FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas running back Jonathan Williams did most of the work on his 75-yard touchdown run last Saturday, but was quick to credit quarterback Brandon Allen after the 34-14 win against Louisiana-Lafayette.
Allen was the one who saw something he didn’t like at the line of scrimmage before the snap. So he changed the play, calling an audible to an outside zone run play.
"It actually was a great play by Brandon," Williams said.
The quarterback, who was making his debut in a new offense, showed the type of confidence and competence Arkansas’ coaches had raved about since he first stepped on the practice field last spring. It showed in an efficient passing performance (15-for-22 for 230 yards with three touchdowns). But it was evident in other areas, too, as he took the reins of an offense that put together 522 total yards.
The sophomore — who started the 52-0 loss to Alabama last season in place of injured former Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson — said it was good to get his first start of 2013 under his belt. Now he’s looking forward to the next opportunity Saturday, when the Razorbacks (1-0) play Samford (1-0) in War Memorial Stadium.
"Obviously, there’s some things I can improve on," Allen said after the win. "But any time you come out with a win that’s our main goal. That’s the biggest thing for us.
"And I’m really proud of our team for coming out with the W."
Allen played a big hand in the end result.
He was sharp throwing the football, especially in the first half. Allen completed three straight passes on the opening drive, including a 6-yard touchdown pass to receiver Javontee Herndon. Allen also connected with Herndon on a 49-yard touchdown pass a little later, giving Arkansas a lead it wouldn’t relinquish again.
"Brandon did great," Herndon said. "He was comfortable out there. He made a lot of good checks. We ran the ball. We threw the ball. So he did a pretty good job."
Allen was 11-for-15 for 193 yards with two touchdowns in the first half.
He only attempted seven passes in the second half, but it included his third touchdown pass on a screen to fullback Kiero Small. Allen threw more touchdown passes than former quarterbacks Ryan Mallett (one) and Tyler Wilson (two) in their first appearances as full-time starters in 2009 and 2011, respectively.
Allen also emerged from the opening weekend as one of the Southeastern Conference’s leaders in passing efficiency (201.0 rating).
"I thought he played a solid football game," Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said. "I think he did what we asked him to do and I think he could have done a lot more had we asked it of him. Right now, he’s playing at a solid level and we’ll continue to weed out some of the little fleas he has and keep getting him better."
Chaney estimated Allen called an audible at the line of scrimmage roughly 20 percent of the time Saturday. He said that’s not an unusual amount, but Allen was able to get Arkansas out of bad plays after looking over the ULL defense.
Allen also avoided turnovers and was sacked once. Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said it was all part of an impressive body of work from his quarterback, who he rated as "tremendous" in all facets during his first game against the Ragin’ Cajuns.
"I said this the other day and I mean it: If you want to go to the quarterback store and the demeanor and personality of what you want, he’s got it," Bielema said. "He’s very, very calm. Coaches a lot of times will get volatile and he just kind of handles the storm. He really hasn’t shown me anything but complete composure.
"Very impressed with his quarterback skills that have nothing to do with throwing the football, if that makes sense. He’s got that demeanor and personality that are what I think makes championship quarterbacks."
The Razorbacks know there’s a long way to go to make that a reality, but Allen said he wants to build on the success. The next opportunity comes at a place where Arkansas suffered one of its biggest disappointments last season.
Allen was under center in place of Wilson for the second half of the collapse against Louisiana-Monroe. But the quarterback is confident that’s all in the past.
He’s off to a good start in 2013 and believes more success will follow for the Hogs.
"It’s definitely a confidence boost for us. And for me," Allen said of Arkansas’ offensive performance in the season opener. "Any time you get that first win under your belt. It’s a long road ahead but we’re ready for it."