When it was good, it was very, very good, but when it was bad it was horrid. Nevertheless, No. 1 ranked Alabama improved its record to 6-0 and its Southeastern Conference record to 3-0 by going on the road and defeating 16th-ranked Arkansas, 49-30.
The Alabama defense continued its incredible run of providing touchdowns, one fumble return by Tim Williams and a dramatic 100-yard interception return by Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Crimson Tide freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts accounted for four touchdowns (two rushing, two passing).
Bama never trailed in the game, including leading by 35-17 at halftime, but the Tide squandered two scoring chances with lost fumbles and the defense was vulnerable to the Arkansas passing game and also guilty of costly penalties.
The game was the first of a three-week stretch in which Alabama has ranked opposition. Bama will continue on the road next Saturday against Tennessee in Neyland Stadium. The 2:30 p.m. CDT game will be televised by CBS. The following week, Oct. 22, the Tide will return home to face Texas A&M. (Earlier Saturday, the Aggies defeated the Vols in double overtime, 45-38.)
The opening was bittersweet for Alabama with freshman tailback Joshua Jacobs darting 56 yards to the Arkansas 2 on the sixth play of the game. Jacobs gained a yard on first down and on second down failed to gain, and also fumbled. The ruling on the field had Alabama retaining possession, and Bama immediately had Damien Harris replace Jacobs and go in for a touchdown. But before the TD play, Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema called timeout to get a review of the fumble play, and the ruling was overturned with Arkansas getting the ball.
(Alabama would fumble twice more inside the Arkansas 10-yard line, losing one and recovering the second.)
The Tide struck quickly on its second possession with a 57-yard run by Harris getting to the Arkansas 5. On first-and-goal, Hurts took it around right end with excellent blocks by Harris, Jacobs, and tight end O.J. Howard paving the way. Adam Griffith kicked the first of his seven extra points to make it 7-0.
On the ensuing kickoff, Hootie Jones forced a fumble with his tackle of the Razorbacks return man and freshman Mack Wilson recovered it at the Arkansas 29. An 11-yard pass to ArDarius Stewart, making his return to action after missing two games, set the Tide up at the Hogs 10 and two plays later Hurts had his second rushing touchdown, again going around right end, this time for six yards.
Arkansas cut the lead the 14-7 with a 9-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Austin Allen completing a 24-yard pass to tight end Jeremy Sprinkle for the score.
Early in the second quarter, Allen was hit by Tide defensive end Da’Shawn Hand and fumbled. Tim Williams scooped up the fumble and went 23 yards for the touchdown and a 21-7 lead.
Bama used a four-play, 81-yard drive to extend the lead to 28-7 midway through the second quarter. Hurts started the march with a 21-yard pass to Howard. On third-and-six from the Bama 44, Hurts delivered a swing pass to Harris, who took it through a couple of Arkansas defenders and down the left sideline to the end zone.
The Razorbacks drove to a first-and-goal at the Alabama 8, but had to settle for a 25-yard field goal by Adam McFain.
Following the kickoff, Hurts connected with freshman tight end Miller Forristall on a 32-yard gain to the Arkansas 34. The third Tide tailback of the evening, Bo Scarbrough, then took over with runs of 4 and 9 yards, before finishing it with a 21-yard run at left end.
The Tide had a 35-10 lead with just 1:25 remaining until halftime.
That was enough time for Arkansas to go 79 yards to a touchdown, Allen passing to Keon Hatcher for 16 yards and the score.
Alabama got the ball back with 29 seconds remaining and it looked as though the Tide might be able to tack on a few more points. Harris opened with a 32-yard run and then Hurts completed a pass to Gehrig Dieter, who got out of bounds with 6 seconds at the Arkansas 37. That would have meant a field goal try of about 54-55 yards for Griffith, but in what appeared to be a botched effort to get a little closer, a Tide running play failed and time expired with Bama up by 35-17.
Alabama’s first play of the second half was a pass to Stewart that went for 67 yards, but the end of the play resulted in a fumble recovered by the Razorbacks.
Good pass rush by Dalvin Tomlinson forced a high throw that was picked off by Fitzpatrick at the Arkansas 18.
Harris went 12 yards on first down, but fumbled the ball at the 6. Fortunately, the Tide’s Calvin Ridley recovered the fumble. After two short runs, Hurts rewarded Ridley by hitting him with a short pass for a 4-yard touchdown and a 42-7 lead.
Fitzpatrick would stop the next Arkansas drive with his second interception, but two plays later Hurts suffered his first pick since the opening game of the year. From there the Razorbacks went on a 6-play, 36-yard drive with Allen connecting with Keon Hatcher for the 10-yard score.
It was 42-24 after three quarters.
The first Arkansas possession of the fourth quarter had the Razorbacks reaching the Bama 12 with a first down. But after DaRon Payne sacked Allen at the 20, a pass into the end zone was picked off by Fitzpatrick, his third interception of the game, and he returned it an official 100 yards (it was closer to 109) for a touchdown and a 49-24 lead.
The Razorbacks closed out the scoring with Rawleigh Williams scoring on a 3-yard run with 1:53 remaining in the game.
Harris led Alabama in rushing with 13 carries for 122 yards. Jacobs, who suffered an early injury and did not return, had 3 rushes for 57 yards; Bo Scarbrough had 7-58, Hurts 8-21, and B.J. Emmons 3-9.
Hurts completed 13 of 17 passes for 253 yards with 1 interception and 2 touchdowns.
Stewart led the Tide in receiving with 5-120. Harris had 2-60, Forristall 1-32, Howard 1-21, Ridley 3-14, and Dieter 1-6.
JK Scott punted 4 times for a 51.5 average.
Fitzpatrick returned his three interceptions for 114 yards.
The teams combined for 990 yards of total offense.
Arkansas had the better of it in first downs, 25-16.
Bama had 264 rushing yards on only 34 attempts, while the Razorbacks were held to 73 net yards on 36 runs.
Hurts did all the Alabama passing, 13-17 for 253 yards, while Allen was 25-48 for 400 yards.
The Tide had total offense of 517 yards on 51 plays, 10.1 yards per play. Arkansas had 84 plays for 473 yards, 5.6 per play.
Both teams had three fumbles and lost two.
Bama was penalized 7 times for 86 yards, Arkansas 6-60.
Alabama was 4-8 and Arkansas 8-16 on third down conversions.
The Tide scored on 3-4 Red Zone opportunities, the Razorbacks 4-5.
Alabama had 6 sacks for 49 yards and the Tide did not surrender a sack to the Arkansas defense.
Arkansas had the ball for over 21 of the 30 second half minutes and finished with a huge advantage in time of possession, 37:07 to 22:53.
Defensively, the Tide was led by Ryan Anderson and Shaun Dion Hamilton, who were in on 9 tackles and 1 sack each. Hamilton also caused a fumble and Anderson had a quarterback pressure. Ronnie Harrison was in on 8 tackles and had a pass breakup and a quarterback pressure. Rashaan Evans, who replaced the injured Reuben Foster, was in on 7 tackles, including a sack, and had two quarterback pressures. Minkah Fitzpatrick was in on 5 tackles in addition to his 3 interceptions and 2 pass breakups. Also in on sacks were DaRon Payne, Terrell Hall, Christian Miller, and Tim Williams.
Video by A.P. Steadham