Arkansas hopes to end Little Rock woes against Alcorn State
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) It would be so easy for Arkansas to overlook Football Championship Subdivision member Alcorn State on Saturday.
Fresh off their first loss of the season and with home games against No. 1 Alabama and No. 16 Mississippi awaiting the next two weeks, the No. 20 Razorbacks (3-1) could easily be forgiven for taking the Braves (1-2) lightly this week.
There's only one problem with that as far as Arkansas is concerned.
The game is in Little Rock, not Fayetteville, and War Memorial Stadium hasn't been kind to the Razorbacks in recent years. Including last year's shocking loss to Toledo in Arkansas' capital city, the Razorbacks are 1-5 in their home away from home since that start of the 2012 season.
So, about that trap game scenario again?
''I think the fact we're going to Little Rock and have the memories of what we've had happen there in the past ... won't allow that to happen,'' Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said.
Arkansas' recent Little Rock woes began with a loss to Louisiana-Monroe early in the 2012 season, the transitional year between fired former coach Bobby Petrino and Bielema. Interim coach John L. Smith was at the helm that season, which included a second loss in War Memorial Stadium later that season to Ole Miss.
Since then, the Razorbacks' Little Rock losses have come to Mississippi State in 2013, Georgia in 2014 and last season's stunner to Toledo.
''I really can't put a finger on it,'' Arkansas safety Josh Liddell said. ''... The past three years we've kind of come out sluggish and slow, but in the second half we get refocused and came out with more energy. This year, we want to come out with extreme focus and energy level and play fast.''
Some things to watch as Arkansas looks to end its recent woes in Little Rock:
BRAVE OUTLOOK: Alcorn State has been consistently one of the top FCS schools in the country over the last three years, during which time the school has gone 28-10 and won back-to-back Southwestern Athletic Conference championships. The Braves are led by first-year coach Fred McNair, who was previously the team's quarterbacks coach and is in his fifth year at the school.
ALLEN'S RECOVERY: Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen was battered and bruised throughout last week's 45-24 loss to Texas A&M, but he is recovered and ready for Saturday. The junior has quickly emerged as one of the top quarterbacks in the Southeastern Conference this season, completing 66.9 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns and two interceptions.
AIR TROUBLE: After earning a win over Alabama State, Alcorn State has lost its last two games to Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Grambling State. Many of the Braves' troubles can be traced to a secondary that features four new starters from a year ago and is 119th out of 122 FCS teams in passing yardage allowed - giving up an average of 324.7 yards per game through the air. ''We're young in the secondary and that's where all our hits are coming,'' McNair said.
STILL STREAKING: Despite last week's loss, the Razorbacks have won nine of their last 11 games overall to help Bielema reach .500 (21-21) in his fourth season at Arkansas. He was 3-9 in his first season in 2013 but has taken the Razorbacks to bowl games in each of the last two seasons.
SACK ARTIST: Alcorn State linebacker Darrien Anderson is tied for the lead in sacks in the FCS with 6 + in only three games, including four last week against Grambling State. The 6-foot-1, 240-pound senior also leads the Braves with 30 tackles.