LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Austin Allen has never been a big believer in the Little Rock curse, especially after having won two state high school championships there.
The Arkansas quarterback’s history of success in War Memorial Stadium carried over to Saturday, with his three touchdown passes helping the No. 20 Razorbacks (4-1) put an end to their recent capital city woes with a 52-10 win over Alcorn State.
Arkansas was 1-5 in its last six games in its home away from home, including shocking losses to Louisiana-Monroe in 2012 and Toledo a year ago.
Much to the delight of the central Arkansas crowd, those struggles didn’t carry over to Saturday — with the Razorbacks taking a 24-0 first-quarter lead and rarely being challenged after that against the Football Championship Subdivision Braves (1-3).
“I’ve always liked Little Rock, even going back to high school I always liked Little Rock,” Allen said. “So, coming here and playing well and getting the win is something the whole program really needed.”
Allen finished with 206 yards through the air and completed 13 of 18 passes, and the junior — in his first season as the starter — now has 10 touchdowns and no interceptions in his last four games.
He had plenty of help on Saturday, with running backs Devwah Whaley and Rawleigh Williams each topping the 100-yard rushing mark as well. Whaley finished with a career-high 135 yards on the ground on just nine carries, including a 75-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, and Williams had 126 on 13 carries.
Jared Cornelius added a pair of touchdown catches, and safety Henre’ Toliver added a 70-yard interception return for a touchdown — the third time Arkansas’ defense has returned an interception for a score this season.
“Pick 6s are always nice, and to have three of them this year (is nice),” Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said. “… Either on an interception, a fumble recovery or a blocked field goal, we have the athletic advantage going the other way, and obviously they’ve created it and made it happen.”
Alcorn State, the back-to-back Southwestern Athletic Conference champion, was led by quarterback Noah Johnson, who threw for 158 yards and rushed for 55 more.
Alcorn State: The Braves have now lost three straight under first-year coach Fred McNair, but they played well against the Razorbacks — gaining 313 yards of offense, including 155 on the ground.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks did what they had to against an inferior opponent, but there are concerns — particularly during a scoreless second quarter — heading into the toughest part of their schedule. Arkansas’ defense struggled at times to slow Alcorn State, though interceptions by Toliver and Josh Liddell aided its cause. Toliver returned his interception 70 yards for a touchdown, the third time this season the Razorbacks have scored after an interception.
While the Razorbacks are unlikely to make a big move up in the polls following a convincing win over an FCS opponent, they’re not likely to fall much either. Their best chances moving up will come from here out, with seven straight Southeastern Conference games to end the regular season.
Alcorn State: The Braves return to FCS play by traveling to Alabama A&M. “The biggest thing I told the kids is we grew up today,” McNair said. “… Hopefully by playing this game now and staying healthy, it will carry over to next week.”
Arkansas: The Razorbacks begin their most difficult two-game stretch of the season, first by hosting No. 1 Alabama before following that up against No. 16 Mississippi — also at home.