LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — With its victory over Samford, Arkansas accomplished two things it wasn't able to achieve last season: start the season 2-0 and win in Little Rock.
Though Arkansas prevailed 31-21 on Saturday, coach Bret Bielema said the team has a long way to go. Two fumbles and a lapse into a defensive "funk" enabled Samford (1-1) of the FCS Southern Conference to take a 21-17 lead in the third quarter.
In the end, Arkansas' tailback tandem of Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams, with help from fullback Kiero Small, put the game away. Quarterback Brandon Allen, who finished 9 of 17 passing with two touchdowns and no interceptions, didn't throw a pass in the fourth quarter.
"We took two steps forward," Bielema said. "We took a step forward last week when we won a game. We took a step forward (by beating Samford). We just can't afford to go back anymore."
The Razorbacks' next opponent is Southern Mississippi (0-2), which is riding a 14-game losing streak after being drubbed 56-13 by Nebraska on Saturday. After that, Arkansas plays its first road game at Rutgers before opening its Southeastern Conference season at home against Texas A&M on Sept. 28.
The game with the Aggies opens a brutal stretch for the Razorbacks, who go on the road for an Oct. 5 game with Florida. They return home to face South Carolina on Oct. 12 and travel to No. 1 Alabama on Oct. 19.
Bielema said the team finished the game without significant injuries.
Allen said the 2-0 start felt good but that the team still has a lot of rough edges.
"We have a lot of strides to be made. We had a lot of mental mistakes, penalties, things that we can correct. That's something we're really going to work on," Allen said.
Bielema was emphatic about avoiding penalties. The Razorbacks were flagged six times for 65 yards, including two personal fouls.
"Obviously too many penalties," Bielema said. "Two of them were inexcusable. Alex Collins will not do that again. If he does, he will not be here and playing with us. Tevin Mitchel has got to learn to control his emotions."
Collins drew an unsportsmanlike conduct flag when he ran to the north end zone stands after A 2-yard touchdown run that put the game away with 2:28 to play.
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