FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney wasn’t at field level last Saturday, but could sense quarterback Brandon Allen’s relief from his seat in the coaches’ box in Razorback Stadium last Saturday.

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney wasn’t at field level last Saturday, but could sense quarterback Brandon Allen’s relief from his seat in the coaches’ box in Razorback Stadium last Saturday.


The junior threw a perfect strike on the fourth play from scrimmage, connecting with receiver Drew Morgan on a deep ball down the sideline.


The 44-yard gain set up Arkansas’ first touchdown in the 45-17 win against Alabama-Birmingham. It was one of Allen’s longest completions of the season.


"He’s been making such a deal of that because everybody’s on him about his deep balls," Chaney said Sunday. "I just keep telling him to relax. Since I’ve been here it’s one of the best things he does is throw the deep ball. He threw beautiful ball to Drew on that first pump play we called, and it was good and it was good to see him hit it."


Chaney would like to see it happen again Saturday, when the Razorbacks (4-4, 0-4 in SEC) play top-ranked Mississippi State (7-0, 4-0 in SEC) at 6:15 p.m.


Arkansas won’t trade in its physical, run-first mentality, but Allen and the Razorbacks are gaining confidence in their passing potential after putting together some of their biggest statistical performances since coach Bret Bielema arrived. The Hogs have averaged 229 passing yards the past five games, topped the 200-yard mark in three straight and climbed to ninth in the SEC (199.0 yards a game).


It hasn’t made Arkansas one of the nation’s most dangerous passing attacks. The Razorbacks remain far from it ranked 91st in the NCAA in passing offense. Still, Arkansas believes it is becoming more capable of moving the ball through the air.


"I know BA can throw the football and I know that we have guys that can catch it," Bielema said. "I think nine guys caught balls (against UAB) and we have a lot of different options."


Said Morgan: "It definitely opens the game up a little more."


Arkansas’ growing confidence will be tested by a Mississippi State defense that has been stingy against the run all season (118 yards a game), but has had some issues against the pass (321.6 yards). In fact, the Bulldogs are ranked 125th out of 128 NCAA teams in pass defense. Four teams have thrown for 341 yards or more.


UAB, which managed only 62 passing yards against Arkansas last Saturday, was one of them. The Blazers stung Mississippi State for 435 and 3 touchdowns in a 47-34 loss earlier in the season. Texas A&M’s Kenny Hill also threw for 365 yards and four touchdowns, while Kentucky had 401 passing yards in last week’s 45-31 loss.


None of the big performances cost the Bulldogs, who have been able to build big leads in a handful of games. But Allen said Arkansas knows it will have to take advantage of its opportunities against Mississippi State.


"Their secondary, they’re obviously good SEC players," Allen said. "They have a bunch of athletic guys back there and they’ll make the plays when you let them. It’s our job to get open and we’ve got to make some plays in he passing game because they’ve got a real tough front seven."


Some of Arkansas’ recent production through the air has come out of necessity. For instance, the Razorbacks had trouble running the ball against Alabama and Allen finished with 246 passing yards in a 14-13 loss. The Razorbacks fell into a big hole against Georgia, too, which played a hand in Allen’s career-high 296 yards.


"I think we have a lot of confidence in our passing game," Allen said last week. "Part of the way we’re successful is with a good run game. It just opens things up a lot easier for us. But we have weapons at receiver and tight end. They’re doing a great job. I don’t think we had any drops (against Georgia). We’re just building on that confidence. They’re doing a great job getting open for me and catching the ball."


The tight ends remain Allen’s most reliable weapons.


A.J. Derby and Hunter Henry have combined to catch 35 passes for 501 yards and 5 touchdowns this season. Most of the production has come the past several weeks. The Hogs even got backup Jeremy Sprinkle involved last Saturday when Allen hit the sophomore for a 15-yard touchdown in the third quarter.


"We like that position," Chaney said. "We try to utilize it the best that we can and we’ll continue to do so."


But wideouts like Morgan and Cody Hollister joined leading receiver Keon Hatcher in making plays against the Blazers. Allen also threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Jonathan Williams. It was the first touchdown catch by a running back this season.


"When we have two or three tight ends that factor into the mix and we have three or four wideouts and a couple of running backs that can catch the ball … That is an exciting thing to be a part of," Bielema said.


It’s especially good news for Allen, who has thrown for 1,498 yards and 15 touchdowns with four interceptions through eight games. He threw for 1,552 yards and 13 touchdowns in 11 games last season.


The improvement has been gradual. There’s still a ways to go. But Allen believes connecting on the deep ball early in last week’s game is another sign Arkansas’ confidence as a passing offense is growing.


"You know it was nice to hit one," Allen said. "I’ve been over-throwing a few lately. It’s just really about timing and me just giving them a better ball. We were able to hit one deep against UAB and just kind of come along from there."