FAYETTEVILLE — Korliss Marshall wasn’t necessarily on Bret Bielema’s bad side entering Saturday’s game against Northern Illinois. He had, however, found himself starting to slip farther down the coach’s list of options.

FAYETTEVILLE — Korliss Marshall wasn’t necessarily on Bret Bielema’s bad side entering Saturday’s game against Northern Illinois. He had, however, found himself starting to slip farther down the coach’s list of options.


A big play to start the festivities against the Huskies seemed to bring him back up that ladder.


Marshall took the opening kickoff 97 yards untouched for a touchdown to start a string of 21 straight points in Arkansas’ 52-14 rout of Northern Illinois.


It was just the type of play Bielema was imagining when he gushed about the sophomore’s abilities in the offseason, saying Marshall was "maybe the most explosive player in my coaching career."


But through three games this year there had been little substance and no flash.


Marshall’s ball security had become something an issue in the two games he’d played until Saturday. He fumbled at Auburn, and injured his forearm on the play, before he missed the following week against Nicholls State. The ball escaped his grasp twice more in last week’s win against Texas Tech, too, though neither time was he credited with a fumble.


"I felt pretty bad after last week’s game," Marshall said. "I understood what the coaches were doing, which was a smart decision. I have to accept things like that if I put the ball on the ground. I’ve got to accept that I’m not going to get as many carries as I’m supposed to."


The Razorbacks fumbled against Northern Illinois when Marshall couldn’t corral quarterback Brandon Allen’s pitch on a toss play. But it didn’t dissuade Bielema from going back to his sophomore running back. Marshall took the first play of the next drive for a handful of yards.


It’s not something that may have happened earlier this year.


Bielema said Marshall would have to "earn" his way into more playing time. If the game-starting touchdown didn’t do it, Marshall’s 27-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter did.


And while Marshall’s two scores will get him back into the coach’s good graces, the carries may continue to be sporadic.


Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins combined for 148 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries against Northern Illinois. It was clear Marshall would have his opportunities, though. Two of his rushes early in the game came on pitches in attempt to get him into open space. A third non-rush – the fumble credited to Allen – was the same. Marshall finally found some space late in the fourth, when he had four of his seven carries, as he bounced to the outside and outrun the Huskies defenders to the end zone.


"You know what, he’s been awesome this week," Bielema said. "I wasn’t trying to put another one on them or anything like that. We just ran a lead draw, which is no secret in our program. We ran that thing 20 times last week. He’s exceptionally fast. He’s as quick as a hiccup, man."


Marshall finished with 40 yards on six carries and led all Razorbacks in total yardage with 137.


Only five of Arkansas’ 45 carries went for double digits, but the big-play ability still remained even if it wasn’t the type of game that allowed for many long runs.


Marshall fielded the ball in the middle of the field and took a slight slant to his right, full-speed nearly the whole way to the end zone on the kickoff-return touchdown. Donald W. Reynolds Stadium was louder after 14 seconds – the amount of time it took for Marshall to jaunt those 97 yards – than it was at any point against the Colonels two weeks ago.


"I didn’t think it was going to start out that way, but it was just like, the way the hole opened up I just told myself ‘I have to score,’" Marshall said. "Cause anybody who got the ball could have scored on that play."