Will Kelley Play Against 'Bama?

Bret Bielema had no definitive answer as to the playing status of quarterback Austin Allen who suffered what appeared to be a shoulder injury in the 4th quarter of Arkansas' 48-22 loss to South Carolina. At his noon Monday press conference Bielema told reporters: "(We're) Still in an evaluation process with him. Could be returned as early as today, (Monday) tomorrow. Don't really know anything until we get a few more results."

Offensive coordinator Dan Enos expressed confidence that if there is any way possible Allen will play against Alabama.

"I feel good," Enos said of Allen's chances of playing against the Tide. "He's extremely tough. He's played through a lot of nicks and things here in the last two seasons I've been with him so I would expect if he can go at all he's going to be ready to go."

Bielema has a history at Arkansas of playing quarterbacks nursing injuries. In 2013 Brandon Allen started eight games while recovering from a separated shoulder suffered in the third game of the season. The following year Bielema played Allen the entire game against Missouri even though he was clearly struggling from a hip pointer that limited his mobility.

In those cases an argument could be made that Bielema didn't have much of a choice since the team did not have a backup quarterback who had shown the ability to successfully lead the offense in a game. That doesn't appear to be the case with Austin Allen's current injury.

Redshirt freshmen Cole Kelley replaced Allen with 12:47 left in the 4th quarter against South Carolina after it was determined that the senior quarterback was physically unable to return to the game. Arkansas scored touchdowns on two of its final three possessions with Kelley going 8 of 13 passing for 140 yards and one touchdown. He also ran the ball twice for 23 yards. Kelley ended up with a higher quarterback rating than Allen and South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley.

"I thought Cole did a nice job of going in there and doing some things," Bielema observed. "I thought the guys rallied around him even though the game was kind of, at that point, of out of question." 

The common perception among many Arkansas fans and some in the media is that Kelley's success should be tempered by the fact that South Carolina had its defensive starters out of the game and was clearly not motived to pressure him the way it had gone after Allen for most of the game. Enos disputed that notion.

"They still had some starters in there," Enos revealed. "They were still running their blitz packages. We saw several blitzes while he was in there. So it wasn't like they just gave up. I think that's totally inaccurate."

Enos went on to explain the one mistake Kelley made when he was intercepted by Gamecocks cornerback Keisean Nixon who returned the ball 45 yards for a touchdown.

"He hitched on a throw we're not supposed to hitch on so the ball was late." Enos pointed out. "So if you hitch you don't throw it and he hitched. That's a young guy making a big mistake. I was really disappointed to have him make that mistake because other than that he played pretty flawless."

Whether Kelley is called upon to face Alabama or not Enos said he gained a wealth of experience in those three offensive possessions.

"Having to run a two-minute drill, having to come out on his own one yard line and move the ball out, having thrown an interception and come back on the field and how do you respond in that situation?" Enos stressed. "All those things, you can't get those sitting in a meeting room. The pressure, the communication, the bouncing back, the adversity, those are all things that come from playing the game. So every rep that he gets, in my opinion, is an investment in his future."    


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