Jason Ivester

State of the Hogs: Near Miss for Brandon Allen on Kevin Scanlon's Completion Percentage Record

Brandon Allen almost got Kevin Scanlon's 36-year-old record for completion percentage on a season. Allen was red hot down the stretch but missed by an eye lash. Here's a front-page commentary from publisher Clay Henry.

The ballot to vote for the top players in the 2016 Liberty Bowl arrived some time before the start of the second half. There was some complexity to the process to award five trophies.

It was much different than the one for the 1971 game when Joe Ferguson was named outstanding offensive player and Louis Campbell, the defensive trophy winner. Obviously, both played for Arkansas in a game that was eventually won by Tennessee, 14-13, thanks to two bad calls by official Preston Watts. In fact, they could have given the MVP trophy to Watts.

Interestingly, no one among the media asked for their ballot to be changed in that year. They knew they had piced the right guys, both Razorbacks. Ferguson dazzled with a fine throwing game. Campbell intercepted three Tennessee passes.

The ballot last weekend had five blanks. There was a slot for the game's MVP, then slots for an offensive and defensive player of the game for both teams. There was personal consternation on how to fill it out.

My first try had Brandon Allen as the game's MVP, with Alex Collins as the Arkansas offensive player. Then, at the start of the fourth quarter, I changed my mind after Collins splattered the heart of the K-State defense with a 14-yard touchdown run on the way to a career best 185 yards.

I scratched through Allen's name and wrote Collins. Below it, I scratched through Collins and wrote Allen. My thoughts, along with others sitting near me, was that both players deserved some kind of trophy and that was the best way to accomplish that goal.

As it turned out, Collins won both awards. Personally, I had no problem with the result. Allen had won the MVP of the Texas Bowl last year and I'm sure he would tell you that others were just as deserving that day, too.

All of this is to say that Allen was superb in the Liberty Bowl, too. He completed 20 of 26 passes for 315 yards. That's 76.9 percent, an amazing completion rate.

And, that got me to thinking on the drive home Sunday. Did Allen finally knock Kevin Scanlon from the top of the record book for season completion percentage. It had to be close.

Oh, and it was amazingly close. Allen's percentage for the season jumped to 65.9, just below Scanlon's 1979 record of 66.2. How close is really interesting.

Had Allen thrown one less incompletion on the season, the senior quarterback's completion percentage would have jumped to .6621621. Scanlon's actual number was .6618705. Wow.

As it turned out, Allen took the second spot on the top 10 chart, ahead of Ryan Mallett's 64.7 and it knocked the great Joe Ferguson out as the No. 10 guy with 59.0.

I've interviewed Scanlon at least four times over the last 25 years as different quarterbacks threatened his mark. I thought Tyler Wilson was going to do it ahead of the 2012 season after completing 63.2 percent as a junior, but Wilson slipped to 62.1 as a senior. I thought Mallett was on track to pass Scanlon in 2010.

But I didn't think Allen was going to jump from a career 52.5 percent passer with this kind of a senior campaign. Yes, I thought there might be normal improvement after he went from 42.9 as a freshman, to 49.6 as a sophomore and 56 as a junior.

It just kept getting better and better for Allen as he meshed with play caller Dan Enos, the new quarterbacks coach. The way Enos used the tight ends and the accuracy Allen showed in floating those bootleg passes to Hunter Henry and Jeremy Sprinkle made the Arkansas offense a thing of beauty. And, the development of Drew Morgan, Jared Cornelius and Dominique Reed, Allen finally had enough weapons in the throwing game to complement the running of Collins.

I should have been watching more carefully down the stretch as Allen caught fire. After the bye week covering the final seven games, counting the bowl, Allen was 136 of 197 for 69 percent. He went over 70 percent three times with the 76.9 percent in the bowl tops. His best of the season was 20 of 25 in the Texas A&M loss for 80 percent.

I thought it was worth a congratulatory call to Scanlon, just to make sure the Stephens, Inc., executive knew his mark had stood another season.

“Someone told me a couple of days ago that my record was still standing,” Scanlon said. “But I didn't know the numbers. I didn't know Brandon got that close.

“But that isn't surprising, because I knew he was having a great year. I think it is going to get broken because I think Bret Bielema's offense with Dan Enos calling plays is very good and it's just a matter of time.

“I think if you go back to Russell Wilson's numbers as a senior at Wisconsin you'll see what I mean.”

Well, yes, that's a good point. Wilson, after completing just 58.4 cent as a junior at North Carolina State, jumped to 72.8 percent in his lone year with Bielema.

“I think this offense with the right complement of players – quarterbacks, receivers and running backs – will do that, get you a high completion percentage. I think if you look around at the top passers in the country this year, a lot beat that 66.2 of mine.”

Yes, there were 10 in the top 25 as far as passing yards with a better completion percentage, led by Western Kentucky's Brandon Doughty at 71.9. Incidentally, Allen's 3,440 yards ranks 24th. Allen did lead the nation in Total Quarterback Rating, nipping Baylor's Seth Russell and Ole Miss' Chad Kelly.

“He had a great year,” Scanlon said. “Remarkable. I did know he was having a great finish. I just didn't realize that his completion percentage was jumping like that at the end.

“I would have liked for him to get my record. Really, I do want someone to do it. It's just like Bill Burnett's record that Alex Collins got, I read where Bill was excited. I would feel the same way.

“Really, it's time for someone to break it. It's been 36 years and I want that to happen.”

Collins now owns the season touchdown record with 20. Bill Burnett set the record with 19 in 1969.

Scanlon's record came during a time when no one was throwing that much. And, he did have an exceptional year, earning the most outstanding offensive player award from the Southwest Conference for the season. His 66.2 beat the Arkansas record set by Jack Robbins (62.5) in 1935.

“I think I finished second or third in the country that season, so it was good by those standards,” he said. “But I wouldn't rate that high in today's world of passing and the sophistication of the throwing games now.”

There are some easier throws now than anything Scanlon tried. For example, a staple in the Alabama offense is a flip forward of around six inches from the shotgun to a wide receiver in motion in front of the quarterback.

“No, I didn't get any of those,” Scanlon said. “But that's alright.

“What I will say is that I love watching the way the game has evolved. I also love watching Bret Bielema's team and the way Dan Enos calls the game. I think what Brandon did this year is repeatable.”

Maybe it will be Austin Allen, the heir apparent with all of those good looking wide receivers now in Bielema's program? I'll keep Scanlon's number in my contacts and maybe I'll need it this time next season. Scanlon is ready to take that call.

Arkansas Top 10 Completion Percentage

1, .662 Kevin Scanlon (92-139) 1979

2, .659 Brandon Allen (244-370) 2015

3, .647 Ryan Mallett (266-411) 2010

4, .632 Tyler Wilson (277-438) 2011

5, .625 Jack Robbins (95-162) 1935

6, .621 Tyler Wilson (249-401) 2012

7, .616 Barry Lunney (180-292) 1995

8, .615 Greg Thomas (67-109) 1986

9, .602 Ron Calcagni (62-103) 1978

10, .592 Ronny South (84-142) 1967

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