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Hogs: Questions arise for both Rutgers, Arkansas quarterbacks

<p>photo by MARK F. HENNING</p><p>Arkansas backup quarterback AJ Derby outruns Southern Mississippi’s Toby Baker on a first-down scramble during the Razorbacks’ game Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013, against the Golden Eagles at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.</p>

photo by MARK F. HENNING

Arkansas backup quarterback AJ Derby outruns Southern Mississippi’s Toby Baker on a first-down scramble during the Razorbacks’ game Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013, against the Golden Eagles at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — Quarterback Brandon Allen’s status is unclear for Arkansas’ first road game after injuring his shoulder in the 24-3 win against Southern Miss.

But the sophomore isn’t alone. The status of Rutgers starting quarterback Gary Nova is unclear as well after he left his team’s 28-10 win against Eastern Michigan.

The health questions have given Arkansas-Rutgers week has an early theme: Discussion about the nonconference game will center around the quarterbacks, who have been key to their teams’ success so far.

Allen injured his throwing shoulder diving into the end zone on a five-yard touchdown run. He went to the team’s X-ray room at the south end of the stadium, then emerged without his pads a little later. Allen was out of uniform in the second half, wearing a black sling and helping backup AJ Derby on the sideline.

Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney wouldn’t go into detail on Allen’s health status Sunday afternoon. He deferred any questions to Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, who will be available during his weekly press conference today.

“I’ve got a quarterback with a tender shoulder,” Chaney said before adding he stays out of injury discussions. “We’ll see how it goes day to day.”

Rutgers coach Kyle Flood offered a little more about Nova, who suffered a concussion following two helmet-to-helmet hits on the opening possession.

“I have not spoken to the doctors (Sunday),” Flood said, according to the Newark Star-Ledger. “They’re going to see Gary when he comes in here in a little bit and re-evaluate it. These things can span a wide spectrum from a day or two he’s back to playing again to missing weeks. I’m not exactly sure what part of the spectrum we’re at. We should have a better idea probably by (Monday).”

The Razorbacks need no introduction to Nova after the quarterback enjoyed a career day during a 35-26 win at Arkansas last season. He shredded Arkansas’ secondary, completing 25 of 35 passes for 397 yards with five touchdowns.

Nova was replaced by backup Chas Dodd last Saturday. Dodd, who has starting experience with the Scarlet Knights, completed 4 of 9 passes for 45 yards.

Rutgers leaned on its defense and a strong ground game to secure the win without its starting quarterback. Running back Paul James rushed for 192 yards and 3 touchdowns, going over the 100-yard mark for the third straight game.

“We’re going tot prepare for whoever is in there,” Arkansas defensive coordinator Chris Ash said. “They’re going to run their offense and it’s not going to change. (Nova is) a good player. If he’s there, he’s there. If he isn’t, he isn’t.”

Arkansas will continue to prepare Derby for more snaps as well after taking a conservative approach without Allen on Saturday. Derby was shaky early — especially with shotgun snaps. He finished 4-for-6 for 36 yards in his debut.

The Razorbacks finished with 56 run plays and 11 pass attempts in the win.

“I thought AJ did what we needed him to do,” Chaney said. “Early on, I thought he was a little shaky. Then he calmed back down and went back to being a football player. First time in a game, guys. You never really know what you’ve got.

“AJ stepped in there and he did a nice job for us. I was proud of him.”

Chaney added that Arkansas’ goal was to continue to “operate within our system” when Allen went down. While it led to few pass plays, Chaney said he “didn’t need to prove any points” with Arkansas’ defense playing well against Southern Miss.

The Razorbacks leaned on their defense and ground game to improve to 3-0.

“I was comfortable where we were at during the ballgame doing it the way we did it,” Chaney said. “Obviously there’s going to come a time when we’re going to have to throw the ball a little bit more than what we did on Saturday. We’re aware of that. And we’ll continue to work all this week to make sure those details are ready to go.”

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