Photographs by Ben Goff
Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen warms up prior to a game against South Carolina on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, in Columbia, S.C.
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas Razorbacks quarterback Austin Allen said his MRI on Monday showed no structural damage and he's optimistic he'll be under center for Saturday's 6:15 p.m. game at No. 1 Alabama.
Allen took some shots to his right throwing shoulder in a 48-22 loss at South Carolina and came out of the game in the third quarter.
"I like to think of myself as a quick healer," Allen said after Tuesday's practice. "I like to think I'll be feeling pretty good by Saturday."
Allen said he rehabbed "all day" Monday but was still a little sore for Tuesday's practice.
"It feels a lot better today than it did yesterday, so it'll just continue to get better," he said.
Allen said he threw a few passes in warmups Tuesday, then "did handoffs and just kind of ran around and did some stuff" while taking it slowly on the shoulder.
Allen said the first shot to his shoulder came late in the first quarter on a play in which South Carolina's D.J. Wonnum was originally flagged for targeting before the replay booth reversed the call.
"Whenever it was targeting, or something that wasn't targeting," Allen said. "And then the last play I was in my arm kind of rolled back a little bit."
Allen said the original hit caused him to deliver some sidearm passes through the middle portion of the game.
"It was just kind of like a dead-arm type of deal, where you feel it kind of pinches, but it's all good," Allen said.
Allen was harsh on himself for his third-quarter interception, which was returned 34 yards for a touchdown by linebacker Skai Moore, and for holding on to the ball too long.
"I've got to get the ball out. I've got to do some other things," he said when told he led the nation in the most hits on a quarterback since the start of 2016. "It's my job. I signed up for it. Stand in there and make the throws and take the hits. It's my job."
Allen disregarded the notion that it might be better for him to let the shoulder recover for a week rather than subject himself to the fierce Alabama pass rush.
"I don't agree with that at all," Allen said. "If I'm healthy, I'm going to be out there. I'm a competitor and that's just -- I would never do that."
Senior center Frank Ragnow said he knows Allen will play if he can.
"I know how tough of a son of a gun he is," Ragnow said. "We'll see."
Bret Bielema once said the Alabama defensive linemen look like they come out of a machine.
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville center Frank Ragnow piled on to those remarks when asked where the Tide's position group ranks in his mind.
"They're No. 1," Ragnow said. "And they've kind of always been. They produce position after position after position freak shows. They're freak shows that are really well coached."
Offensive coordinator Dan Enos talked through each of the four turnovers committed by Arkansas at South Carolina in his Monday media session.
All four led to points for the Gamecocks, starting with a field goal after Cheyenne O'Grady's lost fumble at the Arkansas 15.
Then there were the direct scores: interception returns for touchdowns by Skai Moore of 34 yards and Keisean Nixon of 45 yards, and a fumble return of 73 yards by T.J. Brunson on Dante Sawyer's sack-strip of Austin Allen.
"The first one was just a terrible play," Enos said of Moore's pick against Allen after a long roll to the sideline. "Throwing across his body late. Things we don't do. We don't make a blind throw, and we don't throw late over the middle, and he did both of those.
"Then the strip-sack-fumble, we didn't pass a twist off. That's pass protection 101.
"Cole's turnover at the end, he hitched on a throw we're not supposed to hitch on, so the ball was late. If you hitch, you don't throw it. He hitched, and again that's a young guy making a big mistake. Other than that, he played pretty flawless."
Enos said O'Grady's error was trying to move the ball from one arm to the other while he was engaged with defenders.
After Alabama's 49-30 victory at Arkansas last season Razorbacks offensive coordinator Dan Enos said the Tide's defensive backs were "very clutchy and very grabby" against receivers.
Enos said Monday that description still applies.
"They're a very physical group," he said. "I think that's one of their trademarks. I think Coach [Nick] Saban and their defensive staff does a great job ... there's not a lot of free throws.
"You don't get a lot of free yards, if you will, with off coverages and things like that. You have to earn everything you get."
Said Arkansas receiver Jonathan Nance, "They're very scrappy. [Coach Bret Bielema] told us they're gonna probably hold us, but we've got to fight through it.
"We can't depend on the referees. We've just got to go out there and make a play."
Running backs Coach Reggie Mitchell said last week's lack of run production will not deter tailbacks Devwah Whaley, David Williams and Chase Hayden against Alabama.
"Nothing happened this past weekend that would shake their confidence," Mitchell said. "They're looking forward to the challenge. Again, last week was a group effort."
Williams ran for 32 yards, Hayden had 28 and Whaley ran for minus-3 yards against the Gamecocks. The trio combined to average 2.6 yards per carry.
'A great play'
Defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads left no doubt how he felt about the pass interference call against cornerback Kamren Curl that set up South Carolina's 18-yard touchdown pass with four seconds left in the first half.
The freshman Curl was flagged while covering Bryan Edwards, giving the Gamecocks a first down at the Arkansas 13.
"That was a great play by him ... and I wouldn't instruct him to do it any other way," Rhoads said. "He made a great play on the ball in a position where the receiver had created an advantage through separation and forced Kam to have to catch up to play with his eyes to the receiver's instead of at the back, and he made an excellent play on the ball there. I'm proud of his effort on that play."
Jake Bentley hit Edwards, who again was well covered by Curl, for a touchdown on the next snap.
Center Frank Ragnow said as much as the players might try to ignore what some fans and media are saying about the Razorbacks after the South Carolina game, it's not going to happen in the age of social media.
"I think it's impossible to block it all out," Ragnow said. "I mean, even if you say you're blocking it all out, you're not. So I think me personally, I try to use it as fuel. I'm not saying you guys are like haters or anything, but just to prove the naysayers wrong."
Arkansas receiver Jonathan Nance earned a spot on Pro Football Focus' (PFF) SEC offensive team of the week. Nance caught eight passes for 116 yards and a touchdown in the Hogs' loss at South Carolina and earned a PFF grade of 85.5 to join Kentucky receivers Garrett Johnson (86.8) and Lynn Bowden (83.5).
Nance, who has two 100-yard receiving games, is tied for the SEC lead with five receiving touchdowns.
On the other side of the ball, three South Carolina defenders -- end D.J. Wonnum, tackle Dante Sawyer and linebacker Skai Moore -- made PFF's SEC defensive team of the week for their work against Arkansas.
Wonnum, the SEC defensive lineman of the week, had the highest grade with a 90.3. He is the 12th player to pick up a weekly honor from the SEC after playing against the Razorbacks since the start of 2016. Ole Miss leads the SEC in that time span by having 13 opponent players earn weekly SEC honors.
Sports on 10/11/2017
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