Alabama Outlasts Arkansas Comeback Attempt 49-30 in Fayetteville
Two touchdowns by the defense and an explosive performance by the offense highlighted a big road victory as the No. 1-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide (6-0 overall; 3-0 in the Southeastern Conference) beat the 16th-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks (5-1 overall; 0-2 in the SEC), 49-30, before an overflow crowd of 75,459 Saturday night on Frank Broyles Field at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium (capacity: 72,000).
Alabama's freshman quarterback, Jalen Hurts, accounted for four touchdowns (two rushing and two passing) while the Tide's defense punctuated an inconsistent performance with back-breaking scores on a pair of interception returns for touchdowns.
The Tide offense produced a 250-yard passing performance, a 100-yard rushing performance, and a 100-yard receiving performance in a dominant outing. Hurts passed for 253 yards and two touchdowns with one interception while completing 13-of-17 attempts. The interception snapped a string of 139 clean attempts by Hurts, the second-longest in Crimson Tide history. Running back Damien Harris rushed for 122 yards on 13 carries, including a 57-yarder while averaging 9.4 yards per attempt, along with 60 yards and a touchdown on three catches. Wide receiver ArDarius Stewart returned to action after missing time with an injury to catch five passes for 120 yards, including a 67-yard reception. Freshman running back Joshua Jacobs had a 56-yard run and gained 57 yards on three attempts early in the game before leaving with an injury.
Linebackers Shaun Dion Hamilton and Ryan Anderson led the Tide with a game-high nine tackles. Hamilton had four solos, including one quarterback sack and 1.5 tackles for loss along with a forced fumble while Anderson had one sack and two tackles for loss. The Tide defense produced three interceptions, forced three fumbles, had six quarterback sacks, nine tackles for loss, broke up five passes and was credited with 12 quarterback hurries on the night.
Junior punter JK Scott punted four times for 206 yards, an average of 51.5 yards per punt. Two of his punts ended up inside the Arkansas 20, with a long of 63 yards.
For Arkansas, quarterback Austin Allen passed for 400 yards and three touchdowns while completing 25-of-48 attempts with three interceptions. The Hogs were led by wide receiver Jared Cornelius, who had 146 yards on five catches. Running back Rawleigh Williams III led the Hogs with 46 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.
Alabama's offense marched 80 yards in eight plays to start the game and, although the drive ended with a turnover, it established the Tide's running game. After Xavian Marks returned the opening kickoff 19 yards, Alabama set up at its 19 for the game's first possession. On first down, Ridley took a shovel pass from Hurts for nine yards around left end to the 28. Harris took a handoff at right guard for two yards and a first down at the Tide 30, another Harris run gained nine yards before a shovel pass to Ridley gained a yard to the Tide 40 and a first down. After a run by Harris gained two yards up the middle, Jacobs took a handoff at right tackle and broke loose for 56 yards before being pushed out of bounds at the Arkansas two. Two rushed by Jacobs up the middle gained a yard, setting up a third-and-goal from the Hog 1. Jacobs took a handoff on third down, and fumbled when hit by Arkansas linebacker Dre Greenlaw and Arkansas safety De'Andre Coley at the Hogs 1 with 11:07 on the clock.
The Tide forced an Arkansas punt on the ensuing possession and the offense was potent again, rolling 73 yards in three plays to pay dirt. Another big running play keyed the march, this one from Harris. After a pass by Hurts to Stewart for 11 yards began the drive, reaching the Tide 38, Harris took a handoff at left guard and raced through a gaping hole in the center of the field. He sprinted 57 yards before Arkansas cornerback Ryan Pulley dragged him down at the Hogs' five-yard line. On the next play, Hurts took quarterback keeper around right end and scored a touchdown behind excellent blocking. Griffith's extra-point kick was good and Alabama led, 7-0, with 7:27 left in the first period.
Alabama scored again just two minutes later. On the ensuing kickoff, Arkansas return man Deon Stewart fumbled when hit by Alabama's Hootie Jones at the Arkansas 29. Mack Wilson recovered for the Tide there and the offense came back on the field 29 yards from the end zone. Two keepers by Hurts gained six yards, setting up third-and-four at the Arkansas 23. Hurts found Stewart on a pass for 13 yards to a first down at the Arkansas 10. A pass to Harris gained four to the Arkansas six before Hurts kept again at right end, fought past a face-masking defender at the Arkansas two and went into the end zone for a touchdown. Griffith's kick was good, giving the Tide a 14-0 lead with 5:25 left in the first quarter after the 29-yard drive.
Through three offensive possessions and 9:35 of game time elapsed, Alabama had 182 yards (to Arkansas' 16) and had rushed for 144 yards while Hurts was 5-for-5 passing for 38 yards. But Arkansas responded with a touchdown drive of its own, going 75 yards in nine plays, converting two long third down plays to keep the march alive. The first one was a third-and-19 from the Arkansas 16 when Allen passed to wide receiver Jared Cornelius for 20 yards to a first down at the 36. Three plays later, on third-and-nine from the Arkansas 37, Allen hit Cornelius again for 16 yards to the Tide 47. The march concluded with a 24-yard pass from Allen to tight end Jeremy Sprinkle for a touchdown. Adam McFain converted the extra-point kick and the Alabama lead was shaved in half, 14-7, with 1:54 left in the first period.
The Tide defense notched yet another touchdown on Arkansas' next possession. After a 63-yard punt by JK Scott went into the end zone for a touchback, the Hogs started the possession at their own 20. On second-and-seven at the Arkansas 23, Tide defensive end Da'Shawn Hand forced Allen to fumble as Allen was about to pass. Tide linebacker Tim Williams scooped up the fumble and ran 23 yards to a touchdown, getting a pancake block from nose guard Da'Ron Payne on the play. Griffith's kick was true and Alabama led, 21-7, with 12:25 left in the second quarter.
The Tide forced an Arkansas punt, then quickly moved to another score from its own 19. A 21-yard pass by Hurts to tight end O.J. Howard started the drive, reaching the Tide 40. After Harris gained eight on a run at left end, Hurts passed to a wide-open Harris on a screen on the left side and Harris followed excellent blocking before breaking through a defender on a 56-yard touchdown pass. Griffith's kick was good and Alabama led, 28-7, with 8:53 left in the first half.
Arkansas came right back with its best drive of the night to that point in the game. The Razorbacks moved 68 yards in 13 plays. The march was highlighted by a well-designed and executed delayed screen pass from Allen to Rawleigh Williams III that gained 29 to the Tide 32. A few plays later, an eight-yard touchdown pass from Allen to wide receiver Drew Morgan was nullified by a holding penalty that moved the ball back 10 yards to the Tide 18. Another delayed screen pass to the left side on first-and-goal, this one to Austin Cantrell, gained 11 to the Tide seven. After an incompletion in the end zone on a pass broken up by Minkah Fitzpatrick with a quarterback pressure by Williams, another incompletion on third down forced a field goal attempt of 25 yards by McFain. His kick was good and Alabama's lead was 28-10 with 2:56 left in the half.
After the field goal, Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, forcing the kickoff from the Arkansas 20. Marks took the kickoff from the Tide 15 and returned it 19 yards to the Tide 34. On first down, Hurts found tight end Miller Forrestal wide open on a seam route on the left side. Forrestal's first career reception gained 32 yards to the Arkansas 34. Running back Bo Scarbrough, seeing his first action of the night, took over from there. He gained four on first down to the Arkansas 30, then nine yards to the Arkansas 21. On the next play, Scarbrough bounced outside around left end and ran 21 yards down the sideline for a touchdown. Griffith kicked good and Alabama led, 35-10, with 1:25 left in the first half.
The Hogs continued to attack. A 57-yard pass from Allen to Cornelius reached the Tide 16. Tide safety Eddie Jackson fell down on what amounted to a jump ball situation and Fitzpatrick ran down Cornelius at the end of the long gain. One play later, Allen found wide receiver Keon Hatcher across the middle for a 16-yard touchdown strike. McFain kicked good and Alabama led, 35-17, with 29 seconds left in the half.
With Arkansas due to get the second half kickoff, Alabama wanted to make the most of the remaining time as the Tide had two timeouts remaining. A 32-yard run by Harris on the first play reached the Arkansas 43, pushing Harris past the 100-yard mark on the ground. Then a pass to Gehrig Dieter gained six with Dieter going out of bounds at the Arkansas 37 with six seconds on the clock. A loss of two on a run by Harris ended the half and the Tide settled for the 18-point lead entering the locker room.
At the half, Alabama had gained 396 yards of total offense to Arkansas' 244. Alabama had rushed for 214 and passed for 182 with Hurts completing 11-of-13 attempts. The Hogs had passed for 201 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 43 yards. Harris had 104 rushing yards for the Tide in the first half, averaging 8.0 yards on 13 attempts. For Arkansas, Cornelius had 93 yards on three catches, an average of 31.0 yards per catch.
The Tide defense set up Alabama's next touchdown early in the third quarter. Arkansas had started a possession at its own 3-yard line after a fumble by the Tide's ArDarius Stewart at the end of a 67-yard pass play. Three plays later, on third-and-10 from the Hogs' 3, Allen was pressured by an onrushing Dalvin Tomlinson as he threw from his end zone. Allen's pass fluttered to the Arkansas 18 where Fitzpatrick made a diving interception. The Tide scored in four plays as Hurts hit Ridley for a four-yard scoring catch with 11:10 left in the third quarter. Griffith's kick was good and the Tide had a 42-17 lead.
Arkansas struck back later in the quarter. An interception of a Hurts pass - the first thrown by the freshman in 139 attempts (second-longest stretch in Alabama history) - by Arkansas linebacker Dwayne Eugene set up the Hogs' offense at the Tide 36. Arkansas took six plays to go the 36 yards to a touchdown, scoring on a 10-yard pass by Allen to wide receiver Keon Hatcher. McFain's kick was good and the Alabama lead was 42-24 with 3:57 left in the third quarter.
The Arkansas defense forced a Tide punt on the next possession and the Hogs' offense put together another drive. Arkansas moved 62 yards in 15 plays to the shadow of the Alabama end zone, threatening to pull closer to the Tide. But, on second-and-18 at the Tide 20, Allen's pass into the end zone was intercepted by Fitzpatrick deep in the end zone. Fitzpatrick chose to return the interception and raced from the middle of the end zone to the left sideline behind a convoy of blockers. He took it the distance, officially going 100 yards to a touchdown. It was the longest interception return in Alabama history and was Fitzpatrick's third-career interception return for a touchdown, tying a Crimson Tide record. Griffith's extra point kick was good, giving Alabama a 49-24 lead with 10:18 left in the fourth quarter.
Arkansas pushed across another touchdown in the late going, moving 94 yards in seven plays. Allen continued his passing assault, hitting wide receiver Dominique Reed for 20, Cornelius for 24 and wide receiver Cody Hollister for 37 more before Williams closed the drive with a five-yard scoring run with 3:18 remaining. Allen's pass for a two-point conversion was incomplete. Alabama led, 49-30.
An onside kick attempt by Arkansas was covered by Alabama's ArDarius Stewart at the Tide 47.
The Crimson Tide returns to action next Saturday, October 15 at Tennessee, taking on the Volunteers in Neyland Stadium on CBS at 2:30 p.m. CT.