FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Ryan Mallett didn't look like a Heisman Trophy contender on the road in the Southeastern Conference last season, going 0-4.
The Arkansas quarterback will get his first chance to impress Heisman voters on a national stage when the No. 12 Razorbacks travel to Georgia on Saturday. The game is the SEC opener for Arkansas (2-0), while the Bulldogs (1-1) are coming off a conference loss to South Carolina.
Mallett, a Michigan transfer, threw for 3,624 yards and 30 touchdowns in his first action under Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino last season, and that success has carried over into this year. Through the first two games, he has completed 73.1 percent of his passes and thrown for six touchdowns and 701 yards, including a 400-yard performance against Louisiana-Monroe last week.
Mallett's lone flaw last season was his performance in SEC road games, something he'll have to improve on this season if the team wants to challenge for a conference championship or a BCS bowl berth. In four conference road games last season, Mallett completed just 53 of 135 passes (39 percent) — throwing for an average of 216 yards per game with 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.
"I wouldn't say (the pressure) got to me, personally," Mallett said. "Obviously, I didn't play very well. Like I said, last year I was more of an up-and-down player and I would get too excited and then get frustrated.
"This year, I've done a pretty good job of staying even keel and that's what I've really worked on since last year."
In Mallett's defense, three of the Razorbacks' road opponents last season — Florida, LSU and Alabama — were ranked and he was sacked 13 times in the four losses.
"It all plays together," Petrino said. "Your protection, how many drops did we have on the road. To be real honest with you, you take last year and you put that all behind you and you move on."
Georgia is all-too familiar with Mallett after holding on in the second half for a 52-41 win over the Razorbacks last season in Fayetteville. In that game, Mallett was 21 of 39 passing for 408 yards and 5 touchdowns without an interception.
The Bulldogs, who enter the game third in the SEC in total defense, hope to make things more difficult for the Arkansas quarterback.
"(Defensive coordinator Todd) Grantham is going to come up with a good game plan to slow (Mallett) down a little," Georgia junior nose tackle DeAngelo Tyson said. "If we go out and practice and learn what we're supposed to do, we should be successful on Saturday."
As for Mallett, his hope is that a year of experience pays off for himself and the rest of the Razorbacks on the road.
"We understand what we've got to do," Mallett said. "As a team, I think we've matured in the last year to understand how to travel and how to get ourselves prepared for road games."