Alabama, ranked first in the nation, didn’t seem to be cmpletely on its game, but miscues by Arkansas led to six Bama touchdowns and the Crimson Tide’s sixth straight victory over the 21st ranked Razorbacks. Arkansas had a snap over the punter’s head, two passes intercepted, and lost three (of eight) fumbles that led to Bama touchdowns.
Alabama did not have a turnover.
Bama improved to 3-0 on the season in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams. The Hogs, playing without all-star quarterback Tyler Wilson, lost their second in a row and fell to 1-2.
Alabama returns to Bryant-Denny Stadium next Saturday for a non-conference game against Florida Atlantic. Kickoff will be at 4 p.m. CDT.
Eddie Lacy scored three touchdowns for the Crimson Tide, but it was the defense and special teams that did the real damage to the Razorbacks.
The Alabama defense held Arkansas to 137 total yards with 53 of those coming on a late fourth quarter drive against Bama back-ups. The Razorbacks had 37 runs for 58 yards and completed 11 of 25 passes for 79 yards. Bama had 45 runs for 225 yards and completed 14 of 20 passes for 213 yards.
The Tide had 22 first downs and 65 plays for 438 yards. The Hogs had 15 first downs and 62 plays for 137 yards.
Alabama had two punts in the first quarter and did not punt again Saturday.
Bama was 6-11 on third down conversions while holding Arkansas to 3-14. Bama continued its record of perfect Red Zone scoring with a 6-6 performance. Arkansas had come into the game with eight touchdowns in eight Red Zone opportunities, but was 0-2 against Bama.
Alabama’s only real minus was an unusually large number of penalties, 7 for 74 yards. Arkansas suffered a single penalty for six yards.
Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron had a nice day, 11-16 passing for 189 yards in one touchdown in less than three quarters work. True freshman Kenyan Drake was Bama’s leading rusher with 6 carries for 57 yards and one touchdown. Eddie Lacy had 12 runs for 55 yards and three touchdowns; and freshman T.J. Yeldon 13 runs for 55 yards and a touchdown. Christion Jones was the top receiver with 3 catches for 74 yards. True freshman Amari Cooper had two catches for 46 yards and a touchdown.
Inside linebackers Nico Johnson, who was in on six tackles, and C.J. Mosley, five tackles, were tops in that category. Safety Robert Lester was also in on five tackles. Fumbles were caused by Mosley, Deion Belue, Jeoffrey Pagan, HaHa Clinton-Dix, and Tana Patrick. Fumbles were recovered by Denzel Devall, Nick Perry, and Cade Foster. Interceptions were turned in by Vinnie Sunseri and Clinton-Dix.
Alabama took advantage of Arkansas miscues to build a 24-0 halftime lead.
The Razorbacks put themselves in a bit of a hole with a mishandled pitchout to set up long yardage and an eventual punting situation early in the first quarter. The snap went over the head of punter Dylan Breeding, who tried to limit the damage to a safety with a kick through the end zone. That, however, is not allowed, and so Bama was set up with a first and goal at the Arkansas six. On first down, tailback Eddie Lacy went over right guard, made a little move, and then stretched into the end zone for the touchdown. Jeremy Shelley kicked the first of his seven extra points to make it to 7-0 with 9:40 left in the first quarter.
Back-to-back major distance penalties against the Alabama defense allowed Arkansas to drive deep into Bama territory, but the Hogs best chance at a score ended with Zack Hocker’s field goal attempt hitting the right upright.
Although the Tide offense wasn’t getting much done, the defense was putting pressure on the Hogs. It appeared Bama might get another short touchdown drive opportunity when Dee Milliner took an Arkansas pass back from the 50 to the Razorbacks’ 3, but on review the pass was ruled incomplete.
Alabama survived a review of sorts when Christion Jones took a punt and was hit immediately. Although the officials ruled that Jones’s progress had been stopped, Arkansas thought it might have been a fumble. Replays indicated Jones was down, but in any event he had been ruled down by forward progress, which is not reviewable.
Alabama got its first first down of the quarter with about two minutes remaining and tacked on a couple more to move inside the Arkansas 40. The drive stalled, though, and on the third play of the second quarter, Cade Foster nailed a 51-yard field goal for a 10-0 Alabama lead.
Arkansas started a drive, but after the Razorbacks moved into Tide territory, a downfield pass by Brandon Allen was picked off by Vinnie Sunseri at the Alabama 20 and returned to the 33.
That was the start of the only nice drive of the first half, Alabama going 67 yards in five plays for a touchdown. Lacy and runs of 8 and 11 yards to get it started. AJ McCarron completed a 28-yard pass to Christion Jones to the 11. Jones then went goat-hero. He was charged with a holding penalty that wiped out a Lacy run to the one, but on first down from the 19 McCarron hit freshman Amari Cooper on a quick out, and Cooper followed a block by Jones into the end zone for a 17-0 lead.
Alabama had another drive into Arkansas territory, but Foster’s 52-yard field goal was wide right. No problem.
On Arkansas’s first play from its 35 in a heavy rain, Allen’s pass went through the hands of the intended receiver, Cobi Hamilton, and into the hands of Bama safety HaHa Clinton-Dix. Clinton-Dix picked it off at the 49 and returned it 46 yards to the Arkansas 3. It took three plays, the first one a bobbled snap that McCarron got at the five. On third down, Lacy went in for his second touchdown and the 24-0 halftime lead.
Arkansas had another disastrous turnover on its first opportunity of the second half.
After Alabama had driven 75 yards in six plays to start the second half, the Crimson Tide had increased its lead to 31-0. McCarron completed passes of 12 yards to Jones, 14 to Kevin Norwood, and 34 to Jones to set up first and goal just inside the 10-yard line. On first down, Lacy got his third touchdown run going up the middle.
On the ensuing kickoff, the only one by Foster to not reach the end zone for a touchback, the Razorbacks return man was hit by Tana Patrick and fumbled. It was recovered by Foster at the Arkansas 27.
On first down, McCarron passed 26 yards to Cooper. The one-yard touchdown run was made by T.J. Yeldon and it was 38-0.
Arkansas responded with a nice drive, but it ended with yet another Arkansas turnover. Knile Davis took a short pass on a third down play, was hit and flipped by cornerback Deion Belue, and fumbled. It was recovered by safety Nick Perry at the 20.
An interesting aspect of the game is that Arkansas without Wilson to quarterback had alternated quarterbacks, back-up Brandon Allen and erstwhile wide receiver Brandon Mitchell.
With the final possession of the third quarter, Alabama’s offense fell into the hands of two quarterbacks, Phillip Ely and Blake Sims. They didn’t alternate on every play, but did share playing time.
With the two quarterbacks and back-up players everywhere on offense, the Tide went on an 80-yard touchdown march. It took 15 plays and 7:31 and finished in the fourth quarter. Freshman tailback Kenyan Drake went 15 yards on a third-and-14 and on the next play went 12 yards for the touchdown and a 45-0 lead.
Arkansas wasn’t through giving away and Alabama wasn’t finished with taking advantage.
Davis suffered another fumble when he was hit by Jeoffrey Pagan and it was recovered by freshman linebacker Denzel Devall at the Arkansas 28. After walk-on Ben Howell gained a yard, quarterback Blake Sims kept it for a 27-yard touchdown run.
Arkansas made a final thrust into Alabama territory in the final moments with a chance to avoid the shutout, but from the Tide 22 the Razorbacks had four incomplete passes.