FAYETTEVILLE — On the surface, Bret Bielema is simply a football tough guy.

FAYETTEVILLE — On the surface, Bret Bielema is simply a football tough guy.


Arkansas’ coach — a former defensive lineman — wants his program anchored around a big offensive line, punishing backs and a physical defense. He lives for smashmouth football, heavy formations, huddles and nine-minute drives.


Arkansas tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr. is working through his second season on Bielema’s staff and said that part of his boss’ football persona is accurate. But there’s another side, too. An unseen aspect that seeps to the surface on occasion.


"He is a tough guy. He has an identity that he’s pressed on this team and it shows. But he’s also real creative," Lunney Jr. said Wednesday. "He likes to get players involved that maybe aren’t starters and he creates. … He’s constantly pressing us, challenging us, in a good way, to think of creative, outside-the-box ways."


That Bielema, the mad scientist, made another appearance when he called for a play drawn up three weeks earlier in the first half of Arkansas’ 45-17 win against UAB.


It was his idea to shift Arkansas’ kicker and holder out wide into a swinging gate formation. And it was Bielema who had the audacity to go even further, motioning offensive guard Sebastian Tretola into the backfield to take a shotgun snap from Alan D’Appollonio, roll to his left and throw a touchdown pass to the senior.


It’s no surprise the bizarre play quickly made its way around social media with the moniker "fat guy touchdown pass" attached to it. It also became the latest proof — and, by far, the most memorable — Bielema isn’t shy about attempting something out of the ordinary as he tries to build Arkansas into an SEC West contender.


"I try to design something that makes as little sense as possible to the people that are lining up," Bielema said last Saturday. "You kind of get people running around. They’ve obviously never seen it. And the next one they’re never going to see either."


The first thing to know about Bielema’s penchant for unusual plays like the fake field goal, which is called Tretola left: he doesn’t view them as tricks.


In fact, Bielema said he doesn’t even like to use that word around his players. His goal is to call a play — any play — that throws off a defense conceptually.


"I want our guys to understand I only call them if I expect them to have success," Bielema said. "I think that was the case on Saturday in particular."


Sometimes it works perfectly like Tretola’s touchdown pass and punter Sam Irwin-Hill’s 51-yard touchdown run against Texas A&M. Sometimes it doesn’t. But name another team whose left guard has thrown a touchdown pass, long snapper has a touchdown catch and punter has a touchdown run this season.


"It was incredible to score," D’Appollonio said after the game last Saturday. "It was something you never even think of as a snapper. You don’t think it’s even possible."


Actually, Bielema did. Tretola was called into the coach’s office a few weeks ago and the junior figured he might be in trouble. Then Bielema showed him a diagram.


"I was like, ‘You can not be serious. This is real?’" Tretola said. "And we went out there and ran it at practice without our defense knowing that we were going to run it. And I scored on that one, also. So it all worked out."


The second thing to know about Bielema’s trick plays: he doesn’t devote hours and hours of practice time to working on them. There just isn’t time for it.


In fact, he said Arkansas only ran the Tretola pass play four or five times during practices before deciding to call it in a game. Other things have only gotten a handful of repetitions in practice as well before being filed away for potential use.


"We’ll probably have three or four things up our sleeve in every game, and we spend little to no time," Bielema said. "One of the things I always stress to my coaches is, I’m not going to eat up your time with something that may or may not get called."


Of course, Bielema has proven he’ll call them the past two years.


Last Saturday may have been the first time Bielema had an offensive lineman throw a pass. It wasn’t first time he asked D’Appollonio to deliver on a fourth-down fake.


The long snapper was on the receiving end of a 24-yard completion from Irwin-Hill in last year’s loss at Rutgers. It was the same game Arkansas built a 17-point lead behind Jonathan William’s 21-yard touchdown toss on a halfback pass.


Irwin-Hill threw two passes last season and ran twice on fake punts, although they weren’t always successful. But Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen said the Razorbacks appreciate the bravado to give anything a shot.


"He’s got a mind for trick plays," Allen said. "He thinks out of the box. He likes to come up with ideas you haven’t seen before with the lineman pass. He likes things that are very original so people don’t know how to react to them."


Bielema also believes they serve other purposes. It can boost a team’s morale, which was evident after Arkansas suffered consecutive losses to Texas A&M, Alabama and Georgia. Bielema also said it’s a good way to connect with players.


It was evident after the Tretola pass. Tretola and Bielema celebrated together when the offensive lineman ran to the sideline after the play was a success.


"A play like that, it’s a way for me to interact with our team," Bielema said. "I design all those. … Sometimes they don’t work. It’s a fun way for me to get up in front of the team and have a little fun with them, bring some energy. The kids were so pumped when that A) it got called and B) was executed. It was pretty fun."


Arkansas (4-4, 0-4 in SEC) will surely be ready to pull out a trick play if the situation presents itself against No. 1 Mississippi State (7-0, 4-0 in SEC) on Saturday, too.


But Bielema just had an offensive lineman throw a touchdown pass.


So how much more creative and unpredictable can the mad scientist get?


"He had (offensive coordinator Jim) Chaney throwing one, but we had to throw that one out. That wouldn’t work," Lunney Jr. said with a smile. "But other than that, it’s about the next craziest step, to get (offensive line coach Sam) Pittman or Chaney or one of us to slide out there in a helmet and throw one. It was fun, obviously for our program and for Sebastian. It made a memory that he’ll never forget, a lot of us will never forget. It’ll be a good story. … Yeah, I saw a lineman throw a touchdown in a game."