FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen wasn’t even watching Hunter Henry’s heave that led to a fourth-and-25 conversion - and eventual win - against Mississippi a year ago.
Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema saw the desperate lateral, which eventually led to the 53-52 overtime win over the Rebels , but he’d prefer something less dramatic this time around.
“If we could make it less wild and be effective, I’d like that,” Bielema said.
Bielema might get the result he wants when No. 22 Arkansas (4-2, 0-2 Southeastern Conference) tries for its third straight win over No. 12 Ole Miss (3-2, 1-1) on Saturday night, but good luck convincing anyone another shootout isn’t in the works.
That’s thanks in large part to the presence of Allen and Chad Kelly of the Rebels, the SEC’s top two quarterbacks in passing efficiency halfway through the season.
Kelly’s play this season has hardly been a surprise following his breakout first go-round as the starter for Ole Miss a year ago. Allen, meanwhile, entered the season as a relative unknown outside of Arkansas after serving as his older brother’s backup the last two seasons - including for last year’s shootout in Oxford.
The junior has done everything the Razorbacks have asked of him and more in his first season as the starter, leading the SEC in touchdown passes with 15 and throwing for 400 yards in a 49-30 loss to No. 1 Alabama a week ago. And he’s done so despite being under considerable pressure behind an offensive line still trying to establish itself after replacing three starters from a year ago.
“I feel like I am watching the same guy,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said, comparing Allen to his older brother, Brandon. “I think they are extremely accurate, extremely tough, have a great understanding of defenses. The ball goes to the right spot, it’s accurate. Just a really good player.”
Some things to watch for as the Razorbacks try to win three straight over the Rebels for the first time since winning four in a row from 2004-07:
CONSISTENT KELLY: Kelly has thrown a touchdown pass in 18 straight games, which is the longest streak in school history and tied for the fifth-longest active streak in the nation. Kelly’s favorite target this season is tight end Evan Engram, who has caught 30 passes for 479 yards.
SACKED LINE: Arkansas allowed six sacks and 12 quarterback hurries against the Crimson Tide last week, and the Razorbacks have given up 13 sacks on the season - one less than they gave up in each of the last two seasons. They face another difficult pass rusher on Saturday in Ole Miss junior defensive end Marquis Haynes, who has three sacks through five games as well as three quarterback hurries.
REBELS START FAST: Ole Miss has outscored opponents 55-6 in the first quarter and 131-40 in the first half so far this season. The Rebels have had a halftime lead in all five of their games. Ole Miss has just a 3-2 record because the second half hasn’t been nearly as good - opponents have outscored the Rebels 108-77 after halftime.
OPTIONAL DEFENSE: Arkansas is 63rd in the country in total defense, allowing 398.2 yards per game, after surrendering 517 yards (10.1 yards per play) against Alabama a week ago. The Rebels aren’t much better off, ranking 102nd while allowing 449.4 yards per game.
INJURED GREENLAW: The already-reeling Razorbacks defense suffered a key loss when weakside linebacker Dre Greenlaw injured his right foot against Alabama last week and had surgery on Monday. The sophomore, who is second on Arkansas with 37 tackles, is expected to miss 4-to-6 weeks with the injury, and freshman De’Jon Harris and junior Dwayne Eugene will take his place.
AP Sports Writer David Brandt in Oxford, Mississippi, contributed to this report.
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