema said.
“It was good to get Austin in there. He worked really hard and I would guess that if you ask most of our offensive players and coaches, the guy that they have been most excited to watch has been Austin. His command, his presence during practice has been outstanding.”
Arkansas will now hit the road to face Ole Miss and LSU - two ranked teams it blanked at home last season - before hosting Mississippi State and Missouri at home to close out the regular season.
Ole Miss downed Auburn 27-19 on Saturday.
“I am excited about the opportunity to hit the road for two weeks and then got two home games at the end and we will see where we are,” Bielema said. “…To have two back-to-back road games is a task in itself so we have our work cut out for us.
“I know our guys are going to be excited to get back into SEC play, especially against Ole Miss.”
Injured Arkansas freshman tailnack Rawleigh Williams was on the field before Saturday's game.