FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Bret Bielema enjoyed the little things like singing the fight song with the Arkansas student section and addressing his team following a win.
It had been far too long for the Razorbacks and their second-year coach.
Led by four touchdown passes from Brandon Allen, Arkansas (1-1) overwhelmed Football Championship Subdivision opponent Nicholls State in a 73-7 win Saturday.
For a team that hadn’t won in nearly a year, the Razorbacks made it look easy — emphatically ending the longest losing streak in school history and receiving a much-needed boost of confidence.
“To get in there in the locker room and have that celebration was awesome,” Bielema said. “A lot of smiles.”
Allen finished 4-of-5 passing for 117 yards, throwing touchdowns on each of his completions and providing just a few of the many highlights for the Razorbacks.
Arkansas entered Saturday having lost 10 straight games, with its last win coming in the third game of last season against Southern Mississippi. The Razorbacks looked perfectly comfortable in returning to their winning ways, leading 56-0 at halftime and outgaining the Colonels 684-282 in total yardage.
“We needed this game,” Allen said. “We needed it to show that this was going to be a big game for us to come out and score a lot of points and stop them. And we did exactly that.”
The loss was the eighth straight for Nicholls State (0-2), which opened the season with a loss at Air Force and was facing a Southeastern Conference opponent for the first time.
Kale Henderson completed 12 of 30 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown, but the Colonels gained only 34 yards rushing on 28 attempts and were unable to sustain any kind of threat to Arkansas.
“They’re, of course, a very good team,” Nicholls State coach Charlie Stubbs said. “There were so many mismatches out there, unfortunately. We basically had no answer to some of the physical talent out there. I tried to prepare our kids the best I could.”
Jonathan Williams led the Razorbacks with 143 yards rushing on just four carries, including a 90-yard touchdown run in the first half.
Alex Collins added 131 yards on the ground on 13 carries, scoring three touchdowns on runs of 33, 2 and 13 yards in the first half.
Arkansas’ 73 points are tied for the third most in school history, trailing only a 100-point effort in 1911 and 82 in 1916. The Razorbacks also scored 73 points in a win over Southwestern in 1928.
After ending last season on a nine-game losing streak in Bielema’s first year, the Razorbacks extended their losing streak to 10 games with a season-opening loss at No. 6 Auburn.
They wasted little time in putting the game out of reach on Saturday — building a 35-0 lead after the first quarter and scoring touchdowns on five one-play drives in the first half.
Keon Hatcher scored on two of the one-play drives, an untouched 82-yard run on an end-around on Arkansas’ first play and a 50-yard catch from Allen that put the Razorbacks up 42-0 early in the second quarter.
“It feels good,” Hatcher said. “We got one under our belt, and we’ve got to build off this.”
The highlights came early and often for Arkansas, which finished with 495 yards rushing on 40 carries — an average of 12.4 yards per carry.
Collins’ 33-yard touchdown run was the Razorbacks’ second score in as many plays and put them up 14-0. Allen followed with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Drew Morgan on the third play of Arkansas’ third drive, giving the Razorbacks three touchdowns in their first five offensive plays.
Allen also had a touchdown pass to Cody Hollister, and his only incompletion was an overthrown ball to Hatcher on the sideline in the second quarter.
Arkansas’ lead swelled to as much as 63-0 in the third quarter after Allen’s final touchdown throw, a 38-yard shovel pass to Jared Cornelius.
Nicholls State’s only touchdown came on a 10-yard pass from Henderson to Keenan Canty in the third quarter.
It was far too little and too late on a day of celebration for the Razorbacks, one Bielema hopes becomes a more regular occurrence in the future.
“We lost 10 straight,” Bielema said. “I’m not ignoring that. I’m going to wrap my arms around it and kiss it and make it as best I can. But it’s nothing I enjoyed. It’s nothing I liked. It’s nothing I want to repeat again in my life.”