FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Austin Allen has spent much of the season so far trying to regain his form, his coolness and — more than anything — his fun on the football field.
A much-needed win did just that for the relieved Arkansas quarterback along with his teammates on Saturday.
Even Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema took part in the postgame celebration following Arkansas 42-24 win over New Mexico State, taking part in some locker-room shenanigans by doing the Hokey Pokey for his players to watch.
“It was a sight,” Allen said. “It’s a tradition he’s been a part of when it comes to winning, and he wanted to let us try it out. It was funny. He did, he showed us the ropes, and hopefully a lot more wins come so we can keep seeing him do it.”
Every bit of the fun — and relief — was understandable for a Razorbacks (2-2) team that entered the contest having lost four of its last five games, including an overtime defeat to Texas A&M a week ago.
Before they could enjoy their locker-room dance routine, though, the Razorbacks first had to hold off an explosive Aggies (2-3) offense that was led by senior quarterback Tyler Rogers.
Rogers completed 23 of 38 passes for 344 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the loss, with much of his success coming via the help of senior Jaleel Scott — who finished with career highs in catches (9) and receiving yards (174).
Scott also had a 36-yard touchdown catch, but the New Mexico State air attack wasn’t enough to make up for a rushing game that managed only 11 yards on 14 attempts.
“We were playing the gaps and playing disciplined and they didn’t have a chance to get out and have running success against us,” Arkansas safety Santos Ramirez said. “That had a lot to do with this win.”
As good as the aerial attack was for the Aggies, Allen had plenty of success as well — particularly through the first three quarters. The senior completed 18 of his first 22 passes and finished 19-of-26 passing for a season-high 264 yards overall.
Allen also threw three touchdown passes, two to Jonathan Nance, to help Arkansas put an end to a two-game losing streak.
Devwah Whaley led the Arkansas rushing attack with 119 yards on 19 carries. The Razorbacks finished with a season-high 494 yards of total offense, including 230 on the ground.
“I think our guys knew going into that game that we could win,” Bielema said. “I think that was the chippieness, the anger, even from a coach. You do all this work, why not win a game. Why not put ourselves in a position to be talked about on a bigger scale?”
NEW MEXICO STATE: The Aggies last win over a Power 5 conference opponent was against Minnesota in 2011. While the school didn’t earn the victory over the Southeastern Conference Razorbacks on Saturday, New Mexico State’s offense did show it has the potential to cause headaches for Sun Belt Conference teams for the rest of the season.
“I think we’re an exceptional throwing team, I think offensively we can play with just about anybody,” New Mexico State coach Doug Martin said. “But that was a test today. They’re really good and they’re going to give a lot of people problems.”
ARKANSAS: Allen said two weeks ago that he needed to play more relaxed and “let it rip” like he did last year, when he threw for an average of nearly 264 yards per game and 25 touchdowns on the season. The senior recovered from an early interception on Saturday to do just that the rest of the way, leading the Razorback to touchdowns on four of their first five possessions.
NEW MEXICO STATE: The Aggies return to conference play when they travel to Appalachian State next week.
ARKANSAS: The Razorbacks begin a stretch of four straight SEC games when they travel to South Carolina next week.
Follow Kurt Voigt on Twitter at @Kurt_Voigt_AP