Alabama Overcomes Its Own Struggles

There is nothing pretty about killing hogs, and so it was in Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday evening as Alabama rallied from a miserable first half to defeat Arkansas, 27-14, in a Southeastern Conference game.

Jacob Coker threw for two touchdowns – one very long to Calvin Ridley, one very short to Richard Mullaney – and Derrick Henry kept his streak of touchdown rushes alive with a late plunge as Alabama had to come from behind in the second half to defeat Arkansas for the ninth consecutive season. Alabama’s defense, led by linebacker Reggie Ragland, kept the Tide close through nearly three quarters of offensive struggles before Bama was able to finish eith a 17-point fourth quarter.

The Crimson Tide improved its record to 5-1 overall and 2-1 in Southeastern Conference games and the Razorbacks fell to 2-4 overall, 1-2 in the league at the halfway point of regular season play.

Alabama continues in SEC action next Saturday going to Texas A&M for a 2:30 p.m. CDT game that will be televised by CBS. The Aggies, 5-0 overall and 2-0 in SEC games, were idle this week.

With Alabama trailing at halftime by 7-3, one could not help but wonder how Nick Saban’s first college team – Toledo – could have beaten Arkansas in Fayetteville, while it was an obvious struggle for Saban’s latest squad.

After Alabama trailed by 7-3 at halftime, Coker and Ridley combined on a game-changer in the last two minutes of the third quarter. After Cyrus Jones made a fair catch on a punt at the Crimson Tide 19, Ridley went down the right side, made a nice move on the defender at the Bama 35. At the Arkansas 40 Ridley was wide open and caught the pass from Coker, taking it the rest of the way for a 10-7 lead.

It may have been a measure of Arkansas desperation that the Razorbacks attempted a run out of punt formation on a fourth-and-5 situation from the Arkansas 41. Freshman defensive back Shawn Burgess-Becker read the play and stopped it three yards short of a first down

With good field position as the third quarter came to an end, the Tide offense to a first down on a defensive holding and another on a Coker scramble to the Arkansas 16. Two Kenyan Drake runs made it first-and-goal at the 3. On that first down, Coker passed to a crossing Richard Mullaney for the touchdown and a 17-7 lead.

The Alabama defense, which played well throughout the night, set up the next Bama points. On a second-and-12 from its own 15, Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen’s pass was intercepted by Eddie Jackson at the Arkansas 33 and returned to the 13. Bama didn’t have a good series and settled for an Adam Griffith field goal of 35 yards to make it 20-7.

Derrick Henry established a new Alabama record of consecutive games with a touchdown as he had his 11th straight after plunging in from a yard out late in the fourth quarter. Henry had set up the TD with a 15-yard run to make it first-and-goal at the 1. The short touchdown drive (four plays, 16 yards) had been set up when Tim Williams sacked Allen at the 2, forcing a difficult punt for the Razorbacks. Cyrus Jones took that punt at the Hogs 42 and returned it to the 16.

With 2:44 to play, Alabama had a 27-7 lead.

The Razorbacks stayed at it and came up with a last ditch jtouchdown with 1:37 to play. Allen had to scramble, but found Dominique Reed on the right side. Tide cornerback Marlon Humphrey missed the initial tackle opportunity, but ran Reed down near the goalline. He got help from Cyrus Jones to seemingly prevent the touchdown, but when Bama linebacker Rashaan Evans came to add more help, the momentum put the receiver in the end zone to complete a 54-yard scoring play and the scoring for the game.

Alabama’s first half performance was most inefficient from a yards-to-points standpoint. The Crimson Tide moved the ball fairly well, except when stopped by bad decisions by quarterback Jake Coker. Coker once threw while under duress and off his back foot for an interception, then tried to force a pass to a covered Tide receiver and the resulting tipped pass was intercepted by the Razorbacks’ Santos Ramirez at the 41 and returned to the Bama 24. A personal foul penalty on Alabama moved it to the 12, leading to the Hogs’ touchdown.

Alabama had taken a 3-0 lead on a decent drive on its first possession. A quick pass to Ardarius Stewart went for 37 yards to a first-and-goal just inside the Arkansas 10, but the drive stalled there and Adam Griffith kicked a 24-yard field goal that gave the Tide a 3-0 lead.

On its next possession, Bama drove 60 yards in 14 plays to the Razorbacks 8-yard-line, but from there when the drive stalled Griffith missed a 25-yard field goal effort.

Arkansas took the lead with 1:29 to play in the half. The Razorbacks took advantage of the interception and penalty to get the 12-yard drive in three plays, the last on a third-and-two with Brandon Allen passing to a wide open Drew Morgan, who crossed from right to left to take the scoring toss. Cole Hedlund kicked the Hogs to a 7-3 lead, which was the halftime margin.

The Tide made an effort to add points before halftime. Alabama drove from its 27 to the Arkansas 31 where Griffith tried a 48-yard field goal that missed right as time expired.

Alabama had 13 first downs to six for the Hogs and Bama had 42 plays for 204 yards(78 rushing, 126 passing), Arkansas 25 plays for 77 yards (24 rushing, 53 passing).

The final statistics were also one-sided.

Alabama had 22 first downs, Arkansas 10. The Crimson Tide rushed 46 times for 134 yards, the Razorbacks 25 times for 44 yards. In passing, Coker was 24-33 for 262 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions and Allen was 15-32 for 176 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

Total offense for Bama was 79 plays for 396 yards and for the Hogs 57 plays for 220 yards.

Henry led Bama with 27 carries for 95 yards. Kenyan Drake had 7-29 rushing. Ridley was the top receiver with 9-140 yards and a touchdown. Drqake had 5-37, Mullaney 4-25 and a touchdown.

JK Scott had a good day punting, four for a 50-yard average. Cyrus Jones returned three punts for 39 yards.

Arkansas’s top runner, Alex Colli,ns, had 12 carries for 26 yards. Reed was the top Razorbacks receiver with three catches for 77 yards.

Reggie Ragland led the Alabama defense with 8 tackles (7 primary) including a sack, and he forced a fumble, broke up a pass, and had two quarterback pressures. A'Shawn Robinson was in on five tackles, Reuben Foster and Jarran Reed four each.

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