After leaving last Saturday's game against Southern Miss in the first quarter with a bruised right shoulder, the status for sophomore starting quarterback Brandon Allen remains uncertain this weekend at Rutgers.
Allen injured his shoulder diving for a touchdown, forcing backup A.J. Derby to play the majority of the game. Luckily for Derby, he didn't have to do much with Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams each running for more than 100 yards for the third straight game.
Bret Bielema told the Associated Press, via Fox Sports, he isn't going to make the mistake of playing him when he's not ready. Matt Jones, editor for WholeHogSports, said that, though Allen has nothing broken, it will depend on how fast his shoulder heals:
Bret Bielema said nothing is structurally broken with Brandon Allen. His status for Saturday depends on how fast his bruised shoulder heals.— Matt Jones (@NWAMatt) September 16, 2013
The situation is eerily similar to 2012, when Allen came in against Louisiana-Monroe after Tyler Wilson went down with an injury, and Allen also started the following week versus Alabama.
It comes at an inopportune time, as the Razorbacks have their first road game of the season this weekend at Rutgers. However, the Scarlet Knights are also uncertain whether their head signal-caller Gary Nova can play after sustaining a concussion last week.
So, what kind of impact will this have on the game if Allen can't go?
It will put a heavy load on the legs of Collins and Williams, though Bielema said they would "unleash" Derby if he starts. He is inexperienced, and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney was hesitant to let him throw against Southern Miss. He attempted just six passes, completing four of them for a modest 36 yards.
It would be a much bigger deal if Collins and Williams weren't running over everyone in their paths. Regardless, if Allen isn't able to play, it could slow down the run game. Rutgers will more than likely commit to loading up the box and forcing Derby to make plays with his arm.
It also brings concerns for the weeks after, as the Razorbacks' next four games include Texas A&M (Sept. 28), at Florida (Oct. 5), South Carolina (Oct. 12) and at Alabama (Oct. 19). With that set of games, you'd like for Allen to get as many snaps as possible to keep progressing.
He showed flashes of a promising future and vastly improved his accuracy in the first two games, completing 61.5 percent of his passes compared to just 42.9 percent in 2012. He gives the Hogs the potential to stretch the opponent's defense and keep them honest, while it's unclear whether Derby can as well.
Bielema was obviously playing his cards close to the chest when talking about Allen's status for this weekend. Even if he did know if he was going to play, it works to his team's advantage to not let Rutgers know.
"So, to me, there's a certain gamesmanship or element to, you know, you don't have to show everything that you've got," Bielema said. "Just kind of show the things that you need to."
Derby will practice with the first team this week in case Allen can't play. It isn't an ideal situation for the Hogs with their first road game looming, but then again, overcoming adversity is a part of football.
With murderer's row ensuing the next four weeks following this Saturday's matchup at Rutgers, it's better to be safe than sorry with Allen.