Walt Beazley / ArkansasRazorbacks.com
One of the Arkansas Razorbacks’ greatest assets going into the 2017 season if not its greatest is senior quarterback Austin Allen.
Allen started all 13 games last season and proved to be a playmaker for the Razorbacks not just a caretaker. The 6-1 senior from Fayetteville led the Southeastern Conference in passing yardage with 3,430 yards and ranked 20th in the nation.
Allen completed 61.1 percent of his passes, and threw for 25 touchdowns, which was second in the SEC and ranks fifth on Arkansas’ all-time single-season list. He threw 15 of those touchdowns against ranked opponents, which tied for the most in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Those were Allen’s superlatives. However, like many first-year starting quarterbacks, Allen had some tough times. The Razorbacks had difficulty with pass protection all season with an inexperienced offensive line that also had trouble opening holes for Arkansas’ running backs in short-yardage situations.
Third-and-three became primarily a passing down for the Razorbacks by midseason, and defenses teed off on Allen, sacking him 35 times for 264 yards in losses. Rushing to deal with the pressure Allen also threw 15 interceptions.
It did not help matters that Arkansas’ defense gave up 31.1 points per game, forcing the Razorbacks to go all out in an attempt to keep up with opponents. Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema and offensive coordinator Dan Enos did not have the luxury of protecting the first-year starter. Allen was thrown into the deep end of the SEC waters and had swim for his life.
With that experience under his belt, many feel that Allen, who is working as a counselor at the Manning Passing Academy for the second year, is poised to have a stronger senior year.
There’s an old adage that a great quarterback can lift a team like a rising tide, but that a poor quarterback can sink a team like an anchor.
There is a lot of truth in that thought, but no matter how well a quarterback plays, he is just as much at the mercy of his teammates’ play as they are at his.
Since 1959 the Razorbacks have had 21 seniors start at quarterback, and the results are mixed. The Hogs have had truly talented senior quarterbacks suffer through losing seasons, and decidedly average quarterbacks ability-wise guide Arkansas to successful seasons. Some Razorback senior quarterbacks played on teams that overachieved, and some played on teams that failed to measure up to preseason expectations.
Here’s a run down on how Arkansas’ senior quarterbacks have performed over the last six decades.
1959 — James Monroe was primarily a distributor of the football during Coach Frank Broyles’ second season with the Razorbacks, with tough running back Jim Mooty toting the note. Monroe completed 19 of 30 passes for 202 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions. The Hogs lost back-to-back games to Texas and Ole Miss before finishing the season as Southwest Conference co-champions with the Longhorns and then defeating Georgia Tech, 14-7, in the Gator Bowl. The Associated Press ranked the Hogs 9th in its final poll prior to the bowl games.
1961 — George McKinney likewise was a facilitator for the Razorbacks, making sure Lance Alworth got plenty of touches. McKinney completed 32 of 68 passes for 426 yards, 6 TDs and 5 interceptions. Ole Miss and Texas scalped the Razorbacks again that season, but the Hogs were once again co-SWC champs. However, the Razorbacks lost a tough one to Alabama, 10-3, in the Sugar Bowl to what at the time was considered Bear Bryant’s best Crimson Tide team. Arkansas was 8-3 and finished 9th in the AP Poll prior to the bowls.
1962 — Billy Moore is the only Arkansas quarterback to earn All-American honors. He did so by leading the Razorbacks in rushing with 673 yards and 14 touchdowns on 31 carries, and passing for 560 yards and five touchdowns on 51-of-91 passing with two interceptions. Arkansas lost 10-7 to the Longhorns to place 2nd in the SWC. The Hogs were ranked sixth in the final AP poll before losing to Ole Miss, 17-13, in Sugar Bowl for a 9-2 season.
1964 — Fred Marshall might not have been the most talented Razorback quarterback but he definitely was one of the smartest and toughest. Marshall is the only quarterback to guide the Hogs to a national title. He completed 50 of 94 passes for 532 yards and four touchdowns with eight interceptions. The Razorbacks won a classic battle over the Longhorns, 14-13, at Austin, and then shut out their final five regular-season opponents. The Hogs capped their undefeated season with a 10-7 victory over Nebraska to win the Cotton Bowl. Arkansas won the Football Writer’s Association of America national championship, but finished 2nd to Alabama in the final AP Poll prior to the bowl games. The next season the AP began publishing its final poll after the bowl games.
1966 — As a junior in 1965, John Brittenum led Arkansas to a SWC title and a 10-1 season, but the Hogs couldn’t manage their third SWC title in a row his senior year, falling to Baylor and Texas Tech in upset losses. Brittenum completed 76 of 143 passes for 1,103 yards, 7 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. The Hogs tied for second in the SWC, and would have gotten a bowl bid, but the seniors voted not to accept one since they couldn’t go to the Cotton Bowl.
1967 — The Razorbacks went 4-5-1 with Ronny South as their senior quarterback. It was the first losing season Broyles had at Arkansas since his first year on the job. South completed 84 of 142 passes for 1,159 yards and 11 touchdowns with 8 interceptions
1970 — Bill Montgomery arguably had the most successful career of any Razorback quarterback. In his three years of eligibility, Arkansas never won less than nine games. Arkansas tied for the SWC title with a 10-1 record in 1968 and finished second to Texas with a 9-2 mark in 1969. His senior year, Montgomery completed 110 of 195 passes with 10 touchdowns and 9 interceptions for a school record at the time 1,662 yards, but the Hogs again went 9-2 with bookend losses to Stanford and Texas in the opener and the regular-season finale. Arkansas finished the season ranked 11th by the AP, but like in 1966 turned down a bowl bid.
1972 — In terms of strength and accuracy, Joe Ferguson probably had the best arm of any Razorback quarterback. His long NFL career stands as proof, but his senior year, Ferguson worked under duress behind a young offensive line. Defenses sat back in coverage, and Arkansas’ subpar running game couldn’t make them pay. Ferguson, an early Heisman favorite after passing for a new school record 2,203 as a junior, managed to throw for just 1,484 on 119-of-195 passing for 9 touchdowns and 15 interception during his 6-5 senior year.
1975 — Scott Bull might not have been as talented as Ferguson or Montgomery, but as a senior he guided the Razorbacks to a tie for SWC title, a 31-10 Cotton Bowl victory over Georgia, and a No. 7 ranking in the final AP Poll. Bull completed 33 of 71 passes for 570 yards with three touchdowns and 6 interceptions. He benefitted from an outstanding running game featuring Ike Forte and Jerry Eckwood, and a tenacious and swarming defense coordinated by Jimmy Johnson.
1978 — Sports Illustrated picked the Razorbacks to win the national title in 1978 after Lou Holtz’ first Razorback squad finished 11-1 and routed mighty Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. Returning quarterback Ron Calcagni was a tough runner and an improved passer, but Texas and Houston were also loaded at the time. They both beat the Hogs in October, leaving Arkansas in a tied for 2nd in the SWC. Arkansas took a bowl bid to the Fiesta Bowl where they tied UCLA, 10-10, on Christmas Day. Calcagni completed 62 of 103 passes for 807 yards, 4 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. Arkansas finished 11th in the AP Poll.
1979 — Kevin Scanlon only started one year for the Razorbacks, but he proved to be one of the best leaders and surest hands at quarterback in the program’s history. He guided a talented but very young Razorback team to a 10-2 record, featuring a 17-14 victory over Texas at Little Rock. Scanlon completed 92 of 139 passes for 1,212 yards and 9 touchdowns with 6 interceptions. The Hogs shared the SWC title with Houston, but ran into perhaps Bear Bryant’s best Alabama squad in the Sugar Bowl. The Hogs lost 24-9, but went down swinging. Arkansas finished 8th in the AP Poll.
1982 — Tom Jones was the steady-hand starter for a very talented but hard-luck Razorback team in 1982. He split time with the more-talented sophomore Brad Taylor. Arkansas cruised through the early portion of its schedule, but injuries to running backs Gary Anderson and Jessie Clark led to an upset by a stout Baylor squad. A controversial pass interference call allowed SMU’s Pony Express to tie Arkansas, sending the Mustangs to the Cotton Bowl. Feeling cheated, the Hogs were out of it emotionally for the season finale at Texas. The Razorbacks did rebound for 28-24 victory over Florida in the Bluebonnet Bowl, and a No. 9 AP ranking. However, a team that featured NFL talent like Anderson, Clark, Billy Ray Smith Jr., Danny Walters, and Steve Korte had the makings of better than a 9-2-1 finish.
1984 — Ken Hatfield’s first year as Arkansas’ head football coach wouldn’t be his best in terms of wins, but it might have been the most entertaining thanks to senior quarterback Brad Taylor. Taylor was not a natural fit for Hatfield’s option-oriented Flexbone offense, but his gun-slinging style at quarterback made it one interesting season. Taylor threw for 1,166 yards, 7 touchdowns and 11 interceptions on 82-of-147 passing. After falling behind 21-0 to Texas in the first half, Taylor passed the Longhorns silly in the second half, only to fall two yards short of an upset in the 24-18 loss. Arkansas lost 21-15 to Bo Jackson and the Auburn Tigers in the Liberty Bowl when a perfectly thrown pass from Taylor to Bobby Joe Edmonds was dropped, leaving Arkansas 7-4-1 on the season.
1987 — One of the toughest men to play quarterback for the Razorbacks was three-year starter Greg Thomas. Thomas shared time with Mark Calcagni and Quinn Grovey as the Hogs primary starter from 1985-87 when the Razorbacks won a total of 28 games. Thomas, Arkansas’ first African-American starting quarterback, played the second half of his senior year with a separated shoulder. The Hogs went 9-4 that season but lost, 20-17, to Georgia in the Liberty Bowl.
1990 — Without a doubt Quinn Grovey is one of the best quarterbacks the Hogs have ever had. He is the only Arkansas quarterback to lead the Razorbacks to back-to-back conference titles, winning the SWC championship in 1988 and 1989. But Grovey’s senior year was a nightmare. Arkansas had one of its worst defenses ever, and that led to a 3-8 season. Grovey did all he could, passing for 1,886 yards and 18 touchdowns against 10 interceptions, but it was a terrible end to a fantastic career.
1995 — Barry Lunney Jr. started parts of all four of his seasons at Arkansas, but it seemed he perpetually had to prove himself. Lunney certainly did that as a senior 1995. He came off the bench in the season opener at SMU to lead Arkansas to the doorstep of victory, but his late-game fumble near the goal line proved costly. Lunney showed great leadership, though, rallying the Hogs to their first SEC West title. The signature win was a 20-19 upset of No. 13 Alabama at Tuscaloosa. It was Arkansas’ first win over the Crimson Tide. Arkansas also upset No. 11 Auburn, 30-28, in a raucous Thursday night game at War Memorial Stadium. The overachieving Hogs finished 8-5 on the season after a 20-10 loss to North Carolina in the CarQuest Bowl. It was Danny Ford’s only winning season as Arkansas’ coach. Lunney completed 180 of 292 passes for 2,181 yards, 12 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
1999 — Clint Stoerner’s best season as a Razorback was his junior year when he passed for 2,629 yards in a 9-3 season, but the three-year starter had his two biggest wins during his 8-4 senior year. Stoerner gained redemption for his stumble and fumble the previous season against Tennessee by beating the Vols with a 23-yard touchdown strike to Anthony Lucas for a 28-24 victory at Razorback Stadium. Hog fans tore down the goal post in the south end zone and carried to Dickson Street in celebration. Stoerner also played a great game to lead Arkansas to a 27-6 blowout of Texas in the Cotton Bowl, capping the 8-4 season. The Hogs finished 17th in the AP Poll. Stoerner, who suffered from a separated shoulder in Arkansas’ second game, completed 177 of 317 passes for 2,293 yards that season with 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
2004 — Matt Jones may be the best athlete to have ever played quarterback for the Hogs. The 6-4, long-striding quarterback might not have been as consistent as fans wanted, but he made plays with his arm and legs like no other quarterback in Arkansas history. No one will ever forget his play in the seven-overtime victories over Ole Miss and Kentucky during his freshman and junior seasons respectively. But as talented as Jones was, the Razorbacks went 5-6 his senior year, finishing third in the SEC West. That season Jones completed 151 of 264 passes for 2,073 yards, 15 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
2008 — Casey Dick finished his career as the starting signal caller in Bobby Petrino’s first year as head coach. Dick completed 205 of 357 passes for 2,586 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions in a 5-7 season. But he went out on a high note with a game-winning touchdown pass to London Crawford to upset LSU, 31-30, at War Memorial Stadium.
2012 — Tyler Wilson quarterbacked the Razorbacks to their first BCS Bowl and an 11-2 season as a junior when he passed for 3,638 yards in 2011. Only Ryan Mallett, who went to the NFL after his junior season, had thrown for more yards at the time with 3,869 in 2010. Wilson’s senior year and the Razorbacks’ season went off the rails in the spring when Bobby Petrino’s actions forced Arkansas athletics director Jeff Long to fire him. Arkansas went 4-8 with interim head coach John L. Smith at the helm. Wilson completed 249 of 401 passes for 3,387 yards, 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
2015 — After a 2-4 start on the season the Razorbacks rebounded to finish 8-5 in Brandon Allen’s senior year. He completed 244 of 370 passes for 3,440 yards with 30 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. The Hogs defeated Kansas State, 45-23, in Liberty Bowl, making Allen the first player to quarterback Arkansas to back-to-back bowl wins.
So there you have it, the rundown on Arkansas’ senior quarterbacks since 1959. Some of the senior quarterbacks had great years, helping their teams to outstanding seasons. Others suffered through the worst season of their Razorback career, and more than a few had average to mediocre years.
Austin Allen’s talent, skill, and experience will no doubt be an asset to this Razorback squad, and one can’t underestimate how much a senior quarterback can mean to his team. But as we can see from the results over the last six decades, a senior quarterback — no matter how talented — guarantees nothing.
That said, as a Hog fan, I’m rooting for Allen to turn in a senior season like Billy Moore, Fred Marshall, Scott Bull, Kevin Scanlon, or several other Hogs who were the right quarterback for the right time.