But any win is better than a loss and Alabama broke its one-game losing streak with an unimpressive 14-13 win over Arkansas in Fayetteville Saturday. Earlier in the week Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban had said that penalties and turnovers had been a big problem all year, but that no one (or at least the media) seemed to not notice. Actually, it had been noticed. And it continues to be noticed because nothing has changed
Although Bama qarterback Blake Sims threw two touchdown passes for the Tide, neither Sims and the passing game or the Alabama running game had much success against the Razorbacks. Bama had total offense of only 227 yards.
The special teams play was in great part disastrous with three punt return fumbles, one kickoff return fumble, and a miss on a field goal, but Jonathan Allen blocked an extra point kick that proved to be the difference in the game and freshman punter J.K. Scott gave Arkansas a lot of long fields as he put seven of his eight punts inside the Arkansas 20.
Although it is difficult to include the words “Alabama football” and “improved” in the same sentence after the performance against Arkansas, the Tide did improve to 5-1 overall and 2-1 in Southeastern Conference games. Arkansas fell to 3-3, including 0-3 in the conference.
Alabama returns to action next Saturday in Tuscaloosa against Texas A&M. Kickoff will be at 2:30 p.m. with television coverage by CBS.
For Alabama not to have been in the deepest of holes in the first half was somewhat miraculous. The Crimson Tide special teams that had been so detrimental in the previous week’s loss at Ole Miss continued with punt return man Christion Jones fumbling the first Arkansas punt and the Tide’s Maurice Smith, who was back to block, being hit on the leg with a second punt by the Razorbacks.
Both were recovered by the Hogs, but neither was turned into points. The first opportunity started Arkansas at Bama’s 32 and ended with a fumble out of the end zone for a touchback, Alabama’s ball. The second started at the Tide 39 and ended in a punt.
In between, Arkansas missed a 43-yard field goal opportunity when a high snap forced the botch.
Meanwhile, Alabama’s first quarter had been two possessions, two three-and-outs, and seven yards of total offense.
Alabama’s first scoring opportunity was a 30-yard field goal try by Adam Griffith that was pulled left, no good, with 9:48 left in the second quarter.
Fortunately for the Tide, an Arkansas run at right end resulted in a tackle, caused by A’Shawn Robinson and recovered for Bama by Ryan Anderson at the Arkansas 23.
The Tide got away with a poor Sims pass that might have been intercepted, but fell incomplete. A run was good for only a yard. On third-and-nine Sims scrambled out to the left, found T.J. Yeldon with a pass inside the five, and Yeldon stretched into the end zone for the touchdown with 8:40 to play. Griffith kicked Bama to a 7-0 lead.
Arkansas came back with a 10-play, 81-yard drive with Jonathan Williams going in from three yards out with 4:53 to play in the first half. The extra point was blocked by Jonathan Allen and the Tide had a 7-6 lead at halftime.
Alabama had four offensive possessions in the third quarter. The first three resulted in three-and-outs. The fourth came in the last minute of the quarter and T.J. Yeldon ran 12 yards for a first down before the start of the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, Arkansas took advantage of its ability to convert third down plays and take the lead after one of Bama’s worst three-and-outs. The Tide had started at its 11 and gained only three yards before having to punt. The one time the Razorbacks weren’t given a short field by Scott’s punts, Arkansas took only three plays to take the lead. On a third-and-eight, tight end A.J. Derby took a sideline pass from quarterback Brandon Allen and went to the end zone 54 yards away. Jon Henson kicked the extra point.
Alabama showed a little spark with its first possession of the fourth quarter. The drive actually started in the last half minute of the third period with Yeldon rushing for 12 yards. A pass to fullback Jalston Fowler gained nine yards to the Arkansas 35 and Derrick Henry picked up the first down with an eight-yard run. True freshman Cam Sims caught a 15-yard pass in traffic and took it to the Arkansas 12.
Two runs gained six yards and on third down Sims rolled right and found DeAndrew White in the end zone. Griffith kick what would be the winning point with 12:36 remaining in the game.
Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema was trying to call time out before Bama ran its touchdown play, but the officials did not see the Arkansas coach running onto the field.
Although the scoring was over, the drama was not.
Alabama got a third down pass to Amari Cooper that he ran to within inches of a first down at the Arkansas 43. Sims tried a quarterback sneak, but was unable to pick up the first down. Arkansas returned the favor a few minutes later, coming up short on a fourth-and-inches when Reggie Ragland caught Williams behind the line with just over seven minutes to play.
Alabama seemed poised to put the game away with a third-and-one with under four minutes to play, but the Tide was guilty of having 12 men on the field, a five-yard penalty. The Sims scramble came up a yard short. After a delay of game penalty, Bama punted it away.
Arkansas started a potential game-winning drive at its 15, but it was ended when Landon Collins made a terrific interception at midfield with two minutes to play. Although Bama would suffer another frustrating penalty, a false start, the Tide was able to run out the clock.
Alabama managed only 10 first downs to 18 by Arkansas.
The Tide had 32 runs for 66 net yards, but gave up only 89 yards on 39 Arkansas rushes. Sims completed 11 of 21 passes for 161 yards, while Allen was good on 21-40 for 246 yards. Alabama ran only 53 plays and had only 227 yards, while the Razorbacks had 79 plays for 335 yards.
Alabama had four fumbles and lost two and Arkansas lost two of its three fumbles.
Penalties were not particularly costly for either team. Bama was flagged four times for 30 yards, the Razorbacks four times for 28.
Bama was good on only 4-15 third down conversions, Arkansas on 9-19. The Razorbacks had a 34:13 to 25:47 advantage in time of possession.
Yeldon was Bama’s leading rusher with 16 carries for 45 yards. Derrick Henry had seven for 25. DeAndrew White was the leading receiver with four catches for 33 yards, while Yeldon had two for 35 and Cooper two for 22. O.J. Howard had one catch for 47 yards.
Scott punted eight times for a 44.2 average with no punts returned.
Ragland led the Tide defense with 12 tackles, seven primary and five assists, and broke up a pass. Xzavier Dickson was in on eight tackles, seven primary, and had a sack. Landon Collins was also in on eight tackles, three primary, and broke up two passes in addition to his game-clinching interception. Eddie Jackson had six tackles, all primary, and had a sack for an 11-yard loss. Trey DePriest was in on five tackles and forced a fumble. Ryan Anderson was in on three tackles, had a sack and a tackle for loss, and recovered a fumble.
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