Arkansas enjoys confidence boost after easy win, looks ahead to trip to Texas Tech
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Brandon Allen wasn't about to complain about Arkansas' 73-7 thrashing of Football Championship Subdivision opponent Nicholls State on Saturday.
Much like the rest of his teammates, the quarterback was less focused on the lack of competition and more on the team's first win in nearly a year — a win that snapped a school-worst 10-game losing streak.
While the dominating win showed a glimpse of how far Arkansas (1-1) has come in its second season under coach Bret Bielema, it also provided a much-needed boost of confidence for the maligned Razorbacks and their fans.
Now the question becomes will that boost translate to an improved follow-up performance when the Razorbacks return to more equal competition at Texas Tech (2-0) this week?
Allen, following a performance in which all four of his completions went for touchdowns, thinks so.
"It changes a lot," Allen said. "Any time a team can get on a roll and start winning a few games in a row, that really helps the whole team's mindset, gets things going a lot smoother. So I think this win here is going to carry us on to next week. We're going to start tomorrow and get ready for them. Enjoy this tonight and then move on to Texas Tech."
The Razorbacks won their first three games last season in Bielema's first year, but none came in anywhere near as dominating fashion as Saturday's 66-point win. Arkansas lost its final nine games a year ago, and it failed to score more than 34 points in any game — a total it topped in the first quarter against the Colonels.
Much to Bielema's delight, Arkansas' surging ground game — led by the duo of sophomore Alex Collins and junior Jonathan Williams — overwhelmed Nicholls State on its way to 495 yards rushing on 40 carries.
Even with sophomore running back Korliss Marshall missing the game with an arm injury, Collins and Williams picked up any slack. Williams led the way with 143 yards rushing on only four carries, including a 90-yard touchdown in the second quarter, and Collins added 131 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries.
"I think Collins, (Williams) and of course when we get Korliss in there, they are three very explosive players," Bielema said. "I think they feed well off one another. It's fun to see."
Arkansas played well for a half in a season-opening loss at No. 5 Auburn before faltering in the second half, but it had no such late woes against the overmatched Colonels. The Razorbacks averaged a school-record 12.7 yards per play in the win, gaining 684 yards of total offense on 54 plays.
Bielema is counting on the opening road loss to provide experience for Arkansas against the Red Raiders, who have struggled in wins over Central Arkansas and Texas-El Paso to open the season.
"If that game had been at home or we hadn't had that game in our hip pocket right now, we wouldn't be as prepared as we're going to be this week to do that," Bielema said. "The blessing in disguise was we've been on the road already."
Despite the relief following Saturday's win and surge in confidence, don't expect the Razorbacks to fall victim to overconfidence this week. Not yet, at least.
"There was a lot of energy and a lot of emotion in the locker room," Arkansas defensive end Trey Flowers said. "But we don't want to get too high on it, because we know we've got to take care of business next week, and we still have a lot to prove."