Arkansas searching for answers for Allen's recent struggles
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) Austin Allen insists he's ''fine'' physically. Arkansas coach Bret Bielema says the same about his quarterback.
What hasn't been fine lately for the Razorbacks (6-4, 2-4 Southeastern Conference) has been Allen's play since he injured his right knee in a 56-3 loss to Auburn on Oct. 22.
The junior, who led the SEC in passing efficiency through the first half of his first season as a starter, has struggled mightily over his last 2 + games - including in a 38-10 loss to No. 16 LSU on Saturday . Allen was 15-of-31 passing for 210 yards and two interceptions in the defeat, leading to questions about the health of his right knee and what Arkansas can do to get him back to his first-half level of success.
''You never want to go out on a Saturday and play like that,'' Allen said. ''You get 12 opportunities and you kind of waste one. I'm kind of sick to my stomach at the way I played. I feel like I let the seniors down, let everyone down.''
While Allen and his coaches say health isn't an issue, it's difficult to ignore the fact Allen's struggles have come after his right knee was rolled on by Auburn defensive end Carl Lawson in the second quarter of the Tigers' win.
Allen was helped off the field following the hit, and he returned to the game after missing one series - completing his final four passes of the half. However, since then, the junior has completed only 35 of 71 passes (49.3 percent) and appeared less than willing to push off his back leg on several throws.
Arkansas offensive coordinator Dan Enos said footwork has been a problem the last few games for Allen, but he said the quarterback's throwing mechanics are fine. Enos also said Allen might be rushing some of his decisions as a result of the 25 sacks the Razorbacks have allowed this year - nine more than they allowed in each of the last two full seasons.
''He's been a little antsy, and when you're antsy sometimes you'll make decisions too quickly or you'll get off receivers too quickly,'' Enos said.
Bielema said after the Auburn loss that Allen would not have been able to play the week following if Arkansas hadn't had a bye. After missing practice that week, Allen returned last week against Florida and overcame a shaky start - completing three of his first nine passes - to help the Razorbacks to a 31-10 win. Allen finished 15-of-26 passing for 243 yards in that win, but he did throw an interception that was returned for a touchdown and he's now thrown four interceptions since injuring his knee - 10 for the season.
The Razorbacks have already clinched their third straight bowl appearance, but they must now win out - including a bowl game - to increase their win total for a third straight season under Bielema.
That would have to begin this week when Arkansas travels to Mississippi State (4-6, 2-4), where it will undoubtedly need Allen to return to his early season form to have a chance on the road.
''I think the same reason that we put (Allen) in the position is the same reason we're believing he's going to come out of it,'' Bielema said.
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