ARLINGTON, Texas — Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen headed straight for the Texas A&M tunnel at AT&T Stadium as time expired in the Razorbacks’ 45-24 loss to the Aggies on Saturday night.
A member of Arkansas’ medical staff was leading the way — providing some of the best protection Allen had seen in front of him all night.
Allen confirmed he went in that direction to get his health checked out. Presumably, it was the quickest way to the X-ray room.
As for what potential ailment Allen had examined, the possibilities are numerous. The redshirt junior had been battered by the Texas A&M defense. He had his right shoulder driven into the turf, the helmet of a free-running defender planted violently into his chest, and his ribs crunched between two opposing players. At times, he struggled to get to his feet as the hits kept coming.
There aren’t many positives for Arkansas to take away from the loss to Texas A&M. But at the very least, the Hogs found out they have a quarterback willing to do whatever it takes to win.
Allen managed to have one of the best performances of any player on the field despite the consistent pressure, displaying the toughness and resolve that has endeared him to his teammates. He threw for 371 yards with 2 touchdowns and completed 28 of his 42 attempts. He was hit 10 times, hurried 3 and sacked once.
“The fact that that kid can stay in there and keep his same attitude … he just keeps that cool, calm and collected time after time,” said junior center Frank Ragnow. “We have to be better. He is not going to be able to last if we are not able to get better. That is on us as an offensive line and we have to figure it out. It is a problem and we need to figure out how to fix it.”
Ragnow, who has been arguably the Hogs’ best player up front, added that seeing his quarterback continue to bounce back from the hits is giving him extra motivation to improve. He was so upset by the performance Saturday he went as far as to send a message to his fellow offensive linemen.
“Keep on blocking as hard as I can because I know I have a guy, a warrior behind me that’s gonna keep on fighting,” Ragnow said. “It better impact every one of us. If you’re a guy and it’s not bothering you, then you’ve gotta take a long, hard look at you and maybe you shouldn’t be in that position.”
Allen was in no mood to talk down about his offensive line, further proving he’s every bit as good of a teammate as he is tough, at least when speaking with the media.
“There’s still some young guys up there on the offensive line,” Allen said. “I mean, this is their first SEC game and they’re going to get better. I have full faith in them. I have full faith in (offensive line) coach (Kurt) Anderson and (coach Bret Bielema). They’re going to get better.
“They love football and they play hard. That’s all you can really ask.”
Bielema said while Allen was undoubtedly sore, he sustained no significant injuries. Arkansas is fortunate that’s the case. At one point in the second quarter, Allen remained down following a hit from Aggies linebacker Claude George before trying to crawl to the sideline. The injury was announced as a bruised chest muscle a short time after and Allen didn’t miss a play.
“He’s a tough guy, obviously,” Bielema said. “I think our guys know that. I appreciate that about him. But at some point, obviously, hits like that can take care of him for the season as well.”
The Hogs clearly must get their pass protection issues fixed to keep Allen on the field and have success moving forward. Until then, they’ll have to rely on their gutsy quarterback putting his body on the line to give his team a chance.