5 moments that defined the Arkansas season
Arkansas had a season of broken bones and broken records. The Razorbacks had good months, one very bad month, three overtime games and one bizarre stretch of second-half plays that helped define the 2015 season.
From the Hunter Heave to four overtimes against Auburn to holding LSU’s star running back to a subpar game to Brandon Allen making a name for himself, Arkansas kept its fans interested all the way to the end.
With all projections, Arkansas (7-5, 5-3 in SEC) is likely headed to Tennessee to play in Nashville’s Music City Bowl on Dec. 30 or to the Liberty Bowl in Memphis on Jan. 2, 2016.
There were several key moments to help shape the 2015 season, so here are five that set the tone:
Injuries decimate the receiving corps early in the season
Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema said the team set a record this season with 10 broken bones, most of them to offensive playmakers.
The Hogs’ unfortunate string of wounds began during fall camp. Cody Hollister, Kody Walker and Jared Cornelius worked their way back into the lineup, while guys like Keon Hatcher and Jonathan Williams didn’t return this season. Running back Rawleigh Williams had a neck injury that also sidelined him the rest of the season.
During that time, junior wide receiver Drew Morgan stepped up and led the team in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.
Hogs fall to Toledo
Although Arkansas outgained Toledo in total yards, 515-318, it was a costly turnover and sloppy mistakes that led to penalties in a 16-12 loss to Toledo in Little Rock.
Toledo started the season 7-0 and climbed into the the AP Top 25 at No. 24, while Arkansas fell out of the rankings after this game and lost its next two games to go 1-3 in September.
Razorbacks need four overtimes, big fourth-down plays to beat Auburn
Brandon Allen went from senior starting quarterback to living legend beginning with this game against the Tigers. Notoriously known by Razorbacks fans as a quarterback who couldn’t protect a lead or pull off a comeback, Allen twice answered the call on fourth-down plays in overtime to pull out the 54-46 win in four overtimes.
On two occasions, Arkansas’ fate came down to one play. Allen answered the call on both. The second was the game-winner – a 25-yard strike to junior wide receiver Drew Morgan followed by a successful two-point conversion in the fourth overtime
The game set the tone for Arkansas winning four straight games to qualify for a bowl game. Two of the wins were road games at Ole Miss and LSU in back-to-back weeks.
In a college football season that had many crazy endings, the Hunter Heave at Ole Miss will go down as one of the zaniest.
Folks will talk about it for years as if they were there. Trailing Ole Miss in overtime and facing a fourth-and-25, the Razorbacks needed to get the ball to the Rebels’ 15-yard line to keep the drive alive. Allen connected with Hunter Henry, who realized he was about five yards short. Before he hit the ground, Henry threw an underhanded pass backward that sailed into the air, took a bounce and landed in the arms of running back Alex Collins, who took it and raced for a first down.
Arkansas eventually scored a touchdown. The Hogs went for two and failed, but a facemask kept the ball alive. Allen then broke a tackle and plunged into the end zone to give Arkansas a 53-52 overtime win.
Emergence of Brandon Allen late in the season
Allen became the team’s unquestionable leader late in the season, starting with his late-game heroics in the four-overtime win against Auburn. He threw three touchdowns that game, but his poise under pressure helped lead the team to victory.
Allen threw for 441 yards and six touchdowns at Ole Miss — and had the rushing score for the two-point conversion to win it in overtime. He threw for a touchdown in a win at LSU and tossed the ball for 406 yards and seven touchdowns in a heartbreaking loss to Mississippi State.
For the season, Allen led the squad to a 7-5 record after many wondered if the team would even win enough to become bowl eligible. He averaged 260 yards per game and has thrown for 3,125 yards and 29 touchdowns with just seven interceptions. He’s a finalist for the prestigious Manning Award, given annually to the nation’s best college quarterback.
Allen’s 19 touchdown passes during Arkansas’ five-win second half of the season helped him surpass Ryan Mallett as Arkansas’ career leader with 63 touchdown passes, a mark that is tied for 20th all-time in SEC history. Adding to his resume, Allen became the third player in Arkansas history to throw for 3,000 yards in a season thanks to a trio of 400-yard games, a program-best.