FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said for two weeks that he wanted to wait as long as possible before making a decision about whether quarterback Brandon Allen could play.
Bielema found out for sure on Friday night that Allen, who injured his shoulder two weeks ago against Southern Mississippi, would be able to play the following day against No. 9 Texas A&M.
His return wasn't enough, as the Razorbacks lost 45-33 loss to the Aggies (4-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference). But it was exactly the kind of confidence boost Arkansas needed after a loss at Rutgers a week earlier.
Following Allen's injury on a first-quarter touchdown run against Southern Mississippi, Arkansas (3-2, 0-1) went with junior-college transfer AJ Derby at quarterback.
The former Iowa quarterback struggled mightily throwing the ball against the Golden Eagles, though he fared slightly better in the loss to the Scarlet Knights — who rallied from 17 points down in the second half to beat the Razorbacks.
"It was very frustrating," Allen said. "Any time you want to be out there with your teammates, and you've got to be on the sideline watching them, it's very frustrating. It's just something I had to deal with."
Derby was 18-of-32 passing for 173 yards in his limited action under center, struggling with consistency as opposing defenses started selling out to stop an Arkansas running attack that led the SEC early in the season.
The Razorbacks had no such problems passing the ball with Allen back on Saturday night. The sophomore finished 17 of 36 for a career-high 282 yards and three touchdowns, and he showed once and for all why Bielema and the rest of the Arkansas coaching staff believed so strongly in him during the spring and preseason.
"That was a big lift," Arkansas center Travis Swanson said. "We have faith in whoever they put out there, but obviously Brandon is the starter for a reason. He just does a great job, and I'm glad we got him back."
Allen won the starting job during the spring after a competition with Brandon Mitchell, who later transferred to North Carolina State.