FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen is expected to play against No. 1 Alabama this weekend even though he is still recovering from a shoulder injury.
Allen’s woes behind a struggling offensive line finally resulted in the quarterback missing action in the fourth quarter of a weekend loss to South Carolina. He is still recovering from the shoulder injury he suffered in the 48-22 loss , but Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema said he’s optimistic the senior will be able to play Saturday against the Crimson Tide (6-0, 3-0 SEC).
“We’re still in an evaluation process with him,” Bielema said Monday. “(He) could return (to practice) today or as early as tomorrow; don’t really know anything until we get a few more results.”
Allen entered the season as the leading returning quarterback in the Southeastern Conference in passing efficiency, but he’s struggled this season behind a line that is allowing an average of 2.6 sacks per game — tied for 99th in the country. After completing 61.1 percent of his passes and averaging nearly 264 yards passing per game last season, Allen is 66 of 117 passing (56.4 percent) this year and averaging only 170 yards passing.
He gave way to backup Cole Kelley following the injury against South Carolina, after completing 12 of 24 passes for 84 yards — as well as throwing an interception that was returned for a Gamecocks touchdown.
Kelley, a sophomore, finished 8 of 13 for 140 yards after replacing Allen. He also threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown — one of three defensive scores by South Carolina — and said afterward that Allen clearly remains the starter if he’s healthy.
“I think that’s a great indicator of a guy being in the right frame of mind,” Bielema said. “Obviously, I think Austin was affected by, not just the last play he was in there, but I think he was a guy who was trying to do everything he can and needed relief and that was a way to get it to him in the end.”
Offensive coordinator Dan Enos called Allen’s status “day to day” this week and echoed Bielema about the possibility of Allen playing against Alabama.
“He’s a guy who is extremely tough, and he’s played through a lot of nicks and things in the last two seasons I’ve been with him,” Enos said. “I would expect, if he can go at all, he’s going to be ready to go.”
The Razorbacks (2-3, 0-2) have lost five of their last seven games dating back to last season. After facing the Crimson Tide on Saturday they will play No. 10 Auburn next week.
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